“Dead or Alive”
One thing that happens at the beginning of each New Year is a special segment of a news broadcast whereby a sad song is played as a display of pictures of famous people who died the previous year rolls across the screen… lest we forget.
And, boy, do I forget. There were several people who died in 2017 who I thought were already dead. Rose Marie? I had no idea that woman was here during 2017. I knew Jim Nabors had long passed. I even watched his funeral. Fats Domino? I saw his documentary when he died back in 2015. Martin Landau? The man has been gone for a good while. So, I thought.
These twice-dead experiences gave me an idea for a new game show called “Dead or Alive?” Ten contestants are standing on stage each with two buzzers in front of ‘em. A picture of “Lumpy Rutherford” is flashed on the screen and Terry Bradshaw yells, “Dead or Alive?” Each contestant has two seconds to hit either the red or the green button, after which Bradshaw gives a brief history of the person before announcing whether or not he or she is still alive.
After about ten dead or alive choices, the person with the most right answers gets $20,000 and a chance for doubling it or losing it all on one more go at “Dead or Alive?” – “I’ll go for it, Terry!” – The audience goes wild, after reading the big flashing sign that reads “GO Wild!” When things calm down, a picture of Ruth Buzzi flashes on the screen.
This game show is a sad idea, indeed, isn’t it? I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a popular show, I’m just saying it seems morbid. Each time a contestant hit the dead button, he would be hoping like all get out that the celebrity was dead. Most guests wouldn’t think of that, but they’d sure be doing it.
If you really want to get morbid, and who doesn’t, think of the number of times we’ve each wished someone else dead. In 1970 during the Vietnam War, each day that Walter Cronkite announced how many American soldiers died on that particular day, I would pray that my brother, Dennis, wasn’t one of ‘em. Without realizing it, I was wishing that someone else's brother had died. The same feeling has come over me after hearing of a fatal auto accident near home. If Kay were in town, I’d immediately pray that she was alright… preferring that someone else be the recipient of sad news.
It’s just that death is so permanent. While my faith tells me that “it’s a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” it’s “the going part” that still scares me. That is so natural. It would be super-natural not to think that. And, when my time comes, I’m hoping to be supernatural as all get out. I’m already abnormal, so I’m just one step away.
It’s the advent of the New Year that got me thinking about this whole death thing. The New Year and Big Al. Kay and I had Al and Jill over for New Years. Al only stayed a couple of hours. Over the years, his visits have become seldom and short. Anyway, as we were yakking and snacking, Al announced that he mistakenly thought he was supposed to die in 2017. He said that even though he had three hours left, it didn’t seem like he was going to be kicking off.
What? That’s what I said. “What?” He said he just had a feeling that something was going to happen to him. I told him that the minute he got the feeling he was supposed to tell me about it. That way, when he died, I would be able to tell people that he was clairvoyant. He said, “Yeah, but what happens if I don’t die?” I told him that I could tell people he was nuts… which he proved to be.
Al’s comment made me share a moment I had with Mom. Shortly after the Christmas of 2005, I was driving Mom home after our gathering at Jill’s house. Mom made a comment about something that looked really nice. I don’t remember what it was. I said, “Maybe next Christmas you’ll get one.” – She said, “Oh, Mark, I’m not going to see another Christmas.” She said it matter-of-fact, as if I already knew. Boy, did I scold that woman. -- She died five months before Christmas 2006.
After I told that story, Al’s eyes started watering. He told us that the last time he saw Mom she was sitting in a chair at Larry’s house. Al was getting ready to leave when Mom called him over. (This is when Al’s voice broke at the telling of the story.) He said, “She reached up to hug me and then whispered, ‘Goodbye. I love you.’” As mentioned, it was the last time he saw her. She passed three weeks later.
And, if I know anything, I know that my mom was ready to leave. We weren’t ready for her to go, but she was sure ready. And, for that I am so thankful. Elsie Hayter saw all she was supposed to see and did all she was meant to do. And, then she was taken.
Al? That guy has more to see and much more to do. And I expect to see a lot of that happening for him in 2018. I happen to be a big fan of Big Al.
Mark can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at http://markhayterscolumn.blogspot.com