01/13/2016 12:24 EST | Updated 01/13/2017 05:12 EST

Bowie's Passing Reminds Us Of The Importance Of Role Models

AFP via Getty Images
British singer David Bowie performs on stage during his concert at the Sportpaleis of Antwerp, 05 November 2003. (Photo credit should read PETER DE VEOCHT/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest one lost is David Bowie -- a visionary, a rebel, an original and, for many, a touchstone.

From Bowie, young minds learned to embrace their weirdness, to strike out into new territory. His followers can be thankful that he died on his own terms, too, having released one final album, looking like himself, surrounded by family, but it's still difficult to let go of someone who was a mainstay in their childhood, who saw them gently through their youth.

We all have a list of them, a distant Greek chorus whose works seem to be addressed directly to us. My list included Dr. Seuss, Jim Henson, George Carlin and Robin Williams. I've had all kinds of idols (I still do), but these ones were still around in my lifetime. These were the ones that I had to say goodbye to.

It's somehow different than worshiping someone from a previous era.

What is it about losing someone like this that's particularly tragic? Why does the world go into shock, when we know somewhere in the back our our minds that even revolutionaries and geniuses are still mortal?

Like everyone else, they leave behind friends and family. Like everyone else, their hard work and creativity don't buy them extra time, or freedom from illness and injury. Rationally, we know this, but it's still upsetting.

We get misty when we hear or see their past work and sigh at the thought that there won't be more of it, but I think it's more than that.

When we lose a role model, we realize that the gap they've left behind, but it also brings to light the fact that others will have to fill that gap. There will be young minds who need someone to look up to, and that's a big pair of shoes to fill.

What if we're the ones who will have to step up, to be our most brilliant and most innovative selves in order to fit the role? Could we bear to have people look at us the way we looked at our role models? Could we live up to these expectations?

Cheers to David Bowie and to all of equal measure. Cheers to the brave soul who endeavors to be the next Bowie (if such a thing is even possible). I look forward to seeing who will be next.

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