A member of royalty has died. Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," was 76 when she succumbed to cancer on August 16. Usually, the date of someone's death is a footnote, an afterthought, unless the person is famous or a loved one or, as with Aretha, loved and famous. Even so, the actual date of death seems to us mortals to be random. The luck of the draw. In this case, I'm not so sure. I'm wondering if there wasn't more than randomness involved in choosing what for many fans of the music icon will be a date to remember. In fact, it's almost as if August 16 was preordained to be the day Aretha shrugged off this mortal coil. It seems to be a day designated for royal departures.
As news of Franklin's death spread, even a casual user of social media would've been hard-pressed not to notice that August 16 was also the date on which Elvis Presley, "the King of Rock 'n' Roll," died. Hmmm.
There was more. The immortal Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swat," the ultimate symbol of baseball royalty, also died on August 16, we were reminded. If you don't believe in synchronicity, it might be time to start reading up on it. As a believer, I went to a website that lists famous (and not so famous) deaths on August 16.
Would you believe, Bela Lugosi, who brought the infamous "Prince of Darkness" to, um, life, on the silver screen, also died on August 16? Heart attack. No sunlight, silver bullets, or wooden stakes involved. He was buried in his full Dracula costume.
So, Prince Bela, the Sultan Babe, and the musical king and queen all died on the same date. Coincidence? Maybe, but I'm thinking it's more likely there's a message we humans haven't figured out yet.
Well, some of us. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, offered what he thought was a pretty good explanation of "coincidences." There aren't any, he said. Everyone, he theorized, is connected through a greater unconscious and something called synchronicity ultimately controls what happens seemingly randomly. We just go around acting like we do it all. It's obviously a lot more complex than that, but it's the best I can do right now.
Then, of course, there is quantum physics, which also talks about everyone and everything being connected since everyone and everything is energy. Still, most physicists are reluctant to accept Jung's explanation for scientifically unexplainable coincide--synchronicity.
Personally, I'm inclined to think that if we are all connected through a greater unconscious or consciousness or energy or whatever you want to call it, then there's a force at work which we choose to call "coincidence" for lack of any other explanation.
And I think it is altogether reasonable to assume that this greater consciousness to which we all contribute would devise a way to keep "special" people together for the greater good. Like having them leave their earthly bodies on the same date as a way to help plan for future use of their unique contributions to lift the positive energy level on this planet, not to mention the universe.
In fact, the mere recognition that such special people all died on the same date surely had an effect on our collective energy level this past August 16. With the shared shared sadness of the loss of Aretha Franklin also came innumerable shared memories of shared happiness that she -- and all the August 16 departed -- have contributed. With those memories came the recognition that, even in this sometimes maddening, occasionally depressing world, there can be beauty, joy, special moments created by special people for all of us to share.
And, if I may theorize a bit, it need not solely involve "royalty." Another of the August 16 Departed is Bobby Thomson, a pretty good baseball player responsible for one of the greatest moments the game has known -- "the shot heard 'round the world". Thomson's home run in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1951 -- a game the Giants were losing until Thomson came to bat -- sent the Dodgers home and put the Giants in the World Series. It certainly made Thomson royalty as far as Giants fans were concerned.
But the fact that it was the first major sporting event televised live (another "coincidence"?) made it an exciting, exhilarating moment for many more than the 34,320 fans gathered in the polo grounds. Broadcaster Russ Hodges' home run call, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" became instant legend. The Giants had staged an improbable end-of-season comeback to catch the Dodgers and Thomson had finished them off. With baseball as metaphor, it was a dramatic reminder that even when you're down to your last at bat, there is always hope.
Dodgers fans, of course, have always blamed their "fate" on Ralph Branca, the pitcher who served up the home-run ball. Despite that and the fact that the Dodgers and Giants were arch rivals, Thomson and Branca wound up being good good friends when their baseball careers were over. The greater unconscious, it seems, had something beyond a baseball game in mind when it brought these two men together.
Let's all get together next August 16 and see who's missing.