Last night I watched a documentary on the tragic skiing accident that killed Natasha Richardson. I saw photographs of her grief stricken family visiting the hospital where she died -- her husband, her sons, her mother, her sister -- all in the depths of despair. Here was their beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and they had lost her. Anyone who has experienced that knows it is the lowest form of misery. And the whole world was watching them, shoving cameras in their faces, interviewing them. At the time, Liam Neeson released a statement through his publicist: “Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.” What an elegant and succinct way to tell the world to "Butt out of their private family matter".
My friend Russell watched the movie "The Queen" the other night, and we were discussing the mass hysteria that surrounded the death of Princess Diana. Millions of people were "grief sticken" -- people who had never met her, and whom Diana had never met.
Princes William and Harry were just young boys, and they were forced to leave the protection of their home and family, and stroll around amongst a bunch of plastic-wrapped flowers, forcing smiles for the public and the media, when they had just lost their mother hours earlier. Diana would have been furious at the intrusion of their privacy at such a time. Their grandparents were doing what all grandparents instinctively do -- wrapping their arms around the boys and giving them love and support in the privacy and sanctity of the family home in Balmoral, Scotland. They should have been left alone to grieve in private.
The same mass hysteria surrounded Michael Jackson when he died, but in fact, how many people had even given him much thought in the past decade? What is it about the cult of celebrity that causes these reactions? I'm always amazed when a public figure dies, and folks react as if this were someone they actually knew. I watched millions of people in London, weeping and wailing and crying out Diana's name after she died. I wonder if -- 12 years later -- those same people are just slightly embarrassed at their behavior. At least Diana's family, and the two young boys in particular, conducted themselves with dignity.