Oh My Stars

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Why have so many celebrities died in 2016?

David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Glenn Frey. Harper Lee. Gary Shandling. George Kennedy. George Martin. Keith Emerson. Patty Duke. Ronnie Corbett. Merle Haggard. Joanie Laurer.

I suppose one could argue that “celebrities” are an ill-defined group, and that without any statistical modelling we can only assume it’s all coincidence somehow. That’s right, I said it: sometimes there IS such a thing as “coincidence.” Many of those who died were old or ill or could otherwise have been expected to expire soon anyway — and life always throws us a few surprises.

Part of it has to be how interconnected we all are. News (both real and fake) spreads faster than ever. You check in on Facebook and someone has posted something like “So and so has died,” you wonder who that was, then you click on the news item and all of a sudden you’re saying “oh, the guy who played R2-D2!” or “the lead singer from that group that did that song I loved!” or whatever.

But it does distinctly seem like 2016 has taken a particularly terrible toll on the famous. Is there an astrological reason for this? And is there any hope for us?

Lonnie Mack. Prince. John Berry. Alan Young. Burt Kwouk. Muhammad Ali. Anton Yelchin. Kenny Baker. Gene Wilder. Arnold Palmer. Gordie Howe. Pete Burns. Edward Albee. Garry Marshall. Leonard Cohen.

For most (or a large portion) of 2016 Saturn, Neptune and Pluto have all hovered around between 10 and 15 degrees of the Signs they currently occupy — Sagittarius, Pisces, and Capricorn. That means that odds are very good that one of those planets has performed a long, slow and difficult transit against something or other in your birth chart, and the birth charts of everyone you know. Even without the deaths of so many famous people, 2016 has been a terrible year for many. There have been losses of all kinds — financial, emotional, physical, political — and not all of those losses have killed you or I or the neighbor.

But being logical about it is cold comfort. The death of a celebrity, of someone we loved or admired or whose work we enjoyed, is a quiet reminder that all of us will die eventually. Yes, even you. Shouldn’t we all be terrified about that?

Elie Wiesel. Robert Vaughan. Leon Russell. Florence Henderson. Ron Glass. Maurice White. Morley Safer. John Glenn. Greg Lake. Zsa Zsa Gabor. Richard Adams. George Michael.


I’m going to tell you something I’ve told very few people before, and have discussed the details with an even smaller group of people, and that I’m pretty sure I’ve never announced to the public.

I died once.

I can tell you that there is no sensation on Earth more immediately terrifying than feeling your lungs full of water and that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. A lot of people who have experienced this haven’t come back to tell you that, but even fewer people have come back after that experience to tell you that, simply put, death is not The End.

I won’t go into detail about what I experienced after I drowned and came back from it. Other people have had what is called a “near death experience,” and you can read about those elsewhere. But I can tell you that, like many people who have died and come back can tell you, the experience changed me on a deep and profound level.

In my case? I was a deeply sad and morbid child. I worried about death a lot, and no philosophy or religion or opinion could take that away. But having been there myself, and returned? It changed me. I became more optimistic and less frightened. I saw and felt beauty in ways and placed I couldn’t have imagined. I realized I was more than a collection of molecules. I was more than my flesh or my circumstances or my mind.

…And so are you.

Carrie Fisher. Debbie Reynolds.


Dying taught me the most important and valuable lesson I have ever learned: life is not beautiful because that’s all there is. The Universe means something. You are a part of it, and you mean something. There is an order to existence that is beyond our grasp — don’t kid yourself into ever thinking you have it all figured out. As beautiful as Life is, it’s no wonder we mourn its loss.

Mostly though: Life is beautiful because It Is Life. It’s delicate and fragile and astoundingly rare — yet often overlooked or ignored much more than it should be. Remember that. Embrace that. Mostly though: live it.

-For Brewster

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