By Mark Cone
When celebrities pass away suddenly at a young age, it makes major headlines and those who loved them and even those who only knew their names but nothing of their craft are sent into an inexplicable public mourning — as if the entire nation had lost a family member.
Within minutes, their name is everywhere on social media and mass condolences come rolling in from every corner of the globe from Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street. Not long after that, the posts saying “this person also died today, but nobody cares because they were not famous” start showing up.
While I appreciate the sentiment of the latter posts, I think the reason that celebrity deaths such as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams and others who have died young over the years are so huge is because we do in fact care about those “other” less-known folks so much.
These high-profile deaths, while shocking and tragic, afford someone like Bryant — a larger-than-life athlete and even larger than that family man — the opportunity to bring us together for a final time to mourn collectively like only someone of his stature can, not just for them but for everyone we have lost because they have the ability to bring us together as fans, even if we have never met each other, to share a hug or a memory and say “it is going to be all right.”
When we are fans of an athlete, musician or movie star, we form a bond with that figure, and when those figures die, we have that bond in common with millions of other fans, so we are able to mourn together and share our favorite memories.
While we are sharing those memories, no doubt others we knew personally and have lost come to the surface and may even become part of the conversation — “Yeah, my cousin was a huge fan too, but he died a couple of months back. I bet he was there when Kobe got to the gates of heaven,” might be something you would hear, or “Did you hear about that other crash or the people that this or that happened to?”
We mourn for them all collectively, and those who may not make the headlines over the years are brought back to the front of our minds individually, allowing us a chance to process their loss on a larger scale, even if only subconsciously.
Nothing brings a family together like a death, and nothing bridges the gap that separates us like a high-profile death. Even if only briefly, we are one big family, and the loss makes us hold each other and cry for everyone for whom we did not cry together.
No, someone who is not a celebrity or well-known person is most likely not going to make the front page, but that does not mean they were any less important, or that their life meant less — it just means their circle was smaller, and that’s OK, too.
Kobe, Gigi, John, Keri, Alyssa, Christina, Sarah, Payton and Ara died in a fiery crash on a hillside in California and the nation, so deeply divided on so many fronts, mourned together.
Maybe that’s what we as a nation or world needed, a chance to put our extreme divide to the side and just be fans in mourning, to post something nice on social media about someone we actually did not know while remembering those we did know who touched our hearts and having the chance to let those in our circle know about them too — but it is terrible that nine people have to die to get us to do it.
Play on in heaven, Black Mamba — play on.
Mark Cone is owner and operator of SouthernNashNews.com.