2016 is being scrutinized for being especially harsh in the area of celebrity deaths. Though the majority of us only “know” famous people from watching them on TV or in movies, listening to their music, or following their actions in the news, the public forms an intimate bond with our heroes and heroines from the entertainment industry, athletes, politicians, writers, and other notable figures because we welcome their works into our homes in a very personal way. In macabre tradition, we catalog the deceased of the past year, often in shock or sadness that a particular childhood idol or heartthrob has passed. It’s as though we feel their pain and a part of us is gone when they die.
This year witnessed the passing of a multitude of fan favorites, leaving the public to scorn 2016, call the year a “jerk”, and wait in nervous anticipation for the stroke of midnight for fear of losing anyone else we care for. A South Carolina man has even staged a mildly humorous attempt to block further torment by seeking funds to allow him to “protect” beloved 94-year-old actress Betty White from the Grim Reaper’s clutches. Sadly, as 2016 has shown us, anyone and everyone is at risk to meet his or her maker, whether we’re ready or not!
As a divorced mom, I was compelled to peruse the list of well-known people lost during the past twelve months and reminisce about their contributions to my life.
I now pay tribute to the fallen who stand out the most to me personally by sharing the lessons I have learned from each:
Pat Harrington, Jr. I was in the single digits when he appeared on the sitcom One Day at a Time, so although I remember his character on the show, he wasn’t a huge influence in my life. What strikes me about this role was that he was a true friend to a single mom raising two daughters alone. We could all use a dependable and caring pal to help us through the hard times, especially when you’re a woman who knows nothing of plumbing, carpentry, and the like!
David Bowie- what a talent! Aside from his vast catalog of brilliant music, I appreciate that Mr. Bowie personified being an original, re-invention, and putting one’s whole heart into what you do! Divorce forces us all to transform from one version of ourselves to another, and he was a masterful example of revolutionary brilliance. RIP, Mr. Bowie!
Harper Lee is a badass in my book because she defied common perceptions of women. She was an amazingly talented writer and tackled some hard issues, namely racism. Thank you, Ms. Lee for helping to pave the way for future women!
Joey Feek’s death was heartbreaking to watch because she was young, beautiful, and her death left behind a tiny daughter who will be forced to grow up without a mom. She also left an adoring husband behind who was shattered by her death. Joey exemplified grace and bravery in the face of immense pain, and showed the world how to die with dignity rather than taking the easy, yet totally forgivable under the circumstances, route of self-pity and anger. She lived and died a beautiful example of womanhood!
Nancy Reagan was always graceful and classy and remained a devoted wife and mother to the very end. I adore how she remained a constant source of love and support as her husband, the former President Reagan, faded away into the clutches of dementia.
Chyna crushed every stereotype of femininity and dared any one of us to challenge her fierceness as a woman. I am the “Divorce Warrior,” but this woman is every inch a gladiator and showed the world another side of just how powerful a woman can be! Don’t tell me that I can’t support my kids, stand up for myself, claim my right to happiness, and achieve all of my dreams!
Theresa Saldana used the platform of her acting career to promote the issue of crime victim’s rights, after herself being brutalized by a stalker. Ms. Saldana became an example for any woman who has been victimized to stand up, find a voice, and fight back rather than continuing to be a victim! In the divorce community, we need this kind of strength to overcome the very dark moments that plague so many of us, and she showed us that it is possible!
Alexis Arquette fearlessly lived life on her own terms, defining her own sense of beauty, and tuning out the bullies and critics. This transgender pioneer and member of the famous Arquette clan never stopped looking to achieve happiness, success, and acceptance against the grain of the mainstream, and with inspiring levels of courage that every divorced woman needs to combat gossip, judgement, and expectations to fit within the norms.
Florence Henderson was my first teacher for how to be a stepmom and blend a family. My own family is as large as the Brady Bunch, and I appreciate Carol Brady’s example of embracing children through marriage with a warm and open heart, rather than sticking to the tried and true “evil” stepmother” persona. Thank you for showing stepmoms of today the way!
Alan Thicke, as TV dad Jason Seaver from Growing Pains, set the bar for what I deserve in a husband and father of my children. He was involved, loving, and supportive of his wife in every way, didn’t take himself too seriously, handsome, successful, and ready to respond to any incident with wit and wisdom. Dr. Seaver offered hope to young women that good guys who will make great husbands are out there somewhere and guidance to young men of how not to be a dingbat or deadbeat dad!
Carrie Fisher solidified her place in sci-fi history playing the iconic role of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series. Carrie taught me that we can’t be content to rest on the laurels of physical beauty and need to also use all the gifts we possess to further the roles of women in all aspects of life. Carrie also demonstrated that we have to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. She suffered for decades with addiction and mental illness, proving the necessity of remaining strong by knowing when to seek help.
Debbie Reynolds made me laugh with her portrayal of the annoying, disapproving mother in “Mother”, yet she made me cry with her undying devotion to the role of motherhood by following her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher, in death just one day after Carrie’s passing. Debbie proves that a mother is always a mother, no matter how old she or her children are!
Let 2016 be a lesson to us all to love and appreciate all of the amazing people who entertain us and those we know in real life, because one never knows when their light will go out! Every person who enters our lives has an opportunity to either bless our lives or teach us something new. 2016 seems to be particularly greedy and I haven’t even mentioned the other losses that broke my heart including Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, and George Michael!
Cross your fingers for 2017!