"Journalists" love anything that can be wrapped neatly in a box. The less thought that they have to give to it the better. Hence, right after Christmas and before New Year's Day we can present the annual Roll Call of the Dead. And if you're a celebrity and you die on New Year's Eve, somewhere around 10:30 ET, tough. You missed the "Dead"-line. And no, you won't make next year's list either.
Half the people on The New York Times list of notables you couldn't pick out of a lineup at the local drunk tank and a quarter of those left over you probably thought died years ago.
Still, we love to pour over the list, to shake a memory or two, somewhere between the man who sang about Moonriver and the guy who actually got to walk there. We lost a man who became an unfortunate verb and twenty young lives that will be used for a political crusade over which they knew nothing in their short time on Earth. (And we lost 53,000 other children whose parents will grieve no less and who will only be a brief mention in a local newspaper because their disease or unfortunate accidental death advances no political agenda or media career.)
It was also the year of the sports suicide, where we learn that there may be more to the violent collisions that entertain us. And while football names like Seau, Belcher and Easterling dominate the headlines, even a baseball player will pay the price for a concussion, or two, or twelve.
And we have losses in our own lives as well. We both mourn and celebrate. We console ourselves that these are not endings but passages. We know that love endures.
If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
(D)o not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
- Sullivan Ballou in a letter to his wife, Sarah, before the Battle of Bull Run (July the 14th, 1861)