Vale Gene Wilder.
There is something reassuring about the outpouring of love and generosity that follows the announcement of death. It reminds me that for all our flaws, people recognise sadness and tragedy (unless it involves refugees) and are moved to express their sorrow at this time.
This year has seen the passing of a number of treasured entertainment icons, including Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and most recently Gene Wilder. In my view, just as sad and moving are the thousands of less famous people who died in more horrific circumstances. I know the public’s collective reaction to different events has not really reflected this, but I make no judgement on people for that.
Because there is no one right way to respond to death (but there are plenty of wrong ones). We each have our own way of showing empathy. While I don’t share in the practice of making personal public tributes to people I’d never met, I don’t begrudge others the right to do so if they wish. It doesn’t have to be consistent or evenly applied to all tragedies. The act of showing empathy itself is worthy thing.
It takes a special kind of arrogance to talk down to people who are trying to do a good thing.
So no, I have no problem when there is a public outpouring of grief for the loss of a particularly well known celebrity. It is a macrocosm for the same behaviour that follows the death of someone close to us, just shared by many more people around the world.
On the other hand, I am forced to wonder, how great would it be if we were able to share this kind of love with people before they have passed? As someone with little faith in an afterlife, I don’t expect to be looking down on my funeral somehow feeling the love and affection being shown at that time. On the other hand (and I have another post on its way about this) the positive impact of a few sincere words of praise or kindness can be extremely moving.
I am not suggesting we have pre-funerals. That would just be weird. I am just suggesting that if you want to say something nice about someone, try to take the chance before they are gone. Despite the awful reality of having lost two of my closest friends, I consider it a minor blessing that they died in no doubt of my love for them. I was fortunate that I had left little unsaid.