The late, great Louis Armstrong once said “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken more care of myself.”
In the space of a month three popular icons of entertainment have left us, all brought down by that busy deputy of the Grim Reaper, cancer.
If we’d lost actor Alan Rickman before December, no doubt the media would have quoted his famously delivered line in his role as Sheriff of Nottingham; “Christmas is cancelled!”
In Ace of Spades, Motorhead’s Lemmy famously sang “I don’t wanna live forever.”
On his final album, in the song Lazarus, David Bowie sings “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”
All three of these performers had their Biblical three score and ten— Rickman and Bowie at 69, Lemmy at 70.
Mortality is a grim subject to air in the bitter depths of January, but every time a famous person’s passing makes the news, it should make those of us ordinary folk still living more determined to make more of the life we have, not only for ourselves, but for those around us. People assume that somehow the gym, jogging, botox, vitamin supplements, fame and wealth will keep mortality at bay. However, even if you win the next Euro-millions rollover, if the reaper wants you, you’ll have to go. But that shouldn’t be a depressing thought; it should inspire us to be better human beings.
When you’re in your 20s the idea of your mortality is very different to when you’re 50. At my wedding in 1966, if someone had said I’d be celebrating 50 years of marriage in 2016, it would have seemed like science fiction. In some ways it is. But as those 50 years rolled on, life and the way it was lived became more important. As you pass the half century mark, things begin to happen; your parents grow old and expire, children grow up and became parents in their own right, and all the love and affection you’ve spent a lifetime building up becomes much more valuable. We can choose to concentrate more on our friendships, become caring and careful, and try to consider others before ourselves. Those of you who have not yet passed through middle age reading this can steal a march on us old folk by starting that process now. The 21st century world is in a bad way. Religion and politics have proved ineffective. It’s down to us; the way we behave to one another, how much help and understanding we give to our neighbours, family and friends, the way we listen, the way we speak.
So as the endless obituaries prove, we don’t live for ever. My late daughter, taken by cancer aged 46, always said she’d never wanted to become old, yet she had a full, happy life, kind and caring. She left us a legacy of good memories - and that’s something we should all aim for. As Louis Armstrong suggested; ‘It’s a wonderful world’. Together, let’s try and make it so.