This is an image of a roadside billboard that memorializes Robin Williams after his death.

When A Celebrity Dies

Yes, we will die, too.

One of the elemental truths God has established in this created world is that man will die. It used to not be like that; in fact, I sometimes wonder how long Adam and Eve would have lived had they not succumbed.

The truth remains that we die, and it is always a sad event.

Death’s sting is never too far. Just this week, I’ve been affected by two deaths in my own community. One was of a man who lived right up the road from me. He was a lover of humankind, and he showed that love by leading countless Habitat for Humanity projects and helping homeless people build their own houses. The other, though I didn’t know personally, was the father of one of the most knowledgeable and prestigious history professors this area has been blessed to have.

My generation here at home has also experienced numerous deaths this year. Numerous car crashes and vehicular accidents have claimed the lives of people with whom I’ve shared some school life, whether in the classroom or in extracurricular activities. It’s harrowing to read the names of contemporaries in the obituaries (a sentiment that transcends my own generation, I’m sure) when we shared the same high school hallways just a few years ago.

But something strange happens when a celebrity dies; in fact, several strange things happen.

Maybe the most poignant phenomenon that revolves around a celebrity’s death is the communal sting that everyone feels.

A sting is present just the same as when someone within your family, sphere of friends, or community dies, but it’s different in its scale of how far it reaches. It’s one thing when you can join in with people you know and mourn the loss of a communal figure; it’s another thing for a world full of strangers to collectively mourn the death of a solitary figure who, in a way, uniquely touched and affected each person individually.

An odd occurrence that stems from the first is that social and political enemies can become friends and sojourners as they both try to figure how to live in a world without their mutual celebrity friend (and unfortunately they will probably turn it into a sympathy vote, but whatevs).

Certain celebrity deaths bring attention to certain problems…with the unspoken hope that these problems will no longer remain problems.

Just three hours ago (1:30 PM), news broke about the death of Joan Rivers, and the social media trending began. How weird that five days ago, CBS Sunday Morning syndicated this clip of Rivers from 2002 in which she speaks of getting older and being okay with it.

This year has also seen the passing of Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, two celebrities that were the face of the generations that preceded my own. Their deaths brought on hordes of Tweets and Statuses with nostalgia dripping like honey.

Other celebrity deaths served as tinder to reignite discussions should never but always somehow manage to slip down to everyone’s back-burners.

Most recently, the death of Robin Williams reminded us all of how deep and true the cords of depression ring. Because of his death, several social media figures took to the browser to talk about their own bouts with suicide, as NBC’s Susan Donaldson James points out in this article.

Before that was the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman who struggled many years with drug abuse. In this aftermath, many celebrities came out and confessed to their own struggles with drugs, as The Wrap’s Greg Gilman reports.

All of this serves as a giant signpost that points back to God.

For one thing, it points to the fact that humanity is scary. Sure, we can think of monsters, demons, natural disasters, conspiracy theories, religious beheadings, and global terrorism all we want; we’re at a somewhat safe distance from such morbid grandiosity.

But when a celebrity dies – especially one that affects us – it’s a more staunch reminder of how mortal we really are, and, if the right seeds have been planted, it will remind people of how another famous and infamous Figure died not at the hands of suicide, drugs, old age, or natural causes, but because He had to die so as to rescue the members of the human race who fall short of God’s glory, whoever that is.

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