My social media feed, like yours, is full of mourning this week: not simply for the great and beloved David Bowie, but also for the brilliant Shakespearean actor Alan Rickman (likewise beloved from many films), the poet C. D. Wright, and two more heroes of the Shakespeare world: the eminent actor Brian Bedford, a legend of the Stratford festival in Ontario, and the scholar and editor Sylvan Barnet. (You know those Signet paperback editions of Shakespeare? Those were Sylvan's.) And I see my friends asking in baffled grief, Why so many? Why so fast? Why now?
Because they refused to die in December. So let's celebrate that. They wanted to make it through the winter holidays, into the new year -- in Bowie's case, until his 69th birthday. So they hung on: for their family's sake, and for their own. Maybe not all of them. But likely most of them.
Can someone do that? Absolutely. You're going to have to trust me on this one.
You can't keep yourself alive through sheer willpower, not forever. You can't choose your day. But terminally ill patients can rally for a while, especially when they something to look forward to. I've seen it happen.
I feel sad that these famous strangers have gone out of the world. I liked living in the same world with them, and I will be sad they are gone. Some of them were heroes of mine. But celebrate that they got their New Year's Eve, their London Christmas. Be happy that their spouses did not have to spend Christmas in raw, newly-wounded mourning. Be glad that Bowie, who had already willed himself not just to stardom but to thoughtful, searching artistry, willed himself to his 69th birthday. (And no, I couldn't resist the off-color pun in my title. Bowie was full of appetites and life, as people who knew him in his touring days have amply testified. The bacchanal Bowie of the 1970s and the Bowie who willed himself past one last milestone were very much the same man.)
And if you think your Facebook feed is sad now, think of what it would have been like if Ziggy Stardust and Professor Snape had died on December 23. Think of how that would have made you feel, and be grateful for the deep generosity, by people with almost nothing left, that held off that sadness from you.
Celebrate their lives, and celebrate their final, persevering strength.
cross-posted from, and all comments welcome at, Dagblog