Between 9 and 10:00 p.m EST last night, after jumping off Twitter (yes – Twitter’s “Trending Topics” is how I learned of Jackson’s death) and calling my best friend’s voicemail to sing a few verses of “Rock With You” and encourage her to get out of the fetal position and call me for support, I watched as Michael Jackson’s sheet-covered body was transported – live – out of the UCLA Medical Center, into a helicopter, and then out again and on to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

It was surreal, and I am stunned.

Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson – Americans have certainly lost a hefty handful of icons this week.

When someone so famous succumbs to mortality, it tends to hit the nation – and the world – as a whole.

For some people, these icons acted as comfortable constants (John Mayor tweeted about Michael Jackson that “a major strand of our cultural DNA has left us” and “we’ll mourn his loss as well as the loss of ourselves as children listening to Thriller on the record player”). For others, they’ve played a significant role (DMB bassist Stefan Lessard remembered how his very first record was one from The Jackson 5, Wyclef Jean changed his Twitter picture to one of Jackson and tweeted about a time the King of Pop visited him in the studio, and Janet McNair wrote about Jackson’s music being the soundtrack of her childhood).

TremendousNews, via Tweeple Magazine, referred to Michael Jackson’s death as “the 9/11 of pop culture,” and that’s probably a pretty accurate description for a number of high profile celebrity deaths – especially those that were so sudden and unexpected.

We flock to our televisions. We watch as cameras zoom in on mourning fans standing outside of hospitals and holding up signs. We listen as the same news reporters who hiked up their ratings with scandals just a few years before now speak of the deceased as if by dying he was somehow transformed into a saint.

We hop on Twitter or Facebook or actually pick up a phone to connect with our friends:

“Did you hear?” “Can you believe it?” “R.I.P” “I never liked him.” “I had her poster on my bedroom wall as a kid.” “I was his biggest fan.”

“I am stunned.”

We talk about the icon’s life – the many things the icon contributed to the world and the inspiration the icon was, as well as the various scandals that surrounded the icon and the public and private battles the icon fought.

Sometimes thinking about a long and full life comforts us; other times, a tragic end to a life most often surrounded by tragic circumstances conflicts us.

And, then, we start thinking about our own lives – our own successes, failures, joys, and complete and utter screw ups. We begin reflecting on our own mortality and – for much too brief a time, unfortunately – some of us vow to cherish each day more, hug our family members more, call up an old friend we haven’t spoken to in a few years.

Death is sad. It’s sad, we’re probably really never prepared for it – no matter the circumstances – and it sucks. But, it happens to each and every one of us. We’re all going to lose loved ones and we’re all going to eventually die ourselves. It’s unavoidable.

Celebrity or not, no life or death is more “important” or “monumental” than another; whether you spend it redefining music as the world knows it or bagging groceries at Winn Dixie, human life is human life.

Appreciate it as such.

If any of this week’s famous deaths brought about those emotions and questions about your own life – and the lives of your loved ones – hold on to those. Have your moment of grief for whomever passed, but then turn the focus on yourself.

If there’s something you want to change about your life, change it now. If there’s a relationship you want to mend, mend it now. If there’s something you’ve done of which you should be proud, but for some reason never allow yourself that feeling, give yourself that credit now.

The good news is, as long as you’re breathing, you still have time; however, you have no idea if it’s years, days, or seconds.

Start now.

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