I have always hated it when a person’s first response after learning of someone’s death is: “that’s so sad – he was so hott/she was so pretty!” It has always sounded tacky to me. As if a person’s death is only of importance because he or she was good looking, or more important than a not-as-good-looking person’s passing. Or as if that person’s only quality or value was their face.
But daaaamn Paul Walker was so beautiful! Whenever someone asked me who my celebrity crush/ideal guy was I would say Paul Walker. As my friend Cindy said, it’s like “he was perfectly made” – dirty, unruly blonde hair, eyes that always looked a different color, a toned build, and a smile that could turn your legs to jelly. I think what added to his charm was that he seemed like a dude’s dude, kinda rugged, like he was down to earth and super easy going and didn’t take his fame or good looks too seriously.
What has left me unsettled about his death is not that I personally think he was fine or that he was a celebrity, but that he was just forty years old. Forty. That’s me in fourteen years. If you told me right now that I only had fourteen years to live, I would bolt madly into the streets, looking for mountains to hike and oceans to swim and children to feed and dudes to climb. Fourteen years hardly seems like enough time to do what I want to do in life. I am sure he had done many more things than the average person in his lifetime due to his celebrity status, but he had a whole lifetime ahead of him. He left a daughter behind. He was in the prime of his life, a good example of fitness and athleticism and youth and sensuality. He was a passenger in a car one moment and an instant later he wasn’t. What was beautiful – his face or his life?
I don’t understand many things about this life, but the one subject that boggles my mind the most is death. For some of us it is far far far into adult age and has already been predicted. But for most of us, it is in the turn of a street, the rolling of a wave, the derailing of a train. I cannot understand how we can be here one second, then not the next. I mean, I get it. I have been around long enough to understand that with life we are promised only one thing – death. But I cannot accept it. It is one of the most natural things in life, like having a growth spurt when you’re twelve or giving birth or getting a cold, but it has such a finality to it that it makes me queasy to think upon it.
I am not writing this post to remind us all to “live every day like it’s your last” or to “cherish every moment.” I mean, we should cherish the gift which is life and which has been given to us, just us. But I am writing this more for myself, as I grow older and grapple with and try to understand the notion of mortality. I remember thinking as a kid that I would never die, that I wasn’t fragile and made of measly flesh. And one day I was in class and the thought “I will one day not be here” hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere and I had to grip the desk with all of my strength to keep from crying. I try not to think about it, and I don’t give much thought to the fact that my subscription to life can expire at any moment. I act like it’s a given that I will be here forever and ever, forever. I always say, “In twenty years I am going to…” As if life is a guarantee, a gamble or a silly game. Sad as it is, my celebrity crush’s death serves as a reminder that it is anything but.
You know life is what you make of it / so beautiful or so what / ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant / how we seek out bad advice / how we jigger it and figure it / mistaking value for the price / and play a game with time and love / like pair of rolling dice / so beautiful… -“So Beautiful or So What,” Paul Simon