Grief is a weird thing. One can grieve for lost love, missed opportunities, family and friends, or even people they never knew.
I’m going to talk about the latter two for this post, starting with a small bit about family, but most of this is about celebrities.
Though it is distant, I still grieve for family members; dead or alive. My second family we hardly see them. I’ve seen my mom out and about a few times in the past several years and I’ve practically shot to the moon I was so happy to see her. Just found out that my twin sister had breast cancer. A double mastectomy and her final round of chemo ended today. She’s not my sister or even my twin, but as a child, I always thought of her that way. Obviously I’m beyond thrilled that she is fine, but I didn’t know. What if she had passed away. Would I have known? It felt like a near miss when I was relayed the news. My stomach did squeamish somersaults. I want to wrap my arms around her and hold on tight. Let her know how glad I am that she’s alive. But I can’t. I grieve not because any of them are dead, but because they are missing from my life.
It’s an odd sort of relationship. We all feel like family; my family and theirs. We all love each other immensely, yet we don’t know where they live and neither of us having any real means of communication with each other except a sporadic message on Facebook that they might get because they aren’t that active on there.
My maternal aunt is also not dead, but I grieve for her absence. After my brother and grandmother died, she packed it up. There was no longer a reason for her to travel here, even though we live here. I know she loves us. She loves her sister (my mother) and she loves my sister and I. But she’s distant; estranged. My sister and I randomly stalk her on the internet to find out that the business closed, that she left Canada, that she lives in a condo in Florida, or what she looks like now with blonde hair.
It doesn’t even matter how long a death has been, there is still grief. 23 years this past October for my grandfather, 12 years this coming January for my maternal grandmother, 10 years this past 26.December for my brother, & 3 years for my paternal grandmother. Sometimes I can look at a photo and I’m happy. Happy to have known them and filled with a weird sense of joy. Other times my face contorts horribly has hot, fat tears roll down my face. 23 or 3 years. It’s all the same.
Christmas is difficult considering they all loved Christmas and two of them died right after Christmas. Sometimes I’m fine hanging an ornament my paternal grandmother made or remembering a Christmastime event with my brother because it’s a space that fills my heart, while other times that same action can make me sad, because there is an empty space in my heart that they can no longer fill. Their essence and vitality is no longer here. I can no longer hear my grandfathers voice or my brothers laugh and as those things fade, the holes in my heart grow bigger. But they can fill in a little every time a memory of one of them brings me joy. It’s sort of a never-ending ebb and flow type of deal. A constant stream of motion, of which you never know when the next wave will hit.
The death of celebrity is a strange thing to me. They’re presence is staggeringly huge because they’re plastered everywhere in magazines and in films, or on posters or albums. They’re constantly talked to or talked about. They’re everywhere. So, while you don’t actually know them, even if you met them that one time, they feel like part of the family. They feel like someone you know, somehow a kindred spirit. You just know the two of you would get on smashingly. They’re in all the films you like, or they sing all the songs you love; you’ve laughed with him during quippy interviews or crazy talk show snippets. You’re not the number 1 stalker fan, nor do you wish to be. You’re just a human whose brain is making a connection. You’ve connected with this celebrity, even though you’ve never met them. It’s a perfectly normal thing to do.
But it still feels weird to me to be so upset over someone I’ve never met. While any general celebrity death is sad because it’s the end of a life, some hit harder than others. There are various categories of sadness for me when it concerns celebrities. There’s the Star Trek deaths. Star Trek gets its own category and just the original series cast. That’s a whole section of nerdom right there. I was pensively sad when members of the cast died. A little verklempt, but not overly so. Although I will probably be inconsolable with William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei pass away.
There are the celebrity parents. The men and women portraying mothers or fathers from films and telly. The people, who in a way, helped raise me since I watched a lot of telly when I was kid. Florence Henderson was one of my mom’s because I always really liked her on The Brady Bunch. Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley were my Jefferson Parents. Ralph Waite was my Walton’s dad. When I found out (late) that Brian Keith had died I was really upset (also because the nature of his death was SO sad). He and Maureen O’Hara were my ultimate film parents. When she passed away I was really, really sad about it. It was over. Both of my film parents were dead.
Or just people you liked like Davy Jones, 3/4 of The Golden Girls, Don Knotts, Patrick Swayze, John Candy, Joe Strummer, Phyllis Diller, Russell Means, Eartha Kitt, Etta James, Roger Lloyd-Pack, George Michael, Muhammad Ali, Johnny Cash, & Zsa Zsa Gabor.
There are the people who were old Hollywood royalty, so even though they’re really, really, really old, it’s sad because they are the end of an era. People like Joan Fontaine, Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmie Stewart, Lucille Ball, etc.
