By Caitlin Kelly
In the past few months, three famous people have died, two of whose deaths widely elicited public scorn, derision and relief: Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Toronto mayor (and admitted drug user while in office) Rob Ford.
The late Pritzker Award-winning architect Zaha Hadid was by all accounts a brilliant tough cookie — who one acquaintance of mine immediately dismissed as a woman who only created properties for the world’s wealthiest.
I wonder about the wisdom of this.
I asked a friend in her 30s what she thought, a fellow journalist, a thoughtful person.
“They’re celebrities. They don’t feel like real people to us.”
I wonder about this as well.
There are people — serial killers, perpetrators of terrorism and genocide — whose deaths, natural or murdered, we don’t grieve. Those boundaries seem clear enough to me.
There are people within our own families, people who perpetrated sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse, whose deaths we might also greet with a sigh of relief.
I attended a funeral about a decade ago, of a man whose widow and adult daughter share an apartment hallway with us. We have never socialized and likely never will; we’re very different sorts of people. We say hello in the hallway and parking lot.
But when their father and husband was dying a horrible death of cancer, we helped them connect with a hospice and, when he died, we went to his funeral.
I was stunned to see how empty it was. I doubt more than a dozen people were there, and this for a local man.
I wondered, then as now, why so few people cared enough to come and pay their respects; I’ve attended funerals that were practically standing room only, filled with people utterly distraught at their loss.
Why did this man’s death go so un-mourned? What had he said or done (or left unsaid or un-done?)
For public figures like Scalia, Ford and Hadid, we have access to reams of information about them and their work, their public behavior and accomplishments, sometimes their struggles.
Those who knew them best might not feel comfortable sharing more intimate details, so we’re left with broad outlines.
Many people loathed Scalia and Ford for their misogyny and for holding power over so many lives while espousing values they disagreed with.
They were also human.
They left behind people who loved them deeply and respected them.
Do they, too, deserve to be mourned?
I say yes.
What do you think?