R.I.P. Betty White

I’m heartbroken, truly heartbroken. I’ve never met Betty White, but I have watched her from her days on the Match Game and Password TV game shows, through Mary Tyler Moore, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland. I stayed awake to watch the beginning of SNL (first and only time I watched it) in 2010 for the night she was hosting it. I feel as heartbroken as I did in the days surrounding the death of Robin Williams – maybe a little more because it happened on New Year’s Eve Day and because media was exciting us all with the upcoming tribute to mark her 100th birthday.

Granted, people die every day, and celebrities of all sorts die every year. I read somewhere, long ago, that a death occurs every 8 seconds somewhere in the world. If I did the math correctly, that means that every 24-hour day is equivalent to 86,400 seconds. That equates to 10,800 deaths per day. With the pandemic we’ve been dealing with for what will be “officially” 3 years old in March of 2022, certainly that number has risen quite a bit. And, off the top of my head, I remember that 2021 also brought the deaths of Anne Rice, Cloris Leachman, Michael Nesmith, Al Unser, Siegfried (of Siegfried and Roy), Larry King, John Madden, et. al. So why is the passing of Betty White so difficult for me?

I mean, just because she had a career that spanned 80 years, just because she was a true lover of animals, just because she was a comedian, and often made irreverent one-liner comebacks that sent most of us into laughter, just because she could play Rose Nylund with a straight face when she was telling a story about Saint Olaf, just because she spoke of her love and devotion to Allen Ludden (even though she had been married two times previously), just because…

Well, just because she was America’s sweetheart. She was humble about her career and her success. She truly loved to do what she did as an actress, comedian and animal activist. Joe Biden called her a cultural icon, and most of us would surely agree. She never argued (at least not in public), her name never came up about holding out for more money on whatever show she was on, you never heard her say a genuinely negative word about anyone. She was often asked about how she managed to live so long and her answer was always the same: “Don’t take life too seriously”. And there is no doubt that this was exactly how she lived.

I know that she is happy being reunited with her beloved husband and with all of her co-stars who left us before she did. I know heaven will be a better place because Betty was part of a group who believed that cheesecake could solve any problem. So grab your fork, let the cheesecake eating commence, and take hope that something in the life that showed us how to live will carry on with you.

But I’m still going to be heartbroken for a while…

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