It’s easy to feel empty when the people that we idolize die, and we’ve lost a lot of them in the past year. Far more than could ever fit in a piece that would be worth reading in its entirety. There will of course be arguments as to whether or not artists should be mourned by those who didn’t know them personally. I trust that you can sort out my answer.
It hurts knowing that those we’ve lost will never create again, but the thing about a legacy is that it lives on long after we’ve passed. Scott wrote a piece far better than anything I could say about the importance of creating in their stead.
You can keep your heroes alive long after their deaths by honoring the legacies that they’ve left behind. There’s something to be said for the ability to do something tangible and immediate when dealing with loss. If you’re still feeling a bit hollow, you don’t have a medium of art that you enjoy creating in, or simply want to do as much as you can, so many of those lost this year changed the world not just with their art, but how they utilized their respective platforms to make the world a bett.
Bowie helped countless people understand that being different shouldn’t be hidden, but celebrated. He used his fame to help a large number of charities, from benefit concerts, to making sure no child went without a lunch.
Rickman liked to joke that he wasn’t nearly as serious as many people assumed he was. He left behind a legacy of laughter, a list of exceptional roles longer than my leg, and a list of causes he supported just as long. He worked to support refugees, and fought for human rights. That’s not all though, there are many other causes that you can support in his stead.
After he died, people close to him said he never revealed his sickness because he didn’t want kids to associate his illness with Willy Wonka. He hid his pain to keep children from broken hearts. That’s a memory worth honoring. After his wife Gilda Radners’ painful battle and death from ovarian cancer, Gene made it his personal mission to help fight the disease. You can learn more about the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program here. If you are suffering from cancer, or have someone close to you who is, you can also join a chapter of Gilda’s club for support.
Carrie changed every life she touched and helped form a generation of women that she would never meet but would inspire beyond compare. Few have spoken out so frankly about mental health. Suffering from bi-polar disorder and addiction, Carrie fought her whole life to help end the stigmas surrounding mental illness. She was a fierce feminist, filled with talent and hilarity. She used the platform the arts gave her to help combat homelessness, fight for bi-polar awareness, and many other causes.
From Kathy Seldon to Aggie Cromwell, Debbie Reynolds blessed generation after generation with her poise and talent on screen. A true Hollywood triple-threat, Debbie never stopped. Back in the '50s she helped found the Thalians with other like-minded stars who were sick of being called ‘just actors’ and acted as the charity’s president much of the time up to 2011. She helped raise millions of dollars for bi-polar research and military veterans and their families.
Unfortunately, this is by no means a complete list. You can find a full list of those lost here. If you’d like to look up the great organizations that your favorite artists are involved in, this is a good resource. There’s no fit all solution to honoring a legacy, and no magic balm that will make the pain of loss go away, but always remember that small acts of kindness go a long way.