2016 is a year that many will recall as a time of mass exodus from the planet. On social media, comments have focused on how people couldn’t wait for the calendar page to turn, as if that had anything to do with the celebrity death toll. They would vent their sorrow and frustration, using expletives that would leave readers with no doubt about their sentiments. It was as if the Grim Reaper was wearing a banner with the year draped across it and a come-hither/menacing look on his face as he wielded his scythe.
According to Snopes, “While a large number of celebrities certainly passed away in 2016, the Reporter, Legacy.com, and The Telegraph all counted more celebrity deaths in 2016 than in the previous three years, but this year ranked second, third, or even fourth among that group according to other news outlets.”
As the year began, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Abe Vigoda, Edgar Mitchell and Harper Lee took their leave. Throughout the rest of the seasons, Nancy Reagan, Prince, Phife Dawg, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Muhammed Ali, Eli Wiesel, Janet Reno, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and Florence Henderson joined them. George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds ended the 12 months, leaving heartbreaking sadness in their wake.
Chalk it up to the fact that many who have passed are in a demographic in which death might be expected and that some whose ending of this earthly incarnation may have been hastened by addiction that had taken its toll.
We are also a world in which celebrities feel even more personal and intimate than those who are in our daily lives, so that when one dies, we may react as if we have lost someone in our inner circles.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, David Kaplan, Ph.D., chief professional officer of the American Counseling Association explained. “We grow up with these people. We see their movies, we hear their music on a regular basis and we really get to know them. In a sense, they become a member of our family — especially the ones we really like — so when they die, it’s like an extended member of our family dies. It’s somebody we feel like we know.”
How Do You Want to Live?
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a college friend named Gina Foster. She made a comment about endeavoring to “live significantly”. I loved that intention and wrote it down and had it displayed on the bulletin board in my office at the psychiatric hospital where I had been employed as a social worker. Occasionally patients would notice it and I would use that as an opportunity to remind them that they, and every other being on the planet, matters.