The legendary ferryman Charon in Greek mythology, who ferried souls to Hades, with the human goddess Psyche as she seeks passage through the River Styx in John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s immortal painting.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
— Billionaire Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)
TODAY I celebrate 64 years of existence in this troublesome world we live in.
We now face a global pandemic and in the past our lives have been beset with natural calamities, political turmoil, hunger and famine, economic disparity show of inequality among nations and among peoples.
Discrimination abounds—even with world leaders advocating for equality and fairness—many suffer injustice in almost all countries across the globe.
But what of 2020?
In a year defined by conflict and devastating pandemic, the world lost iconic defenders of civil rights, great athletes and entertainers who helped define their genres.
Many of their names hold a prominent place in the collective consciousness—RBG, Kobe, Maradona, Eddie Van Halen, Little Richard, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek, Christo—but pandemic restrictions often limited the public’s ability to mourn their loss in a year that saw more than a million people die from the coronavirus.
United States. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—known as the Notorious RBG to her many admirers — was one of the many noteworthy figures who died in 2020.
In a court known for solemn legal proceedings, Ginsburg became a cultural and social media icon whose fierce defense of women’s rights earned her a devoted following. She died in September after 27 years on the country’s highest court. Making few concessions to age and health problems, she showed a steely resilience and became the leader of liberal justices on the court.
The world also said goodbye to US Rep. John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement who died in July.
Other former political figures who died this year include Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, New York mayor David Dinkins, Arizona governor Jane Hull, Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui, U.S. senator Tom Coburn, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, United Nations secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director William Sessions.
Some of the year’s deaths struck down relatively young people, leaving mourners with the heartbreak of a life gone too soon.
Basketball great Kobe Bryant died along with several others in a January helicopter crash at age 41. And in a shock to fans, actor Chadwick Boseman, who inspired audiences with his portrayal of comic book superhero Black Panther, died of cancer in August at age 43.
Others in the world of arts and entertainment who died in 2020 include actors Olivia de Havilland, Kirk Douglas, Irrfan Khan, Max von Sydow, Diana Rigg, Ian Holm, Rishi Kapoor and Franca Valeri; musicians Ellis Marsalis Jr., John Prine, Bonnie Pointer, Kenny Rogers, Juliette Greco and Toots Hibbert; filmmakers Nobuhiko Obayashi, Joel Schumacher and Ivan Passer; authors Mary Higgins Clark and Clive Cussler; TV hosts Regis Philbin and Jim Lehrer; magician Roy Horn; and fashion designer Kenzo Takada.
Yet we can look at the pandemic at a positive not. For one, people are starting to learn the value of brotherhood and camaraderie, charity, empathy, sacrifice, solidarity and unity and so many human attributes that, in truth, are all rooted in love—and the greatest love of all: God’s love.
And we can look at death as a boon. It ends all but makes every one of us at par with each other—no rich, no poor, no one more intelligent or less, no one stronger or weaker. Everyone is equal as the prose poem Desiderata describes and advises: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always, there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
And in ending, let me quote from Dr. Jose Rizal’s immortal Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell), “en la muerte hay descanso . . . or in English, in death there is rest. (AI/MTVN)