An actor died recently, and his death was announced by his daughter on social media. To dabble in understatements, the daughter was quite distressed. Her actor-father was 86 when he died. My initial reaction to the overt display of emotion was to internally chide the woman. 'Your dad lived to be 86,' I thought. 'You got more time with him than a lot of other people have with their parents. Why the huge sadness?' Upon reflection, I realized I was being callous.
It occurs to me that perhaps when we have had someone around the longest is when their death will impact us most? There is something to be said for becoming used to someone, to their presence, to their influence on your life. Of course, length of time may not always play the most important role. It's true that we can know a person a comparatively short amount of time and yet still mourn them dearly when they pass away.
Thinking of lengths of time that we've known various people in our lives, whose death would have the most impact? A parent? A lover? A friend? But then we're getting into the type of relationship, as opposed to how long we've known the person. If one parent lives longer than the other, will the child mourn the longer-lived one more than the other, or would it come down to the sort of connection they'd had with them?
Consider that my own father died when I was 21, and my maternal-grandmother when I was 22. I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. Pretty soon, I will have lived just as long without those two people in my life as I lived with them in it. Still, I think of them quite often and, even though their deaths are now nearly two decades old, their departure left a hole that can never quite be filled.
It seems true that length of time doesn't matter as much as how close one was with a loved one who has passed away. It would seem to be a case of quality over quantity. That's the way it is with most things.