Those We Leave Behind

Derek Hunter
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Posted: Dec 29, 2016 12:01 AM
Those We Leave Behind

There was a lot to love about 2016, but it wasn’t all wine and roses. When the history of this year is written, it surely will be led by the victory of Donald Trump and the vanquishing of the Democratic Party at every level of government. Rarely has a president steered his party to such complete exile as Barack Obama has.

While we conservatives savor the political victories of 2016, I want to take a moment to look back at some of those who won’t be by our sides as the calendar flips.

So let’s take a look back at some of those we, as a nation, lost this year.

First, let us remember Nancy Reagan, who passed this year at the age of 94. She was the rock for one of our greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan. Nancy Reagan outlived her husband by more than a decade, and she spent that time protecting her husband's legacy and lighting his torch to burn for all time.

John Glenn, who died in December at the age of 95, is, to many, the Democratic senator from Ohio who obstructed the investigation into President Bill Clinton’s acceptance of Chinese money for his 1996 re-election bid and was rewarded with a trip on the Space Shuttle. But he was a hero – in fact, the last of a group of heroes, the Mercury 7 astronauts, who risked their lives to explore space. Before strapping himself to a rocket, Glenn served in World War II and the Korean War. America lost one of its greatest that day.

In the world of sports, few names resonate like Muhammad Ali, 74. He was an artist in the ring, a legend that grew as those of us too young to see him in his prime came to know his work. Mike Tyson brawled, often knocking out people with a single punch. For Ali, the ring was a canvas, and he didn't want to leave until his floating and stinging masterpiece was complete. Moreover, he came to transcend sports. He was a name, an institution, even an inspiration to many.

You wouldn’t know it by the last decade, but golf used to be a gentleman’s game where players enforced the rules on themselves and were exemplary in their communities. And there was no greater gentleman than Arnold Palmer. Palmer dominated his time, yet was known for his class. There’s no one who has picked up a set of sticks who hasn’t pretended to be Palmer at some point. We all pretended, but there was only one.

Hollywood also lost its share of legends in 2016. George Kennedy, Patty Duke, Garry Shandling, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, and so many more. Just this week, we lost Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher.

If I love a movie there is no limit to the number of times I can watch it. I’ve spent more time with Carrie Fisher than just about anyone not in a Star Wars movie, having seen the original more than 100 times. At 60, far too young. Years of addiction appear to have taken their toll, even after she’d beaten it. Rest in peace, your highness.

Drugs will kill you, either while you’re doing them or later in life. It wasn’t just movie royalty, but music as well. Prince Rogers Nelson, simply known as Prince, was claimed by drugs at 57. An amazing performer, he became addicted after injuring himself entertaining people. He seemingly couldn’t walk away from the spotlight, or just sing and play guitar. He had to keep dancing, and it appears he had to take drugs to do it. The price proved too high.

George Michael, 53, is another singer gone too soon. Years of drug use took away years of potential useful life.

Few musicians have spanned more musical genres than David Bowie. Liver cancer took him, but his former addictions and abuses could not have helped. He kept his battle with cancer private, but his public life – his music – still rings, and will ring, in the songs of others.

Every year has its losses, death looming is the part of life that makes appreciating the rest possible. We’ve all lost (even this year); it’s never easy, and never will be. As we slip out of 2016, take a moment to remember those we’ve lost, too many far too young, and use that knowledge to value the moment and the people with whom we’re lucky enough to share it.