Many of the above are the icons of my childhood, these world-shakers who checked their bodies at the door and began the trip back into stardust this year. And there was also Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and too many other black people violently killed as white America continues to pretend our society is not built on racism. And countless, nameless women killed by those they should have been able to trust most. And Leon Russell, Fidel Castro, Florence Henderson, so many others who left just as many footprints on others’ hearts, for good or for bad.
So what does 2016 have to teach us? I admit I don’t know. I resist the idea that it’s a bad year, an evil year, a year out to get us. Too many things that happened this year were a direct consequence of our actions and/or inactions for things to be that simple. But still there is no sense, no rhyme and reason, in loss and grief. This was not called for. This was not just. This is simply how it is, and it’s painful.
For me, at least partly the pain comes from the overwhelming feeling that all the good these icons stood for in my life could be lost. The fear that the great strides we’ve made may be washed away. The knowledge that this has happened before and can so easily happen again, that the fight, the fight, the fight continues and we lose so much, and so many, and we still don’t get to someplace safe. It’s exhausting. But it doesn’t have to be. We still have our voices to raise. Each of us still here gets at least another day.
So, if I had to hazard a guess, I would say this is the lesson that 2016 has taught me, both through my own painful trials and through the loss of these giants of my imagination…Do not let their lives and their legacies be in vain. Do not let YOUR life be in vain. Do what counts. Say what matters. Don’t waste a single second.
And most especially: always be your ass-kicking, enemy-forgiving, genius-wielding, racism-unveiling, poetry-spouting, no-nonsense spine-of-steel hilarious, thoughtful, gender-bending rainbow-glitter fabulously every-which-way uncloseted, sexy-as-hell, defiant, proud, philanthropic, kind, secretive, scandalous, out-of-this-world revolutionary visionary self. You do you, and do it like mad, because you never know when your time is up. We’re all headed back out into the universe, all in line for complete disassembly someday, so we have to make this moment last, not through fame, but through impact. And you know what’s true? We’re stronger together. Kindness, peace, empathy, love, doing what’s right, learning to lean in and learning to listen, finding the courage to stand up and the courage to sit down.
And I’m sorry, Princess Leia. I just couldn’t bring myself to sum you up in a single phrase. You are too many things to me, too fantastically multifaceted and unwilling to submit to anyone else’s labels, and my grief at your loss is still too new. May the force be with you, and thank you for being a force in my life and a light to lead the way. Amen.
Now, I cannot WAIT for 2017 to begin. Who’s with me?