Then there’s the people who you didn’t realize would shatter something of your world until they left it. The people who made you tear up and grieve for them like you would your loved one. You didn’t realize that any heart-strings were attached to them, but when it’s cut, you feel it and you solidly grieve. Eli Wallach, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Fidel Castro, Alan Thicke, & Carrie Fisher.
Eli Wallach was a tiny and adorable Jewish man who generally always played the villain and always an ethnicity that he wasn’t; Mexican, Italian, Greek, etc. In interviews and stories about him, he seems like the nicest guy you could have ever met. I’d watched his films since I could first remember starting with the top two is Villainous Mexican role in The Magnificent Seven and his Villainous Greek role in Disney’s The Moon-Spinners. My favourite story is that while filming The Magnificent Seven, the other members of his bandit posse, all Mexicans, liked him so much they sort of just adopted him during the filming. He was tiny and they wanted to protect him and they basically all became BFF’s and his posse didn’t want anyone messing with him, only to be nice to him. Such an awww moment. I was, and still am, absolutely in love with him in that he’s so awesome I wish I could have been BFF’s with him sort of way. I cried the day that I found out that he died. Sometimes I still grieve that such a great and wonderful person is gone from the world.
Alan Rickman was such a phenomenal actor. I always enjoyed seeing him in films, and those films were numerous. Die Hard, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, Snow Cake, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Alice in Wonderland (voice), The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (voice), Quigly Down Under, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense & Sensibility, Truly Madly Deeply, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Bottle Shock, & Love Actually. Of course I adored him as Severus Snape, I mean who didn’t. While I adored his humour in a role or his superb acting, it was his voice that was really wonderful. The cadence of his speech and his delivery of impact words. Truly spectacular. Like a warm blanket that makes one feel safe.
David Bowie was superbly and stunningly strange. The strangest! He was like someone you were intrinsically drawn to; someone you wanted to touch, but probably shouldn’t. Like a Faerie Princess or an Alien Lord or something… or both, to be honest. He was a musical genius. There was certainly something inhuman about him. He was definitely not of Earth, though he completely changed it, for the better, in the time that he was here.
This one, you’re not suppose to talk about. I can’t really tell you exactly why I have always like Fidel Castro, but I have. I never saw him as the enemy to the US. These are things you can’t openly discuss however, and when he passed away, I had to grieve in silence while everyone I knew laughed and rejoiced.
I love Star Wars. So of course I would love Fishers’ portrayal of Princess Leia. She, however, was not the only reason I loved or watched Star Wars, but you can’t have Star Wars without her. Just as you can’t have Star Wars without Obi Wan, Admiral Ackbar, Lando Calrissian, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Mon Mothma, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, or Yoda.
However, I actually loved Carrie Fisher for her post Princess Leia work. Any time she appeared in a film of an epi of a television show, or her own wit and humour in interviews, late night talk shows, or books. She was beyond FABULOUS!
Then, The Sister and I see her as General Organa in The Force Awakens and her awesome points went through the roof. THIS was the Leia who pulled at our heart-strings. This was the Leia that we wanted to be BFF’s with. With this portrayal, combined with herself over the years, Carrie Fisher officially became the coolest woman ever. Then when she was rushed to hospital all I could have was hope that she would pull through it. Today I cried a lot because she’s gone forever.
To end, I have one more thing to say. Apparently I need to bathe when I grieve. Also sometimes I cut all of my hair off, but that last one is neither here nor there with celebrities. However, 2016 has kicked my ass so hard, that I did cut all of my hair off on Halloween, so I wouldn’t be able to do it now even if I wanted to.
But, when a major celebrity death occurs that impacts me deeply, I find that I need to bathe. I didn’t realize this until a few days ago with the news of George Michael’s passing. Though it’s sad that he’s gone, I wasn’t as torn up about it as I was over my own childhood. See, I was really into George Michael at the start of his solo career. You know, mostly songs that an eight year old girl shouldn’t be listening to like, “I Want Your Sex”, “Father Figure”; but also the really cool “Freedom! 90”. My sister even made fun of me when she found out recently that I used to really like him. Calling him my boyfriend.
But the shower I took on the news of his death reminded me that I showered when Alan Thicke died before him and Florence Henderson just before that. It reminded me of the showers I took when David Bowie and Alan Rickman died. I’m not afraid of death, and while biologically speaking it is unclean, I never think about death as unclean. Unless it’s decaying death, but that’s a different matter altogether. I’m not certain why I need to bathe, except to wash the sadness from me; detach in a way that only water can provide. Needless to say I bathed today. I won some bath products and they arrived today. So I took a bath and felt better.
It’s still very saddening that Carrie Fisher has died, but I’m not crying anymore when I come across more news of her death or pictures of her. It doesn’t mean that I won’t in future. I still become verklempt over Eli Wallach.