I think my grandfather's death was the first that really affected me as it happened, though I understood the concept of death, having seen a lot of T.V. westerns, along with media coverage of the Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination, the Munich Olympics and other deadly events.
I've seen a number of deaths, since, and taken note of many more, but the tight grouping of celebrity deaths in the last week has made me look back over my experiences of death, and I have begun to sense a pattern.
Stay with me, here. I'm no conspiracy nut, but it begins to appear that no one is safe, and that the chances of death for any one of us - by my rough figures - approaches 100%. For instance, the older I get, the more people in my general age group pop up on the news, having died in one way or another and it is most often treated as a surprise, if not a shock.
But the shock, to me, may be unjustified. I don't want to start a panic, but it looks to me like we may all be headed for the cemetery.
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Last week we heard first, of course, of Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson... next, Billy Mays and this morning I read that Fred Travalena and Gale Storm passed away.
I have no great observations to make, except to say that the only genuine shock for me would have been if Michael Jackson had somehow lived to a ripe old age. I did not see how he could manage much longer. Over the past few years he appeared to be a shell.
I have good memories of Fred Travalena, who often appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, was all over the variety show circuit, and also starred with Rich Little, Frank Gorshin and other master impressionists on The Kopycats - a comedy show (which I never missed if I could help it) built around impressions. He was also an extremely prolific and successful voice actor.
Most people may not know anything much about Gale Storm, but my wife will remember My Little Margie (which was old already when we watched it) from our days as college students, when we could count our TV channels on one hand.
For a long time, when driving by by a cemetery, I have had the distinct and unshakable sense that those dwelling under the tombstones are watching and waiting and maybe chuckling a little... laughing at the living and their frantic and petty preoccupations. Sometimes, I can't help but laugh, too.
This idea of the connectedness of the living and the dead runs deep in the human heart, and is confirmed in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints... which is just the Church expounding on the teaching of the Lord that "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." (Luke 20:38).