Part of the inevitable drumbeat of life is the observation of those who pass. I was born between two notable deaths, and shared the planet for a few months with another several people who were famous before and only briefly overlapped my own time.
There are those I never knew -- relatives or the famous who died before I was born. Those of whom I'm aware living but dying before I had conscious memory. Those on the edge of that -- the neighbour or local politician who I knew of, or recall hearing of their death.
Then there are the ones I actually met or knew. The impressions are there, though often hazy. A teacher. A childhood classmate struck with disease. A friend's mother in a traffic accident. Perhaps older relatives, eventually.
The first time it's someone in your immediate scope that you're aware of as a teen or young adult: an immediate classmate, in my world often traffic accidents, perhaps a suicide or drug overdose. Depending on your circumstances, gang or criminal violence. Or war or hunger, the traditional horsemen. An immediate family member of disease.
College. More accidents, suicides, drugs, violence. The celebrity deaths are now icons of your youth: elder statesmen, perhaps, or actors or singers, a favourite author. Those get personal, but they're still old. The office co-worker killed: illness, accident, nightclub shooting. Something entirely random and out of the blue.
And then it's your peers as celebrities -- the 27 club gains a new member. Was it Morrison, or Janis, or Kurt, or Winehouse? The child actor with the drug problem. Old actors, but they're not so old any more. Popular singers of your parents' era.
It continues. Life's dramas hit, your 30s and 40s. A neighbor's child now. Sick. Crash. Joined the military. Was in the Twin Towers, or Madrid, or London, or Istanbul. The foreign aid worker, killed by those she was trying to help. Messy divorce. Job setback. Mental illness. The friend's parent with Alzheimers: gone, but not dead.
I'm at the stage now where it's starting to be minds I was hoping to talk to, to meet. An academic or author who'd died just as I encountered their work.
Occasionally it's a death richly deserved. I try not to think ill of the dead, most of the time. But I sincerely endorsed some politicians', or judges', or businessmans', or crimelords' decision to take a final exit.
Actors and performers of my own misspent adolescence are now showing up. Maybe it was drugs or mental illness or other conditions -- the performing life and lifestyle are hard, the tears of a clown masking the real tears underneath. Maybe the clock just ran out.
Life isn't fair. It's a terrible and awesome and precious gift. When its spark was granted you, you were given something that some untold sigma of nines of the matter in the universe will never experience, or at least not as we know it. Maybe you're re-absorbed into your mother's uterus, maybe you're born a misshappen mass, perhaps you struggle for a few weeks after birth. That's still more than essentially the entire rest of the Universe will ever know. Even if there are a billion billion billion other worlds with life, they're the minutest fraction of the whole. Specks on specks on specks on specks.
So if you get two decades, or four, or eight, you're among the very very fortunate. And to have a brain and consciousness besides? An abundance of wealth.