When I was a teenager, I didn’t think much about life or death or what we as humans need during our short time here on Earth. I’m not sure teens need to think much about all of that, but I do wish I’d thought a little more about appreciating the people we meet. If I had to give my teen self advice, I would start with that. As an aging adult, those things weigh on my mind much more. The passing from one year to the next usually brings those thoughts to the forefront of my mind. This year is no different.
By all accounts, 2021 is a year that much of the world is ready to put behind them. We start 2022 the same way we start most years – with hope that THIS year will be different. We hope that a new year will bring with it the joy and peace we all long for.
That’s why, on December 31, 2021 at 1:50pm CST, while driving in my car, I screamed NOOOOOOOOOO!
That’s the moment the radio newscaster announced that Betty White had died, just a few days before we were all going to celebrate her 100th birthday.
There are billions of wonderful people in the world. Each of us may be lucky enough to know a few. And of course, there are celebrities that most of us don’t actually know, but we feel as if we do because we’ve followed along in their public and sometimes private lives.
Although celebs may have millions of adoring fans, it’s rare that any of them are universally loved.
Betty White was such a person.
- Betty White gave the world joy.
- Betty White gave the world laughter.
- Betty White gave the world hope – hope that people could rise above their darkest inner selves and be more like Betty.
After my scream subsided, I listened as the newscaster described the life Betty led. I struggled to keep the tears from escaping while I drove.
As I choked back the tears, I felt guilty for feeling so sad about someone I don’t even know, especially since just 2 days before, my father-in-law passed away, and only a few weeks before that, my mother-in-law died.
Our family will miss Ervin and Mary Louise Cavalier. I hurt when I see their children hurting, and I know I can’t ease their pain.
Like me, much of the world has lost someone dear to them in 2021. So the thought of crying over a stranger is unsettling, and yet, I remembered the last time I felt this same way.
In 2016, I wrote The Art Within Our Souls.
All of life’s artists contribute to our world for a brief time. They live, they inspire, they die. We notice and collectively mourn for the artists whose names we all know. These are the beings who have touched the hearts and minds of millions of people. We all unite in sorrow when we lose these brilliant gems. This collective mourning does not take away from the loss of those whose names aren’t well known.
Universal mourning for the “great artists” of our time reflects the tears we shed in our everyday lives.
I wrote more on this subject in that post, but these words reflect the same feeling I’m having now.
It’s okay for me to mourn the loss of a celebrity I never met. It’s okay to feel sad that the world will no longer have its sweetheart in our lives, showing us how one person can spread joy and light to others. It’s okay because our collective mourning for a stranger is a reflection of the individual losses we grieve about in our everyday real lives. But when we collectively grieve for a celebrity, we can share the loss with everyone. And somehow, that helps us move through the pain of that loss and all the individual losses in our personal lives.
So 2021 ended with the loss of a universally beloved woman. It’s as though the year wanted to give us a final “f’you” before fading into history.
2022 won’t be some magical wondrous year. It will have its ups and downs, its births and its deaths, as every year does. We’ll grieve for people we lose in our lives, and we’ll grieve for celebrities as well.
But we’ll also find the joy and light from time to time, even without Betty White. The world has lost a beautiful soul, but beautiful souls will always exist.
We will not let our losses destroy us. We will always look for those who bring the world what Betty White brought us. And yes, we will find those people, and we will cherish them. Over and over again.
And that’s the final “f’you” to time itself.
Here’s to 2022. May you always find the light.