Ironies abound. We got word of the death of Amy Winehouse during the wake for a dear friend who was taken away by ALS. Before she departed this vale, though, our friend Lois lived into her sixth decade, a life filled with love, friendship, accomplishment, devotion to family (by birth, by marriage and by choice) and faith in God. The eulogies were beautiful, the church was packed, and I was just one of hundreds in the congregation of souls hoping that when our time is through, we can have people talk so lovingly of the lives we affected and the love we shared. I won't even attempt to list all the ways in which our Lois touched the lives of many, but she was a good, good woman, sadly missed here among us and certainly welcomed home in Heaven.
I don't know much about Amy Winehouse, and I don't want to sound like one of those old men who stands on his porch wearing a cardigan, hollering at the kids to get off his lawn. I'm not so staid as to think that no good music has been made since the days of Sam The Sham and The Pharoahs, but then again, I don't necessarily jump on every new trend. (My bizarre interest in Ke$ha remains unexplained.) I take it from knowledgeable music fans that Amy had talent.
But Amy also had bi-polar disorder and an appetite for substance abuse. She was around for years, but only released two albums, and of them, people say only the second was really good. Much has been made of how Winehouse died aged 27, the same age at death as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. Hendrix mixed pills and wine before dying in a hotel in London in 1970. Joplin died the same year of a heroin overdose. Brian Jones drowned "by misadventure" in 1969. Cobain, a longtime substance abuser and person in need of mental health treatment, shot himself in 1994, and Morrison died in 1971 of heart failure, with drugs the suspected causal factor.
Why 27? My best guess would be that these are people whose talents brought them fame and acclaim by their early twenties, and led them into unhealthy lifestyles which were hard to maintain. We think of Keith Richards, onetime bandmate of Jones, as being our crazy old Uncle Junkie, but he hasn't done hard drugs for years. Trust him on that. He wouldn't be around to say so if he still did.
We all know people like Amy, who hide their lights beneath bushels of drugs and other issues. We can only hope that they can get the help they need.
We all know people like Lois, and we're all the better for knowing them.
If there is an Amy in our lives, perhaps we should try to figure how the presence of a Lois could help them, and then do what we can, while we can. Don't look back, as Satchell Paige always said. Something might be gaining on us.