[Right after I wrote this, I learned that the mother of one of my best friends died New Year's Eve morning. Mrs. Judd, being human, was hardly perfect. But when my own mother died just as I started college - my father predeceased her, dying just as I started kindergarten - Mrs. Judd was quite kind to me. A few times, I was lucky enough to hear her say that despite all I had been put through - "she's handling as well as anyone could as bad a tragic situation as life deals" - she was impressed that I still kept up with school despite having to take care of my little brother and take multiple jobs to do so. For many years, she allowed me to be an odd little part of her family. Knowing she was ill, she had been in my thoughts a lot lately and especially yesterday. I was about to contact her son, my friend, to ask how best I could contact her to tell her how much I appreciated her kindness at such a tough time when I learned she had died. I was too late - but if the appreciation in my heart counts for anything, then she knows. I dearly appreciated her as a scared teenager and I still do today. Thank you, Mrs. Judd, and may God bless you and show you the same kindness.]
There are many more of these folks than I will list here, but I'd rather publish an abbreviated list (and get it out) than to start some exhaustive, all-inclusive one I won't even have finished by this time next year.
My heart and soul demand I start this list with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a writer whose work I did not begin to respect and appreciate until I was well into my adulthood (my loss) and whose death I continue to grieve almost a full year later. If you have not yet read his last work, "Man Without A Country", shame shame shame on you... and get yourself to a bookstore and get a copy post haste. A library borrow is also acceptable, though you want this one on your bookshelves (and pity on you if you don't HAVE even one bookshelf).
I also deeply miss Molly Ivins, probably one of the very best things to ever hail from Texas. Her humor, her sharp mind and even sharper pen and tongue, are unmatched.
Norman Mailer, the prized writer, also well more than earned a spot at the top of this list for all he contributed to the arts, to American culture, and to my own education and development as a writer. With all three of these people so far listed, we have a blessing: we still have their work to admire for many, many, many generations to come.
There is also David Halberstam, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and writer whose documentation of the Vietnam War, among other pivotal American and world events, was invaluable.
But I'm hardly done. I also mourn the loss of:
Tom Snyder, the once top TV talk show host who was far more human than the "egos with hair" we have now
Grace Paley, the poet and anti-war activist
Madeleine L'Engle, one of the first and most prolific published women sci-fi writers
Ira Levin, best known as the author of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives" but I believe his best work was "This Perfect Day", a terrifying and thought-provocating sci-fi future society book; he like Vonnegut and Mailer have played a role in shaping my writing
Steve Gilliard who started The News Blog
Beverly "Bubbles" Sills, the great opera singer who, though I hated opera, I thoroughly enjoyed her and her beloved mother
Art Buchwald, the humorist
Calvert "Larry Bud Melman" DeForest of David Letterman fame
And last but not least, Benazir Bhutto; while her legacy may be considered controversial, she proved that a woman can play an enormous role in traditional Muslim societies and MUST be allowed to do so - few would have been as brave as she in trying again and again to help change her country