When someone young and beautiful dies, their death seems all the more tragic.
What makes the death of Natasha Richardson so awful?
My sister and I were discussing this yesterday, because she had found it so very sad. I had shed a tear myself, to tell the truth.
We concluded that it was because she had had the perfect life, the life that most of us would wish for.
Richardson was beautiful, she was rich, she was famous; she was happily married, she was the mother of two children, she had a mother and sister that loved her.
She was successful and talented, which earned her the respect and admiration of her colleagues and also of thousands of people who had seen her performances on stage and in film. She was reknowned for her charity work for AIDS research.
The truth was, she had everything, and everything to live for.
The manner of her death is also a shock – we all know, in the west, that it is precisely the kind of simple accident that any of us might have. They were on holiday, for heaven’s sake, having fun, and then this – a family shattered and two children left motherless.
Yesterday, the dimming of the lights on Broadway was a graceful gesture of solidarity from the theatre community, and as anyone knows who has lost someone, that feeling of not being entirely alone in your grief is very sustaining, so let us hope it was some help to the family.
But I think there is also something else at play here.
We always feel worse when someone or something beautiful dies. The death of the bird of paradise seems worse than the death of the praying mantis, however equal their value to the ecosystem. Human beings are inextricably drawn to beauty, which we acquaint with goodness, and the fact that Richardson’s beauty is no longer in the world makes the world seem a poorer place for it.