I am grateful that once again, death seems to have not touched people in my immediate circle of life; while much of my work involves deaths, these deaths are not personal to me. I attended one funeral this year of a man I knew only slightly; a good man, but not a close friend. The Wife and I went to show our support for our friends who were close to him; I’ll not comment further on that subject having wrote about it in June. Still, the sting of losing someone close to you is unlike anything else people experience. Some readers may not have been so fortunate as to have avoided that sting this year; my condolences if that is the case for you. I hope that you will remember the good times you shared with the loved one you have lost.

Now, the deaths of famous people are at least remarked upon by everyone. 2006 is ending the year with a trifecta of famous death, and one which includes each of the three kinds of deaths that make the news — we’ve lost a good man, a bad man, and an entertainer.

We lost the entertainer first. James Brown personified soul music. The “Godfather of Soul” lived a checkered life but was generally enjoyed by a wide audience and earned his sobriquet, “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business.” He was in his seventies but still going strong, performing nearly every night, touring with his band and dancers on a bus, when he passed away on Christmas morning. While not insanely rich, he also didn’t really need the money, either; he performed because he loved it. Any of us could do worse than that.

Then, we lost the good man. President Gerald Ford was, like all of our leaders, lampooned and occasionally vilified during his Presidency. His pardon of his predecessor, who was so obviously guilty of heinous crimes, almost certainly cost him his chances at being elected in his own right. But the perspective of history has led people around the country to realize that his decision was the right one, because it allowed the country to heal after a terrible, divisive phase of the political cycle. President Ford’s decency and selflessness are the facets of his leadership that have been highlighted in all of his obituaries, and perhaps that is because it seems like it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen decency and selflessness exhibited in any significant way by our leaders. Sleep well, Mr. President; you’ve earned it.

And sometime around the time I went to sleep last night, Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity. No one, maybe not even his widows and any surviving children he may have, will shed tears over his death. I think it’s poor form to celebrate someone’s death, butthis would be as strong a candidate as possible to deviate from that dictum. While some may be taken aback at the swiftness of the execution following the conclusion of his apparently brief appeal, that is the legal system the Iraqis have found themselves under after heavy ghostwriting by their American occupiers created for themselves and so the result ought not to be so shocking. I am not at all convinced that there will be substantial violence in response to Saddam’s execution; this eventuality has been a foregone conclusion for some time now and it seems that most people have accepted that Saddam became irrelevant to questions about Iraq’s future once he got plucked out of his spider hole.

Other famous deaths took place this year, like Slobodan Milosovic (a very bad man), Aaron Spelling (an entertainer), Ann Richards (a good woman, I think; at the least, she lent color to our political debate), Ed Bradley (a good man, it seems; certainly a journalist worthy of respect), Jack Palance (an entertainer), and Milton Friedman (a good man indeed). But I think of all three of the categories of famous deaths that make the news, this end-of-the-year set of three passings within a week are the most remarkable of them all.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.