Kage Baker always said, she would rather remember people’s birthdays than the days they died. Certainly, it’s more cheerful. And she adamantly stuck to that, as much as she could; even as the years went by and round and down the drain, and more and more of our loved ones got that second date on their resumes.
Me, I can’t help it. I rejoice at beloved birthdays, but I also honor my dead on the days I lost them. For one thing, I often can’t remember what I was doing the day they were born. But the day I lost them … ah, that one is permanent.
Today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I have no idea what I was doing on the day he was born, because I myself would not be born for another 13 years. My father was 10 and my mother was 5, and had in fact only met that year – neither one of them could have had even an inkling of Me. (I have it on the best of authority that my mom’s main squeeze that year was a black and white bunny named Mignonette.)
But I do remember December 8, 1980. It was a work day, which meant Kage and I had spent the day untangling crazy disability insurance claims (we worked for insurance companies for years) – I think it was one of the days we had to call our star nutcase, a self-styled Emperor of the Americas, Grand Maya and Chief of the Cherokee Nation named, I think, McDowell … We had pasta with butter and garlic for dinner. And we were watching Don Giovanni on PBS when sister Kimberly called in tears to tell us that someone had shot and killed John Lennon.
Kage loved opera but she never watched one again. She said it was bad luck.
We cried for days. Millions of people did; a few even killed themselves, and I shudder to think what John Lennon would have said to them had the matter come to his attention. The whole world shared our loss, of course, and mourned. I don’t think a bard had been mourned by so much of the western world since that world itself consisted of a few coasts around the Mediterranean, and no one was sure where the man had been born.
People knew about John. They knew him. His was not a stranger’s death. And so we all remember, those who felt not just the guilty thrill of “Dead Famous Person!” but the real pain of “Oh, my friend is dead” …
Kage was right, of course, and it’s better to remember that someone lived in the first place. But it’s hard not to remember their death too, because the deaths of those we love leave such huge holes in the world. Thirty years has not filled the void left by John’s departure. And really – would you want it to? I wouldn’t.
Rock on, Johnny. I love you.