I suspect there were few news readers, or television viewers, who didn't experience a pang of real regret when the news broke that Davy Jones had died. With a career that spanned more than half a century, Jones was known to virtually every American and most Europeans of a certain age. He is ever-young in our imaginations, but oh so human in reality. His death comes as a small shock, and a significant wake up call. Sixty-six seems very young to boomers who are in the same age bracket and every bit as susceptible to the inevitable.
Andrew Brietbart was very nearly the polar opposite of Davy Jones. A citizen journalist on a mission, Brietbart was never considered to be cuddly, cute, or harmless. He was a man with an opinion and he wasn't the least bit afraid to walk into the lion's den to deliver his perspective, even if his take was entirely unappreciated by the audience gathered before him.
While both men died of heart related issues, Jones had to power to break the hearts or raise the spirits of his audience with a nothing more than a wink and a smile. Brietbart on the other hand was seen by a considerable number of his countrymen as not having a heart to begin with. And while I suspect nobody is cheering his death, millions who opposed his ideas feel no inner need to shed a tear at his passing either.
I've got a different perspective. Admittedly I never met either Davy Jones or Andrew Breitbart, however the media attention they garnered over the course of their lives allowed me to know both of them better than I most of the people I work with. They were open books, both of them. And they lived their lives right out in the open, embracing the attention that was showered on them. That's the story, as I see it. The conversation should not be about their deaths, it should be focused on their lives.
Davy Jones and Andrew Breitbart, lived their lives fully, openly, and with remarkable zest. The fact that they died is immaterial. You and I will die one day, too. But will we live as fully as these two did? For most of the unfortunate answer to that simple question is; probably not.
Now there is no need to get down in the dirt with the memory of either man. We don't have to battle over whether one was a truly talented enough singer to be taken seriously, or whether the other espoused views that were contrary to our own beliefs. Those arguments are subjective, largely pointless, and miss the message of their lives entirely. Davy and Andrew lived. They worked at something that mattered to them. They brought their best game every time they played. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost, but they kept playing to the best of their ability – and they became champions in their own right as a result.
You don't have to own a single Davy Jones record, or have subscribed to Andrew Brietbarts political views to respect either man. They earned the lives they got, and they lived them bigger, louder, more colorfully, and with greater zeal than most of us get out of our best day.
Rather than bemoaning the passing of men most of us never knew personally, we would do well to adjust our own lives to emulate the level of Davy and Andrew we include in our own daily existence. Like them, we will expire one day, too. Unlike them, it's entirely likely that very few will notice when we're gone. Nor should they. Because it's what we do with our lives that defines us, not the age we've attained when our light finally blinks out.