My View, Mel Hewitt: Wave of grief at loss of our celebrities

Glenn Frey has died at the age of 67.
Glenn Frey has died at the age of 67.
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There is no doubt about it: whether you were a follower or fan of any of the talented people we have lost in the last week or so, the wave of grief has been palpable.

When my husband came into the room and said: “David Bowie’s died,” my first reaction was disbelief, followed swiftly by, “Oh, no.” Similarly, after so recently watching his charming film A Little Chaos, the death of Alan Rickman was also a blow.

This year began with the news of the death of Natalie Cole and then Lemmy –followed by Brian Bedford, the voice of Robin Hood in Disney’s wonderful animation.

This week Glenn Frey of The Eagles has died and the phrase ‘gone too soon’ seems to have become almost a tag line for January.

Over the years I have often been struck by how much the death of someone you admired or even loved, without ever meeting them, can impact on your life.

This isn’t something confined to the tenderness of youth – if you care or connect you never, quite rightly, grow out of the real grief you feel when someone or something is lost.

This is nothing new. The internet and social media might mean that we hear more of others’ sadness and pain, but the song is the same.

History shows us how some people have the charisma, sheer talent, originality and – often forgotten – simple likability to make a huge impact on our lives – sometimes lives around the globe.

In 1926 silent film star Rudolf Valentino, perhaps the world’s first ever movie heartthrob, died suddenly at the age of just 31. His fans went into meltdown.

Tens of thousands filed past his open coffin, some attempted suicide and more than 100,000 were outside the church at his funeral.

At one stage a near riot ensued with the police holding back the stricken crowds.

In 1963 when the news of President Kennedy’s assassination was announced the pain and sense of loss for many was visceral, the despair palpable.

In 1977 I can still remember I was cleaning the kitchen floor, listening to radio when the news of Elvis’s death broke, another untimely and unexpected loss.

As well as the natural grief for someone you feel you know there is also the fact that some people represent to us greater things. Their lives are landmarks – icons of our time. It really doesn’t matter whether they made us laugh, sing, cry, dance, or march for peace, they moved us.

My late dad used to say that people we admired – even if we never met them – were part of the jigsaw of our lives. When we lose them we have to rearrange the pieces to make a new picture, but we never lose the pieces. He said that to me when Eric Morecambe died and it always makes me smile.