fact: everything dies, baby

for Sheri

Granny died yesterday. So did Natasha Richardson.

Whenever someone famous dies, I am torn between sadness for them and their families (and even a little bit of a pang of loss for me if I have appreciated their artistic or political or philosophical contributions to the world) and slight, often illogical, indignation. What about all those other people who die every day, some after lengthy suffering? We don’t hear about them on the news.

But this is the way it probably should be. The news would be bad and endless if the deaths of regular Joes were reported daily. Famous people can use their recognition to help bring awareness to certain causes and catastrophes—and it helps all of their victims and survivors. Michael J. Fox’s advocacy has helped everyone who suffers from Parkinson’s; he’s just the poster child. (And a mighty attractive one.)

Natasha Richardson’s death is a tragedy for many reasons, least of all her fame. She died from injuries sustained by a normal fall during a beginner’s skiing lesson. She was seven months younger than I am. It could’ve been anyone. My sister. Me.

Granny’s death is tragic, too—more in some ways, less in others. Mary Regina Booker, “Big Ma,” lived a long, healthy life. But my good friend Sheri, her granddaughter, is suffering.

It is comforting for many families, wealthy and poor, famous and not, to believe in heaven as a place where all good souls go to get their rewards from God. I am kind of hooked on the notion of soul recycling, a reincarnation of sorts, with an emphasis on the carnation part.

It has been the worst winter of my life—surpassing the winter of 1998, when I lost my dog, Beowulf, and my grandmother, Ruth Weitz, within weeks of each other. But my daughter had just been born—valuable prizes were exchanged. This winter was full of suffocating physical and emotional pain.

Outside my door, a forsythia is busting loose with such a ferocity that you can feel both its urgency and its gratitude. Along the median strip, star magnolia buds that seem to have appeared overnight pop with snowy blossoms. In another week, the whole two miles of my street will be twinkling with new life.

I like to think Granny and Natasha Richardson and all the others who have died continue to cash in their energy to make that happen. “Maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”*

– – – – –

*The quote is from Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”; the title of this essay was also paraphrased from that song. (I’m itching to say DUH. I’m also itching to give myself a blowout and some lipstick and meet Bruce—anywhere at all.)

P.S. As I hit the PUBLISH POST button, I got an email from Bruce Springsteen’s people. I was worried it was some sort of threat of prosecution for uploading his song. Instead, it’s an announcement that he will be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (another I wouldn’t mind meeting anywhere) this evening, March 19, at 11:00 p.m. (again tomorrow at 8:00 p.m.). So I guess I will meet him tonight. And I probably don’t need to worry about my hair.

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  1. Kim Hosey March 19, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Leslie: This is lovely. Just exactly what it needs to be and nothing more. Perfect.

    Sheri: My thoughts are with you and your family.

    P.S.: I was talking to my husband about a week ago about my “list,” and how it’s looks, sure, but more the soul and mind behind the man. Stewart and Springsteen both made my list.

  2. Kristi March 19, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    life and death cannot be separated, and both impact our lives daily. Spring and Fall are my two favorite seasons, they renew my hope in the constancy of life throughout change.

    p.s. neither of those are on my list but I reiterate every time Johnny Depp is on TV how he occupies the first 3 spots on my list (now that Travolta is off of it) and so list rules apply if he is in the tri-state area 🙂

  3. Anonymous March 19, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    I, too, am perplexed by the same question regarding the deaths of the famous and the deaths of the not so famous. I thought the skiing accident could have happened to anybody. It is another reminder to me that life is short and unexpected things happen. You wrote about this in a way that struck a chord, a minor seventh chord, both melancholy and yet sweet.

    Of course, I got the Springsteen reference immediately.

    We’re not so different after all.


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