Publisher's Message: Lights Dimmed
by Suzanne Gillis

This past month several public deaths have shaken many, profoundly. Gone are three long time celebrity national figures and three well-known Vermont women. All dead for different reasons.

It does not matter that most who feel their loss never met them. We feel like we knew them. That sensibility seems ingrained in our celebrity-crazed culture.

So now six bright, high energy, very public stars are gone. Indeed their candles burned brightly on both ends, so brightly no one could escape their intensity. Any encounter seemed to reach deeply into our psyches.

Lauren Bacall was 89. A snarky force. This I do know personally, because during a phone conversation, she nearly blew my head off, spewing insults for several minutes before she dramatically hung up on me. Even so, I followed the rest of her life's journey, and what a trip that was. Feisty, still working, still barking her diva-earned orders right to the end, when she was finally quieted by natural causes.

Joan Rivers was 80. Dead from elective surgery, perhaps gone wrong. A stand- up comedian, Joan was driven to work for some 300 days a year, loving every minute of it and never planned to quit. Joan rocked her audience in 2012 at the Burlington Flynn Theater. Once, my theater manager brother spent an afternoon antiquing with Joan. She was on the hunt for anything Mother of Pearl. Of course, it turned into a hilarious memorable road trip!

Robin Williams. A shocking unimaginable suicide at age 63. He was a volcanic genius in constant motion and a marvel to watch. A breath-taking, all-consuming performer, both comedic and dramatic, he gave us his all. We knew it when he was alive, and now in death we know we will never witness anything like him again.

Closer to Home

Cheryl Hanna was just 48 when she, too, took her own life. Our very own Vermont star. Not the stage kind but an accomplished lawyer, frequent media commentator, law professor and mentor to hundreds, whose lives she made better by her good counsel and encouragement. Cheryl gave and gave until she too wore out. It was a surprise to almost everyone that Cheryl was plagued by depression.

Marian Milne, business owner and long time legislator and commissioner on the Vermont Commission on Women, died unexpectedly at 79, planning on a meeting that night. She had always insisted on basic rights for all Vermonters, and lost her seat in the Vermont House because of her stand on civil unions.

Finally, possessed with a fiery Italian temperament and an obsession for the political process, Lola Pierotti Aiken died at 102. After her husband, U.S. Senator George Aiken died, she continued to support the Republican party, though picking and choosing those she supported. Always greeted with a standing ovation, petite Lola with the huge glasses, was respected and loved across party lines.

Love is Strange

All our losses are tough to take; some like suicides are tougher than others. We all lose loved ones, which is deeply private and personal. And we lose our Heroes too, those out in the public
domain. It’s the perplexing price we humans pay for loving. And if we live long enough the losses pile on, seeming to test our grit for resolving grief.

Lately the hero losses have been stacking up. Even the late night hosts like Letterman and O’Brien have spoken directly about their grief, and newspapers, blogs, tweets, etc., are loaded with messages from a grieving public.
Yet, when shock begins to diminish, mysteriously human resiliency moves us along. We pause to remember now and then, but the wonder of resiliency is that we move along, a bit wobbly at first, and then steadily toward laughter, light and abundance of life.

Suzanne Gillis is the Publisher of Vermont Woman newspaper.