Life, Death, September 11th & The Holidays

Life,Death, September 11th & The Holidays

2009 may go down as the year of great change.  Change is good, one often hears.  Or that old joke, "I'm a Republican, I'm opposed to change." This was the year we were to see "Change You can Believe In" ushered in.

As Summer rolls into Fall in this last month of the 3rd Quarter, a look back sees a great deal of death in the rear view mirror.  The blog post preceding this was about the death of a friend and colleague.  That seems so recent, as though just the other day.  And yet time elapses and that was two months ago. 

I lost some relatives this year, as a generation thins out.  These were profound losses. The ranks narrow in the generation ahead of me.  This makes the ticking of the clock just a little louder and more dear.  Being a boomer in the "sandwich generation" gives one curious perspective.

And then there were the losses of the famous and notable, those in the public eye.  Teddy Kennedy gone, a tremendous loss.  No-one to replace him as the Lion of The Senate, or to carry forward the Liberal torch.  Change not always so good, in this case.  Even a good many of his opponents across the aisle had kind words for him, and not just the usual lip service. 

Teddy was born into wealth and privilege, and could have cavorted freely all of his life. He chose public service, and this man of means beyond the imagination of most took up the cause for the common man, the little guy, those without a voice.  He was a flawed man, no doubt, but there is no doubt that he believed in that for which he fought, and was working toward human rights and health care reform until the very end.

Michael Jackson's passing, now ruled a homicide, became a news story, a meme, a pop culture bonanza.  For both MJ and Teddy, the outpouring of public grief was immense.  The coverage was seemingly universal, and not just on our shores.  Death of celebrated figures seemed to top the news this year.

Death seems to have been the top news story of 2009.  Singer Kenny Rankin, conservative columnist (and general lowlife, outer of Valerie Palme) Robert Novak, 60 Minutes producer Don Hewett,  the Most Trusted Man in America Walter Cronkite, legendary guitarist and music innovator Les Paul (with my wife, my parents, and my son we went to see him a few years ago, what a treat), Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, storied wife of the great NY Yankee Merlyn Mantle, folksinger and folklorist Mike Seeger, filmmaker John Hughes, the great author/screenwriter Budd Schulberg.  The Radio field lost Michael Weiner and George Taylor Morris.  Broadcast Evangelist pioneer Reverend Ike passed away, as did choreographer Merce Cunningham.  Author (Angela's Ashes) Frank McCourt, San Francisco Giants owner Sue Burns, Streets of San Francisco and famous movie actor Karl Malden,  Rocker Mink DeVille, TV pitchman Billy Mays, actress Gale Storm (early TV's My Little Margie), Farrah Fawcett, California Beach-rock early psychedelia bandleader (The Seeds) Skye Saxon, California Beach-rock Surf Music pioneer and lead guitarist of The Ventures Bob Bogle, Wilco guitarist and songwriter Jay Bennett, famous brother and good ballplayer Dom DiMaggio, ABCKO exec and one-time Beatles manager Allan Klein, Philadelphia Phillie baseball manager Danny Ozark, actor, comedian and author Dom DeLuise, politician and football player Jack Kemp, Baseball player Mark "The Bird" Fidyrch, actor and political activist Ron Silver, WABC Radio newsman Bruce Weber, The Queen of The Blues Koko Taylor, New York Yankee outfielder Johnny Blanchard, Financial maven and mutual funds pioneer (and author, about health!) Jack Dreyfus, composer Lukas Foss, Netscape pioneer Michale Homer, actor James Whitmore, Gordon Waller (the other half of Peter and Gordon), New York Yankee Tom Sturdivant (I sat across from him at Mickey Mantle's, the NY restaurant, about 20 years ago), ABC Radio Great Paul Harvey, author John Updike, football players Billy Wilson and Steve McNair, Painter Andrew Wyeth, actor and TV commercial star Ricardo Montalban, Long Island Bluesman Sam Taylor, and the Taco Bell dog.

And there's still the 4th Quarter ahead of us.  I feel for the staff at the NY Times Magazine.  Every year the magazine offers a review of those who have passed, with brief appreciation articles written by specially selected, key guest contributors.  Look at that list in the paragraph above -  it will be quite the editorial task for the Magazine editors this year.

Death, of course, a part of life.  As oxymoronic as that sounds, we learn to deal with death and accept it as we can.  Time marches on and the Grim Reaper is always busy.

Death and tragedy are in the moment that much more as the anniversary of September 11th comes again.  The memorial blue lights at the World Trade Center site are lit as the night gives way to the day.

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In New York City at Ground Zero there is a yearly reading of the names of those lost.  In most cases a family member reads the name.  This is moving, gripping, and as evocative and emotional a ceremony as can be imagined.  Just as everyone knows where they were when JFK was assassinated, every New Yorker knows where there were when they heard about the attack on the Twin Towers.  And we all recall, only eight years ago, what we did, who we knew near there or in there, and how it became a reality of all of our lives.  No matter what the weather (and that September 11th, eight years ago, was a gorgeous sunlit day) a pall hovers over New York each year on September 11th.  No doubt the same goes for those at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

This year the anniversary is midway through Ramadan, and a week before the Jewish New Year.  This time of year and the Middle East conflict and Oil Wars are forever conjoined.  The Jihad against America remains, but things have been quiet on these shores.  Those who perpetrate the Jihad are very patient, and take years between attacks.  Plus, there are land wars going on in more than just the two places that come to mind.  I get very unsettled this time of year, wondering when, what, and how the next attack will manifest. 

Five years ago I wrote a long blog post, entitled, Apples. Honey, Caution.  That post is among the most-read items on this blog, and to this day is the one I hear most about from others.  I was in quite a funk when I wrote it, the same funk that visits every year around September 11th and the Jewish New Year.  The mood does not change much each year, although recent events do color it, a bit differently in nuance each year.

This year, with holidays beginning after the anniversary of 9/11, perhaps the gloom and shadows will not be so prevalent.  A new beginning can signify good things, as opposed to the fear and loathing that so often accompanies change.  Further, the new year might bring about a renewed sense of good things and a rosy future ahead.  I've counseled friends and clients to be cautiously optimistic, but to move forward and to plan for better times.

I'll try to take my own advice.  But rather than kid myself, I'll wait until after the melancholy and damper of September 11th have lifted.