Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Too Many Days of Rain

No, this post isn't about the weather. It has been a strange couple of days in the celebrity world in terms of deaths, what with the losses of Ed McMahon (not so surprising at 82), Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and pitchman Billy Mays and I had some thoughts I wanted to share.

I’m finding myself having a hard time getting worked up about the death of Michael Jackson and I’m wondering why that is. Well, deep down inside, I know what it is, but for right now, let’s just leave it alone. I do feel terrible for the surviving family members, and particularly, his children—two of who have their collective future hanging in the balance while their birth mother decides whether or not she wants to be a participating mother as opposed to someone who carried them for nine months and then left shortly thereafter. The whole situation has a decidedly carnival air about it, just as the poor man’s life did. And that leaves me sad, but not with a grief that I can’t overcome, which is how I’m seeing some people depicted on television.

I can’t say that I was surprised by the too early and untimely demise of Michael Jackson at all. Part of me was surprised that it hadn’t happened sooner.

We also, as a media-hungry society, watched as Farrah Fawcett died a slow and painful death from cancer. I felt worse about her passing, maybe because I know the pain of being a cancer patient, or maybe because I related to the fact that despite being perfect looking, she had a less than perfect life marred by the addictions of a grown son who had to visit her in shackles. Although her family and friends claimed that she had no idea that her son was in jail, I think she knew. I think that she was fully aware until the end that her little boy had lived a less than stellar life and was suffering the consequences. Don’t ask me how I know this or why I think this but I think that behind that glorious smile was a pain that only a parent with a dark secret like that can hide.

It was with great sadness that I had to let child #2 know that Billy Mays, champion pitchman, had died. Nothing gives child #2 more joy than the “Mighty-Putty” commercial in which with just a piece of this magic putty, an elephant can pull an eighteen wheeler. Kid begs me—and I mean BEGS me—every time the commercial comes on to buy Mighty Putty, going on to list the innumerable uses it might have in our own home. They are too embarrassing to list but put end to end, amount to a punch list that would probably stretch down our street to the Hudson River below. He was crestfallen when he heard that his hero had died. I think I may actually get the kid some Mighty Putty to alleviate his grief.

Between these celebrity deaths, plane crashes, the fallen troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the pictures of protestors being gunned down in the middle of the streets of Iraqi protesting the election (I hope this gives the non-voting Americans—and you know who you are—pause), I can barely stand to watch the news. You would think that all around us was death. But truly, all around us is life. And that, we should celebrate. Because every day is a gift to be treasured and too often, we treat as something that we are owed.

And so finally, I’d like to remember someone who wasn’t a celebrity, but just a very kind man and someone who our family considered one of a kind. John “Mac” McVeigh died on Friday at the age of 67, of an untimely and massive heart attack. He was my father’s oldest and dearest friend and was someone who could light up a room without sucking all of the oxygen out of it. He once told me when I was very small that “God never gives you more than you can handle” and I remembered those words, even as they were used as mere platitudes throughout the years by lesser men and women to describe situations that didn’t rival the ones he faced. He loved his “Reezie,” his kids, and his grandkids. And he loved his friends and treated them like special gifts bestowed upon him. He told the longest, most meandering stories that you could imagine, but eventually, those stories would come to an end, and you would be richer for having heard them. To say that he will be missed is a massive understatement, but if we can all carry around just a little piece of John’s love of life around with us in our hearts, we will all be just a little bit better. And happier.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Maggie,

    I'm sorry to hear about your friend Mac. It sounds like he had many special people in his life. I'm glad you were one of them.


  2. I will keep a good thought for everyone in your circle who will miss Mac. It is really one of the greatest things about living, and the best legacy ever, that a person like that can be in our lives. I am sure that you all gave him much joy, fun, and comfort over the years, too.

    I am sorry that Michael Jackson is gone, but in truth it seemed to me that he "left" years ago. It does nag at me, that tiny chance, that he was going to come back to his old talented self and give us some of the pop culture and musical innovation that had so distinguished him from all the others. It's similar to my hope that Whitney Houston will "come back", you know? Such talent and fun and happiness and skill and work ethic--you hate to see it die away.

    The Jackson kids never had an easy road, did they? I hope they make out okay, too.

  3. Like politics, fame corrupts. Famous people forget what is important in life. Money comes and goes far too easily. In an attempt to feel good, too many resort to all sorts of drugs.

    Watching a son die of cancer, my heart ached for Farrah--how horrible to have the whole world watching you die.

    As for Michael Jackson, Vicky has it right, we lost the real Michael Jackson long ago.

    Recently, a woman I know who, after her own six kids grew up took in foster kids, adopted two of them, recently died of cancer. Her passing is going to be felt by far less people--but some who are going to miss her loss for a long time.


  4. Maggie, wow, your blog expressed so much of what I've been thinking lately (in fact, you'll see that when you read my blog on Friday!). My heartfelt sympathy on the loss of Mac. I hate that as we get older, we start losing the people we love (as we try to hang in there ourselves). That's one of the toughest parts of life, and there's nothing that makes it any easier. Sending you a big hug!