Penny Marshall died on Monday of complications of diabetes at age 75, the same day that I turned 71. I wasn’t a fan of Laverne and Shirley but did like her movie direction of films like “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”
Sondra Locke, who received an Oscar nomination in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” in 1968 but became more famous for her turbulent relationship with Clint Eastwood and appeared in several of his movies,including “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” the film where they met and began a live-in relationship for more than a decade, died at age 74 from cardiac arrest related to brain and bone cancer.
My generation is dying off.
Granted, we lost others slightly older: Galt MacDermot, 89, composer of rock musical “Hair” and many others like “Two Gentlemen of Verona” along with soundtracks for movies, including “Cotton Comes to Harlem.” Saw “Hair” off-broadway in New York in the early 1970s. Loved it. Later met MacDermot and he gave me permission to use “Easy to be Hard” for a video about 9-11.
Jerry Chestnut, a country songwriter who wrote blue-collar hits like “Looking at the World Through a Windshield, a trucking ballad recorded by Del Reeves and later by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen” and “Oney,” a tale of problems of a beleaguered factory hand, a top-10 country hit for Johnny Cash, died at 87 while suffering respiratory problems for two months.
Donald Moffat also died at age 87. A transplanted Briton who began acting in England’s Old Vic repertory company, became a transplanted, naturalized American who worked on the broadway stage and as an actor, including a turn at president in “Clear and Present Danger,” based on a Tom Clancy book and starring Harrison Ford.
We’ve reached a time of life when the names of entertainers we grew up with are now found in the obituaries along with too many lifelong friends.
As a senior citizen, is fear of death something to expect? Not necessarily, says a 2017 study in Psychological Science, which compared writings in blogs by some facing terminal illnesses to others asked to imaging being near death.
The dying people, the study found, are more positive.
Writes Jeffrey Cluger in Time:
People are able to come to terms with death as they age, thanks to what psychologists building on Becker’s work dubbed Terror Management Theory. Equal parts denial and self-soothing, courage and fatalism, TMT is what kept Cold War Americans going despite fear of nuclear annihilation, and got New Yorkers out to work on that Sept. 12 following the terrorist attack.
We get better at this as we age. A 2000 meta-analysis found that fear of death grows in the first half of life, but by the time we hit the 61-to-87 age group, it recedes to a stable, manageable level.
I’ve faced death more than once in my 71 years of life: The latest brush came six years ago when doctors told my wife that I wouldn’t make it through the night after a motorcycle crash.
I did make it through the night, as I did with other near-death encounters. I also did not lose the ability to walk, as some doctors predicted. I did not wake up from a coma with the mind of a two-year old, as others warned, and I still remembered my wife, which nearly all said wouldn’t happen.
In each case, I also came out of the experience with a new appreciation of life. Life is precious and is best lived fully each day. I don’t hide from things that might hurt me. I still ride motorcycles, I still climb ladders and I still try to live life as best I can.
At 71, I’m still here. My gait is slower, my memory comes and goes and I feel aches and pains from advancing rheumatoid arthritis.
Time is running out on my generation but many of us won’t go without a fight.