One of the most difficult aspects of a loved one passing is balancing positive memories with grief that turns into a debilitating condition. You can almost become a prisoner to the past, locked into a system that is beyond control.
As we at Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory in Lewisville, Texas have seen, working through these natural states of loss is an individual matter that sometimes requires professional assistance.
We have also noticed that our society at large can go through similar phenomenon when a well-known and much loved public figure passes away. It can be very difficult to let go of them in a less personal, but no less real sense.
Take for example the case of Amelia Earhart, the world famous pioneering pilot who disappeared on July 2, 1937 while attempting to circle the globe. Her case may be the most notorious mystery in the history of aviation.
This week it was announced that a researcher from the University of Tennessee has determined from drawings that bones discovered 80 years ago probably were hers.
Upon hearing this news, one of the employees in our office — someone in her early 20’s — asked why Earhart had such a hold on the public imagination after all this time. “Why do people still care today,” she wondered.
Well, the public who really care because they remember Earhart in her prime are a diminishing number. My mother, who passed away a few years ago, is a classic example of that group. She was born in 1919 and was just a child when Earhart made her first transatlantic flight in 1928.
As my mother well remembered, Earhart was basically she just a passenger on that trip — she did so little that she later described herself as a “sack of potatoes” on the plane.
This first trip set up her Earhart’s incredible solo transatlantic flight in 1932, a feat my mother never forgot. In dramatic fashion, Earhart made the trip in almost 15 hours — the attention of the world squarely focused upon her.
As mother explained, in those days women didn’t really do such adventuresome deeds. Growing up in that era, females had little to choose from in terms of hero worship on an international scale. My mother picked Amelia Earhart: she followed the aviatrix (my mother’s word, apparently the way Earhart was referred to at the time).
Of course, people of all ages found themselves interested in Earhart’s daring accomplishments. Her charismatic personality played a large role in all the celebrity she attracted.
She had that elusive, magnetic quality which made for enduring appeal.
When her plane vanished in 1937, my mother said that many greeted this with complete astonishment — it was, after all, Amelia Earhart, she will make a thrilling comeback appearance!
Unfortunately, Earhart did not manage to make that return — and since then, what her real destiny was has produced endless speculation, endless attempts to retrace her final steps.
This latest discovery is the last in a line of intriguing pieces to a puzzle that does not seem to come together. Did she ditch her aircraft, and along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, perish at sea? Did the two stage an emergency landing and pass away as castaways on an island (in most theories, that island is now identified as Nikumaroro)? Did 15 year old Betty Klenck of St. Petersburg, Florida actually hear on a radio the distress signals Earhart put out? Can these latest drawings really be of her bones some 80 years later?
All of this mystery is tied up in legends, myths and perhaps truth. In the last months of her life, my mother paid attention to new reports about Earhart’s fate. Sadly, the mystery was not solved in her time.
My suspicion is that, like the Titanic, Amelia Earhart’s last flight will eventually be understood and our discomfort, our dissonance that exists today will be resolved. It is amazing just how much of a hold a loved one’s passing can create — even if it is a public persona with whom we have no personal relationship.
RIP Amelia Earhart