Taking the cosmic view, we all are only on center stage for a moment, sliding past the eyes like the sudden shifting of light and shadow.
People die but their memories live on in those who remember them.
Two people I remember have been dead for 10 years. They lived vastly differently lives and left starkly contrasting legacies.
Unless you’re under 30, you likely remember one of them. The other you likely never heard of no matter your age.
Comic genus George Carlin was a singular talent. I sure wish I could have heard him talking to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. I wondered if Carlin swore when they spoke in June 2008.
But to define and confine Carlin simply as a profane counterculture comedian who shook up the obscenity folks years ago with his “Seven Words You Can
Never Say On Television” would do him a gross injustice.
Granted, the cranky dude loved to have his irreverent rhetoric ride all over the margins of so-called accepted boundaries. But he was not simply stirring up the dust to get dirt in people’s eyes. He wanted to make people think. As such, he was every bit the social commentator and philosopher as he was the comedian.
He would not have liked how politically correct America is today. But he would have had a ball skewering the PC police.
Carlin wanted to elicit laughs from his audience. But he also wanted their minds to crack open like walnuts. His scathing words were like 500-pound Roman candles lighting up the sky. His monologues had a blast and a flash that reminded you of an ammo dump exploding.
Of course, not all his jokes were bombastic. He also was famous for his wry observations.
For instance, he once cracked: “Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?”
The afterlife likely hasn’t been the same since George Carlin’s there. I imagine he’s too busy performing to rest in peace.
Then there was Dianne Odell, whose life and death take your breath away.
All of us are subjected to destiny.
Destiny was terribly unkind to Dianne.
But she never allowed a life confined to a 750-pound iron lung to leave her with the thinnest shadow of life.
She spent nearly six decades in that ugly, lifesaving contraption after contracting polio at age 3.
Next time you think you’re having a bad day, just ponder the enormity of what it must have been like for her to be tethered to that machine. It’s heart-wrenching and then some.
But while her lungs were crippled by the polio, Dianne Odell had a locomotive’s heart.
She just didn’t languish because her body was imprisoned for life. She lived her life with rigor and vigor — earning a high school diploma, taking college courses and writing a children’s book on a voice-activated computer.
But her life came to a haunting end at age 61 in May 2008 when a power failure rendered her iron lung impotent.
Her family was unable to get an emergency generator working after the power outage knocked out electricity to their home.
Dianne Odell’s life was cruelly defined at beginning and end by a calamitous chain of circumstances.
I trust her soul is breathing easily and deeply in heaven.