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News & Features » January 2017 » Katia D. Ulysse: Hello 2017

Katia D. Ulysse: Hello 2017

Drifting author Katia D. Ulysse welcomes us to 2017 with a touching look back at who we lost in 2016, and a moving call to face the new year with love and thanks. Katia’s debut novel, Mouths Don’t Speak, is forthcoming from Akashic Books.

Hello 2017

by Katia D. Ulysse

Death is ill-bred. Like an uninvited guest, it sneaks into homes to crash the most intimate gatherings. It hovers and salivates, waiting, like a rabid cur.

2016 was particularly spiteful. Death came daily, snatching the famous and the infamous. Social media continues to mourn their favorite star’s passing. One day after Carrie Fisher died, Debbie Reynolds reminded us never to underestimate a mother’s love. She brought her daughter here, and followed her to the other side.

Not all deaths made the VIP list. The execution of police officers sitting in a squad car in Brooklyn did not. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two of too many killed by police officers, did not make the “notable deaths” roster either. The world witnessed these men’s dying moments in videos that went viral. They were not movie stars; they did not sing hit songs alongside Sharon Jones, Joey Feek, Maurice White, and other artists who left us to figure things out on our own. Alton, Philando, and the fallen officers achieved celebrity status for the violent ways they died. Forgetting them would be a crime.

The musicians who recorded the soundtrack to our youths fell as if in a meteor shower. Starman, David Bowie, led the way. “I’ve got nothing left to lose,” he wrote in one of his final hits. He knew the end was imminent. We didn’t. “Look up here, man, I’m in Heaven. . .” I still cannot listen to the hauntingly plaintive saxophone rift that rips through Lazarus. David had always seemed otherworldly. People like him are not supposed to die.

The artist formerly known as Vanity died at age 57. Soon afterwards, Prince joined his former protégée. Unlike David Bowie, it seemed Prince thought there was plenty of time left. Days before he passed away, he told concert-goers not to waste prayers on him just yet. His fans went wild when he half-screamed, “Dearly-beloved, we are gathered together to get through this thing called life. . .” There is some comfort in knowing that Prince imagined death as a birth into “The Afterworld. . .A place where you can always see the sun. . .Day or night.”

It’s been months, but a part of me is still waiting for the media to report that The Purple One’s passing was really another childish Internet hoax. We’ve been punk’d. The Artist simply had a Greta Garbo moment, and needed to be alone for a while. He will be back soon, funkier and flashier than ever. The other part of me knows better.

2016 took George “You Gotta Have Faith” Michael. He was 53 years old. He passed away on Christmas Day. Marlon James, author of A Brief History of History of Seven Killings, wrote on his Facebook page that George Michael was one of a few white singers whose music a DJ could play in nightclubs without being pelted with bottles. George Michael had soul.

I will never forget Mohammad Ali: The greatest and prettiest professional boxer who ever lived. His legendary knockouts were as memorable as his quotable quips: “If you dream about beating me, you better wake up and apologize.” He was supposed to vanquish every opponent, including death. And he did. Ali will live forever in our hearts. I suppose they will all live forever, as long as we remember their names.

No one can predict what 2017 will bring. Death will come, but so will health and births and laughter and music and theater and great books.

2016 was but a reminder that the future is not promised. Enjoy each hour, love fiercely, and unplug now and again. Sing. Skinny dip. Travel. Mail a handwritten letter to a friend. Paint that masterpiece—even if no one else but Mom appreciates it. Leave those dishes in the sink and dance barefoot on the kitchen floor. Belt out a show tune on the D Train. Write your own version of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night. . .” If verse is not your thing, wear your finest jumpsuit and thumb ring to the next executive board meeting, stand on the polished conference table, play air guitar while singing Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” If they boss shows you the door, shake your hips and cowlick a la Elvis, get down on one knee, flash a peace sign, and shout: “Thank you. Thank you very much!”

Happy New Year to all of us.


Katia D. UlysseKATIA D. ULYSSE was born in Haiti, and moved to the United States as a teen. Her writings have been published in numerous literary journals, including the Caribbean Writer,Meridians, Calabash, Peregrine, and Smartish Pace, among others. Her work has also appeared in The Butterfly’s Way and Haiti Noir. Her first children’s book, Fabiola Can Count, was published in 2013. Ulysse lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. When she’s not reading, writing fiction, gardening, or teaching, she blogs on VoicesfromHaiti.com. Drifting is her first book of fiction.

Posted: Jan 6, 2017

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