Thursday, December 24, 2009

Death Happens

Everyone eventually dies, yet is seems to surprise us when someone we know reaches the end of their life. Celebrity deaths often affect us in a collective way … it’s someone we ‘know’ because we see them on a screen and read about personal aspects of their lives.

Today a celebrity I actually know died. That’s a double whammy and it has me thinking about death, life and living in the moment.

George Michael was a legendary TV sportscaster here in the Washington DC area and was known by sports fans in other cities because of his weekly syndicated Sports Machine program. In the early 1990s he also did a weekly sports report on the radio station I work for; I spoke with him on the phone almost every week and I met him a few times.

We didn’t know each other well, but we had a few interesting personal conversations. He gave me advice on pursuing a TV career (gotta have thick skin because someone is always criticizing you) and he all but told me I was crazy for marrying a divorce lawyer (he was right).

And he once ridiculed me for having a Border Collie in a townhouse with no yard. He did that without knowing I was shopping for a house on fenced acreage. I always planned to ‘finish’ that conversation, if you know what I mean. He turned 70 this year, which in my opinion is still young, so I was in no hurry to reach out to him again even though his comment was made more than ten years ago. That contributes to the surprise I feel today upon learning of his death.

Our parents usually don’t teach us much about dealing with death. It seems the only acquaintances who died in my youth were old people; no surprise there. An elementary school friend died when I was in high school, but I hadn’t been in touch with him for years so the loss seemed distant.

But the older we get, the more we face death. Our uncles and aunts die, our parents die, cousins and friends die. We always think there is more time left, but often there isn’t. Death never discriminates based on age.

I truly believe I’ll celebrate my hundredth birthday, but what if tomorrow never comes? That may seem an odd thought to have on the eve of a day that celebrates one of the world’s most famous births. But even He died.

Death happens to everyone. It’s what we do in life that really counts, isn’t it?

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