It’s happening more and more now. My husband and I have reached the unenviable age that is marked by almost daily obituary notices of famous people who were a vicarious part of our own life story.

Amid the growing number of deaths of friends and acquaintances, we are greeted many mornings with news of celebrities and movie stars that we had encapsulated in our memories as forever-young.

It hadn’t occurred to us that they were aging along with us; we watched movies and TV shows that starred younger versions of them, and thought they would stay just as they were.

A generation of stars is continuing to succumb to time, and we are still shocked and even dismayed to hear it.

I don’t know why we thought these icons of our age would never die. But we still announce each new obituary with a kind of awed regret.

And we always preface it with a question.

“Guess who died?”

We ask each other with morbid excitement; it’s as if we want to surprise the listener with this unexpected news.

Now, of course, the question is never answered correctly, given the sheer volume of possibilities. But the guesser still hesitates and considers options.

We don’t hold them in suspense too long; we’re eager to see the look on their face when they find out.

The person’s name is blurted out as if announcing a new starring role or reading a movie marquee. We widen our eyes, call out the name, and savor their reaction.

Then come the follow-up questions, trying to make sense of the news.

“Hasn’t she/he been sick for a long time? Seems like I read that somewhere.”

Or, “Well, he/she WAS into drugs/alcohol/etc.”

We even express crude shock:

“Really? I didn’t know he/she was still alive!”

Sometimes, we discuss the stars’ last movie, our impression of their body of work, whether we were fans.

Some reactions elicit oral eulogies from our movie-watching memories.

“Sidney Portier was such a great actor. I loved him in…”

Other celebrities’ deaths only earn a half-hearted hmmm of sympathy. Because we think of them only as the characters they portrayed, we have little personal grief for their demise.

But the biggest shock comes when we ask the age of the celebrity who has died:

“Well, he was really old, right?” we ask. “How old was he? Does it say?”

Some are the same age as we are. Some slightly older, but not by enough to stave off the realization that follows. We’re gonna die, too.

Sure. We know that. Many late nights, lying in bed, we silently entertain the fear. We see our faces changing in our mirrors, and realize we have more time behind us than ahead.

But, not yet! Maybe Meatloaf wasn’t much older than me, but he lived a different lifestyle. Bob Saget was a contemporary, but maybe it was just one of those things. Louie Anderson. Cancer.

If the star died at an advanced age, we shake our heads—first at surprise in realizing they were “HOW OLD?”, and then with a wistful, beatific smile.

“Well, they had a long life.”

This makes us happy, because we imagine our own deaths, years and years down the road…where someone will say the same about us.

When each notice comes, it is as if we race to be the first to share the news. And when we do, it always reminds us that life is rushing past … even if we try to deny it.

We whistle past the graveyard, shake our heads, and continue our day. Human nature at its worst, I guess. But it’s a fact of life. And death.

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