What the Dead Say About Me

Merle Haggard passed away recently, another in a long line of deaths that seems to be the theme of 2016. He was 79 years old, so we can’t say it was entirely unexpected, but it was sad news nonetheless.

There have been many other notable deaths this year. By this, I mean notable to me. I don’t mean any slight to all of the others who have died in 2016, whose names I haven’t recognized.

Garry Shandling, Alan Rickman, Pat Conroy, Nancy Reagan, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Joe Santos, Joe Garagiola, Ken Howard, James Noble, Bob Elliot, Maurice White, Antonin Scalia, Denise Matthews, Harper Lee, John Caldwell, George Kennedy, Pat Harrington, David Bowie, Dan Haggarty, Glenn Frey, John Farris, Abe Vigoda, to list a few.

And 2016 is less than four months old.

You can tell a lot about me by the names I listed above. With the exception of Nancy Reagan and Antonin Scalia, all of the deceased were involved with entertainment in some fashion. Writers, musicians, actors, comedians, one cartoonist (Caldwell)…and I’m counting Joe Garagiola in entertainment as well. What are sports if not entertainment for the masses? Sports in general is a category sadly under-represented in my list, although plenty of sports figures have passed away this year. It shows you a little how the filter in my brain works. Sports in general doesn’t rank that high in priority for me, I guess, although if John McEnroe or Bill Cowher died, they would have made the list.

Lots of politicians died as well, but Reagan and Scalia were the only names that really resonated with me.

If you’re much younger than me and reading this, you may not recognize many of the names. Likewise, if you’re my age or older and share few of my interests, or my obviously USA-centric filter.

It seems to me that more of the people I consider notable have been dying this year. That is a completely self-centered viewpoint, and I realize this. It speaks volumes about my own age (statistically, well past middle-aged now), and maybe about my slightly unhealthy preoccupation with death.

Lots of people with Wikipedia listings die every day. That I recognize and identify with more of them now is as loud as the ticking of a grandfather clock in an otherwise empty room. Happy April thoughts.

Of all the names in the list, Merle Haggard was the only one I ever saw in person. And the world feels a little emptier to me now that he’s gone.

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