The Age of Goodbyes


Here is a copy of my column from Monday’s Kenosha News.

I never thought about Leonard Nimoy dying, even after he was recently admitted to the hospital suffering from COPD at eighty-three years of age.

He was Mr. Spock for Pete sake! As Mr. Spock, he just got cooler as he got older. The wrinkles added character to his face. The increased raspiness of his already fascinating voice made him seem all the more authentic.

I became acquainted with Mr. Spock when I was in elementary school, and have remained an unceasing fan through five decades. So, I have known him for most of my life.

The tributes that poured in after Leonard Nimoy’s death affirmed his skill as an actor and artist, and his decency as a human being. His life’s work was displayed through television, the movies, the stage, poetry, photography, and music.

I am grieved when we have to say goodbye to such gifted people who have given us so much, especially, those who did their very best work at the end of their lives.

johnny_cash-oldJohnny Cash comes to mind. I was in middle school when I saw him in concert in 1969. He was the very pinnacle of his popularity. His persona filled the huge stage. By the time he said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” he owned the place.

His career was so long, that it peaked three times. There was the early rockability Cash who opened shows for Elvis, the wildly popular Cash who did prison concerts and had his own television show, and lastly, the critically acclaimed Cash who teamed up with producer Rick Reuben for his famed American Recordings.

For the last several years of his life, Cash was profoundly ill from a multitude of ailments, yet he kept on recording, and delivered what many believe to be the very best work of his life. He had lived so much life; you could hear it in his voice.

He totally highjacked the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt.” Once Cash covered it, it was his. That simple, but powerful arrangement, along with the accompanying video will bring a grown man to tears.

Glen Campbell Performs At City Hall In SheffieldGlen Campbell is another musician I grew up with. The fresh face of television’s Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, scored hit after hit, turning Jim Webb songs into gold records.

He was a total package with the looks, the voice, and those incredible guitar licks. But like Cash, his life was marred with substance abuse, and its resultant craziness, brushes with the law, and shattered family relationships. It’ such a familiar story with artists, especially musicians. Usually somewhere around midlife, they tend to get it together, and begin refocusing on their art with new clarity.

The odd thing about Glen Campbell is that he did some of his very best recordings after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He even did a farewell tour that lasted until the progression of the disease necessitated his move to a residential facility that specializes in the care of Alzheimer’s victims.

He is surely the first artist to win a Grammy and be nominated for an Academy Award while suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s and living in residential care. Both awards were for the poignant, autobiographical love song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” literally his last song.

I have entered the age of “goodbyes.” Classmates are beginning to pass away. Aunts and Uncles are almost all gone. Best friends have already left me. Great artists and entertainers are exiting this world at an alarming rate. I miss them.

How do you say, “goodbye” in a column about “goodbyes?” I am going to turn to Mr. Spock for that.

The famed Vulcan salute created by Leonard Nimoy was derived from the way the Jewish Priests hold their hands when giving the blessing from the biblical passage, Numbers 6: 24-26

May the Lord bless and keep you and may the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious unto you and grant you peace. 

 The response from the congregation: “Live long and prosper.

So, here’s to a life, in which wonder never ceases, art keeps on being fashioned, and new purpose is continually being discovered.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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