After all, we do not personally know these people. We feel we know them through their music, films, reality shows etc but for most of us we've never actually met them let alone had a close physical or social relationship with them. Yet when they are taken from us, especially before their time, e.g. short illness or tragic accident, we are devastated by their passing. Perhaps mass hysteria plays a small role but I suspect it is something that goes much deeper than hysterics, something other than not being able to see or hear them again.
What was it that drew us to them in the first place? I can only speak for myself. In the case of Elvis it was definitely his music and good looks certainly in the early years because in the fifties and sixties I was too young to have any interest or indeed understanding of his personal problems. It wasn't until the early seventies when I became aware of his drink and drug habits and how he sought solice in food that I began to see that here was a real person with real sadness in his life. While I continued to love his music it was his emotional pain that reached out to me. It made his dying all the more sad in that nobody was able to save him from himself.
I was in my kitchen ironing when my son alerted me to the Breaking News on Sky that Princess Diana had tragically died in a car crash in Paris. The month was again August but this time twenty years on. Again it was not just her great beauty or the fact that both her sons were each born a year earlier than my own two boys that made me feel close to her, no in her case it was her intense lack of self confidence, the images of her looking so alone, her battle with bulimia that made me wish I could be her friend. Her death was so shocking there are still times when I find it difficult to believe she is no longer with us.
While Jade Goody's death was not exactly sudden, we had known for about two months beforehand that her fight for life would soon be lost it was nonetheless also shocking. At just twenty seven years of age and a mother of two young children she had everything to live for. (I have written my tributes to Jade in two posts, one of them prior to her death, Jade Goody - A Shining Star Whose Light Is Slowly Fading and Jade, The Brightest Star In The Sky).
For me it was not what Jade achieved in life that attracted me to her although I was delighted at her success, it was her dreadful childhood circumstances and everything that went with it that made me feel connected to her. Out of all that suffering grew a strong, independent young woman who lived life to the full and had so much love to give to those around her. Her untimely death is still very difficult to accept and painful when I do acknowledge it.
Now the world has had to endure yet another painful loss, that of the great singer/song writer and dance artist, Michael Jackson. Over the decades Michael has consistently entertained us with his unique songs and later his music videos. I was never what you would call one of his die-hard fans but I do love his songs especially the ballads but also the strong beat one like "Beat It". His "Earth Song" really tears at the heart strings.
Like so many people I always felt that Michael had a kind nature always giving of himself to those in need. So when the dreadful allegations of child sexual abuse started coming out I felt deep in my heart that he was totally innocent and would be cleared of the charges against him. Watching him having to endure that five month trial was heartbreaking. A man who sought only to bring joy into the lives of these poor children to be accused of such crimes must have felt that he had been dealt life's cruelest blow. How could you ever recover from that? It is my belief that that whole episode was the beginning of his downfall.
So what is it then that endears these people to us? Their ability to entertain us certainly plays its part but it's when their souls are laid bare before us and we witness their suffering that we really begin to connect. It's an inborn thing I guess, our need to comfort our fellow human beings in their time of need. We open our hearts to them and in doing so become so drawn into their lives to the extent that we need to know their every move, how they're coping etc. These days, twenty four hour news channels satisfy that hunger.
I once heard it referred to as "grieving by proxy" but call it what you may, it is a very real experience for some people and can be every bit as traumatic as losing a close friend. After all, isn't there a universal bond that ties each and every one of us? Perhaps there lies our answer.
May Michael rest in eternal peace and God give strength to his family and friends at this very difficult time.
Michael Jackson image: www.contactmusic.com
Elvis Presley image: www.photobucket.com
Princess Diana image: www.telegraph.co.uk
Jade Goody image: blogs.conventrytelegraph.net
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