I need to start this with the statement that I do not believe anyone younger than I am should be dead. I do not say this to deny the reality that every single day, a multitude of people who have spent less time on this planet than I have–many of them considerably less–die. Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Cranberries, was just 46 when she left this plane on January 15th; I’ll be 49 this coming Saturday. My belief that people younger than me should not be dead is rooted not only in my own fears about mortality, but also my general belief in fairness. And it is simply not fair that people die young.
Once again, my desire for fairness is not rooted in some sort of denial about the reality of the world. There is no philosophy or religion that guarantees fairness in the universe; if there were, I would’ve signed up for it by now. But the arbitrariness of it all makes me feel, well, kind of helpless. Sure, O’Riordan had some health challenges in the last few years, but she was doing okay at the moment and her death was a shock. It must always be a shock to find a seemingly vital and happy person dead on the floor of their hotel bathroom. Add to this the news that Tom Petty’s death was due to an accidental Fentanyl overdose and a young person’s death in the family of someone I know. (My mom has Fentanyl patches for pain relief; obviously I’ll be monitoring her use of them very carefully from now on.) It’s just kind of disheartening.
Which makes the Cranberries’ “Zombie” the perfect song for this mini-memorial. It’s a great tune, but it also expresses the shadows that violence and anger and death cast over everyone in their orbits. It’s about The Troubles in Ireland, about the way politics and religion can be twisted into oppression, about the way we all turn anger into prejudice and prejudice into violence. It’s about how those with power use that power against everyone without it, everyone who is different in some way that they don’t like. In terms of the current presidential administration, it’s a nice little reminder. In terms of a history lesson, it’s a little vague but can be used as a starting off point. In terms of music and mood, it is a black hole. It sucks all the light and the hope out of the room. It is not a denial of reality but an acceptance of it. Sometimes, you just have to sit with the grief and anger, let it flow over you and simply feel it.
Then you get up and get on with life. No, it is not fair and people will always leave this plane too soon. But flowers will still bloom and there will still be joy. You just learn to carry them with you.