Let me start by saying that I have always hated New Year’s Eve. Of all the potentially depressing nights of the year, it rises above the rest as the cream of the crop. When I was younger I went to parties on this night with my family and then as I got older with friends, but it just seemed like insanity to me to wait until that ball dropped in Times Square (and no matter where I have been over all these years someone always manages to have a TV on with coverage of the ball dropping) and then scream, shout, and sing the song “Auld Lang Syne” for which I know not the words or the meaning of them.
I have never understood the reason why everyone was celebrating the fact that we all got a year older; however, since 2016 has been such a depressing year for everyone, I might spin a noisemaker or toot a horn just to get 2016 out the door because in my lifetime I have never wanted a year to end more than this one.
The losses of famous people this year have been staggering – sometimes it seemed like one after the other like dominoes. These deaths have affected people in different ways, but mostly it is the sense of our inability to process how so many icons could be lost in such a short time span. However, an interesting CNN report breaks down the 2016 losses in categories like sports, music, acting, etc. and shows how there have been some worse years for losses than 2016.
Since we lived through this year most recently and are dealing with emotions here, these facts don’t seem to matter that much. The losses of 2016 have taken a toll on our collective consciousness, and it is difficult to see how we can be assuaged with thoughts of other years being worse. The reason why the loss of these very public figures hurts so much is because each of us sees their passing away in a deeply personal way.
The year kicked off badly for me with Wayne Rogers passing away. He played Trapper John on the TV series M*A*S*H for the first three seasons of its run, and I felt this one especially since I had been a fan of the show and of Rogers particularly. Even though the series would go on eight more seasons without him, I always enjoyed the episodes that he appeared in the most.
I suppose that the loss of Rogers was a foreshadowing of the losses to follow. I could put a list here of all the people who passed away since January 1, but there are many of these lists available online that give details about each person lost, and this makes it easier for people to search for those lost who mattered most to them.
In a year with so many people lost, the accumulated heft of their passing weighs on our minds. We realize mortality is for everyone – even those we hold in such high regard. Some of these losses hit me harder than others, so here is my very subjective list of losses that affected me the most:
Kenny Baker: played R2-D2 in Star Wars films
Carrie Fisher: played Princess Leia in Stars Wars films
Anton Yelchin: Chekhov in recent Star Trek films, gone way too soon
Gene Wilder: star of one of my all-time favorite films Young Frankenstein
Alan Rickman: Snape in the Harry Potter films and Hans in Die Hard
Florence Henderson: played everyone’s favorite Mom – Mrs. Brady
George Martin: more the “5th Beatle” than anyone else
Glenn Frey: creative force behind The Eagles
David Bowie: iconic and innovative singer
Paul Kanter: of Jefferson Airplane and Starship
Prince: the one and only
Jose Fernandez: Marlins’ pitcher gone way too soon
Muhammad Ali: truly the “Greatest” boxer of all time
Arnold Palmer: indeed the master of the golfing world
Tray Walker: NFL player – another gone way too soon
Harper Lee: her To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books.
W.P. Kinsella: his book inspired one of my favorite films Field of Dreams.
Elie Wiesel: Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
Edward Albee: legendary playwright
John Glenn: astronaut and U.S. Senator
Gwen Ifill: newscaster
John MacLaughlin: newscaster
Morely Safer: legendary 60 Minutes reporter
I know that we lost many more people this year, but these were the ones that stopped me cold each time I heard the news of their passing away. Some of them I looked up to as a kid or admired as an adult. In some cases the things they accomplished in life impressed me or left an impression on me, and some of their work changed me or touched me forever.
Now that they are gone the world is a darker place. Besides losing so many amazing people, we had the acrimonious presidential campaign, the post- election rancor, the ongoing horror in Syria, the continuing battle against ISIS, and plenty of assorted other matters to worry about. In short, 2016 really sucked.
Tonight at midnight I will say nothing like a fond farewell to 2016; instead, I will kick its ass out the door, while welcoming the little infant 2017 with all the warmth I can muster. Here’s hoping that 2017 is an infinitely better year for one and all.