On the eve of my 44th birthday, I’m doing what I always do: thinking about dead people. Sure it’s morbid, but it’s the position from which I am most able to experience happiness that I’m alive. Or at least not dead.
I’m not death-obsessed in the Woody Allenesque sense. I used to be a hypochondriac and anticipate eventual diagnoses of fatal diseases. Don’t ask me where that came from, as it was an affliction I had since adolescence. It went away a few years ago, along with a bunch of other neurotic symptoms — a cessation that I almost wholly credit to consistent, hard running. This stuff alters your brain chemistry, there’s no doubt about that.
I’m actually in a very good mood this evening. That and thinking about death are not necessarily incompatible.
Anyway, here, in no particular order, are some people who didn’t make it past 44. I, on the other hand, fully expect to. In fact, I have to: Next year I move up into the 45-49 age group, where I will again be the “baby” instead of the wheezing senior in the 40-44 AG that I’ll be as of tomorrow.
Raise a toast to the angels and devils among them:
- Jackson Pollock, Artist: Drunk driving accident
- Dana Reeve (wife of Christopher Reeve and head of the Christopher Reeve Foundation): Lung cancer
- Steve Irwin (aka “The Crocodile Hunter”): Freak accident involving a stingray
- Drake Sather, Comedian and Comedy Writer: Suicide
- Tyrone Power, Actor: Heart attack
- Felix Pappalardi, Bassist (Mountain) and Producer (Cream): Murdered by his girlfriend
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Author: Heart attack
- Anton Chekhov, Playwrite and Author: Tuberculosis
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Author: Cerebral hemorrhage
- Henry David Thoreau, Author: Tuberculosis
- Billie Holiday, Singer: Cirrhosis of the liver
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Author, Illustrator, Pilot: Plane crash
- Marquis de Sade, Aristocrat, Author and father of Sadism: Unknown