I haven’t yet figured out whether it’s easier or harder to lose someone to death after having lost the closeness of the relationship while they were still alive. In a way, it’s a loss in two parts. The difference is the finality of death—as a fait accompli, it leaves no further opportunity for any kind of change in the relationship. Never mind that given each opportunity while they were alive, one may have chosen to reject it. In that case, death is simply a detail, another punctuation mark in a life filled with many others.
Perhaps, there is only one way to deal with those who are dying: on their terms. Why should it be any other way?
Regarding those who were living representations of their era, their departure becomes symbolic as well as personal. Things will no longer be, or pretend to be, as they were.
But relics remain. Inanimate objects that carry the mark of their time outlive us to convey our history to strangers as unforeseeable as the acquaintances we made over a lifetime, bringing a strange reassurance.