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  • Death is coming closer, creeps nearer by the day (now, there’s a cheerful opening). The count includes not just the litany of icons that shaped our generation’s cultural and political identity, but it begins to include our friends and contemporaries, dear souls who have always lived among us. This shift feels less morbid than bittersweet, as the news spreads and the count grows.

    Last week, among the writers, musicians, actors, thinkers and influencers lost, we collectively mourned several household names. The resulting voluminous public outpouring reflects the mark their talents made upon who we are. Their deaths nudge us to take stock – how much do we owe them for the way in which we experience the world? How well do we measure up? What have we done with our own, more ordinary lives? And what will we do with what’s left? The reaction reflects, also, the extent to which we realize that the list, now, will become ever more personal. The deaths within our generation have, until recently, been deemed tragedies – ‘so young,’ we've always said. But here we are, now, all on the cusp of the inevitable. Ready or not, what used to be abstract is fast becoming real. Even geniuses die. What hope is there for the rest of us?

    When I was first diagnosed with MS over a decade ago, there were some who tried to distance themselves from my misfortune. ‘Poor her,’ they said, ‘of all the luck.’ It was the food I ate, my warped speed, my geography, my lack of humility and prayer… something “other” that could not touch them, too. It is very human to create a veil of rational immunity around ourselves we hope will hold misfortune at bay. But now, as the nicks and scratches of our long and lucky lives become infirmities, we are reminded that our turn is coming towards us down the road. It humbles us. It makes us glad to be alive. It makes us hunger for the simple things that matter. As a generation, we are living longer, so we can hope that this time of reckoning and gratitude may stretch out over decades. But eventually, near or far, our time will come.

    As it happens, I was lucky with my chronic illness in more ways than one. The dire predictions of my steady decline from the disease have not yet manifested themselves, thank goodness, but the very possibility prepared me sooner, I think, than many of my contemporaries for the inevitable. The specter of death has been leaning in, just over my shoulder for a long time now, and I have been living (mostly) in a state of grace – aware that my days are numbered and grateful for the time I have. That gift is huge - a sense of proportion, a culling of the less important, a gratefulness for who we are and what we have, and appreciation for the experiences that have shaped us – including Bowie and the rest.

    More on my blog: http://www.cathydemoll.com
    Photo: Heading Home ©Cathy de Moll
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