Celebrity Deaths and What They Mean to Me

We often hear that people who are about to die seem to wait until after Christmas before doing so. It's no different with the celebrities who seem so familiar to us; they're the ones who often supply the soundtrack to our lives, witnessing our moments, good and bad, happy or sad and everything in between. Through their appearances on film and stage, the stories they tell provide an analogy for our personal histories. We live in a time when celebrities seem more accessible than ever. Social media helps to create that sense of familiarity, which may lend greater meaning to the celebrities whose deaths we mourn.

Here's a conversation between two actresses in All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani:

"Along the way, you make people laugh and cry and think." - Loretta Young

"They'd do that anyway, honey." - Mae Murray

That may be so but our culture is that much richer for the gift of good entertainment.

If a lifetime could be compared to a river, I realize that I have traveled further away from the headwater of my river and am now closer to the mouth. The celebrities I grew up watching, listening, dancing and dreaming to are starting to pass on. Along with the cultural contributions these celebrities have made to the world at large, is the reminder to live our lives the best we can. Learn. Change. Grow. We never know when our lives will be cut short. So live!

Here is my salute to three celebrities who have impacted my life.

David Bowie

I was in my teens when I first heard Starman on my little red transistor radio. "There's a starman waiting in the sky..." Catchy lyrics that were easy to sing, especially important for someone like me who is not known for my singing ability. Some of my favourite Bowie tunes include: Rebel Rebel, China Girl and Modern Love. When I hear them today, I am transported back to that period in my life in a small northern mining town, where one of the distractions after a busy week of teaching was to go dancing at one of the local bars. No nightclubs there!

Thanks for the memories, Mr. David Bowie - a starman whose light blinked out too soon.

Alan Rickman

Perhaps it's the dead-pan delivery or his unflappable demeanor, but I've liked Alan Rickman from the moment I first saw him in Quigley Down Under. Other favorite roles are the set-in-Canada Snow Cake, Galaxy Quest and Bottle Shock. The parts he played in Love Actually and Harry Potter added one more jewel in the crown of success of those movies. Take him out of the movie and his absence would be as obvious as a missing tooth.

Thank you, Mr. Alan Rickman, for the gift of entertainment. I always looked forward to watching a movie with your name in it.

Glen Frey

Ever notice how music is that invisible time machine that instantly transports you back to another place and a different point in your life? This is especially true with many of the earlier Eagles' songs. While driving home late at night along the rural roads in a small city in Northwestern Ontario, I'd get a sense of a different place whenever I had the good fortune to tune in to the distant sounds of WLS Chicago eerily making its way across the Great Lakes.

In this day of instant accessibility and instant everything, we have lost that magical and often special feeling we get when something is infrequently available. This reminds me of what my mother said to me when I aksed her why she couldn't regularly make her home-made chocolate pudding with whipped cream from our cows. "Then it wouldn't be special," she wisely replied.

Safely cocooned in my car, I felt in awe of the brilliant night sky, as the wheels of my car provided a rhythmical accompaniment to songs that made my world seem right. Like these favourite songs from the Eagles that were easy to belt out: Take It Easy, Desperado, Heartache Tonight and One of These Nights. They're road songs that add to the journey of life.

That thing called rheumatoid arthritis

Sadly, Glen Frey's journey was cut too short, although his music will live on in our hearts and in our memories. It was with a heavy heart that I read this report from CBC: "Glen Frey died from complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia."

If you're a regular visitor to this blog or A Rheumful of Tips, you'll know that I have had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for thirty-eight years. I can hardly believe that it's been that long. A large part of my lifetime has been spent living in fear - fear of not being good enough, thin enough, smart enough. There's also the fear of what ifs - a convention of random fears that an unchecked mind embellished to the point of fearful what if perfection. Then, from time to time, the striking cobra of fear that is a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis would hit.

But, that was then and this is now. That turbulent river that was my life has settled down to the point where it seems to meander, rather than rage. It's a good place to be. I didn't arrive at that place by accident. It has been, and will continue to be, a steady and consistent application of tools, techniques, strategies and stress addressing and undressing. I am, as most of us are, a work in progress. I do what I can to mitigate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. It's a salad that consists of a number of ingredients: nutrition, rest, exercise, stress techniques, fun, learning, socializing - the list goes on. Yes, occasionally that salad has some junk food thrown in, but not as frequently as in the past. Learn. Change. Grow. Live.

I wonder how many people who have rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis or pneumonia, have had their fears reignited to the point where that is all they think about. I am not downplaying the possibility of severe and life-threatening repercussions of these or other medical conditions. I know the pain of swollen, dislocated joints. The fatigue. The frustration of having to rely on others to help with everyday tasks. The health-related, financial and social costs are high. I also know that living in constant fear of those costs robs me of the good things in my life. Fear can trigger the stress response, which in turn, contributes to the inflammatory response. It's like adding a brick onto the revving gas pedal of inflammation that occurs in those of us with RA. Stress dampens natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity, which leaves you more susceptible to infection, viruses and cancer cells.

If fear takes over the wheel, your life can be spent avoiding real and the more frequent imaginary potholes and dangerous roads to the extent that you miss the scenery along the way. Your quality of life diminishes. Your medical condition can do that on its own. I choose not to help it along with a big dose of fear/stress.

Make the commitment one of these days, or one of these nights, to start living your best life. Then take small steady steps in that direction. Don't underestimate the power of maintaining what you have, especially when you have a chronic, debilitating and destructive condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. If you can maintain, you sustain. If you can improve, I approve!

In this madcap fast-paced world, take it easy - make time for the music in your life and the song in your heart.

Thank you for the music, Mr. Glen Frey.

My heartfelt condolences to those who would feel the absences of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glen Frey most - the friends and families who knew them well.

7 Replies to “Celebrity Deaths and What They Mean to Me”

  1. Heartfelt and a very lovely way to both memorialize and celebrate their lives. Thank you for always sharing yourself in this manner. I find you brave and above all you radiate kindness and care. You are amazing, Marianna.

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