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Campaign Supernovas: How to handle premature political deaths

Every industry experiences the loss of bright young stars who leave this world too soon. The causes might be natural or self-inflicted or accidental.

If Cora Faith Walker – God rest her beautiful soul – was the first young political death you’ve been close to, consider opening yourself up to the knowledge of those who have lived through this type of loss before.

There are two paths.

The first:

  1. Solipsism:  It’s all about you. Post early, and often, to social media about your kinship with the deceased. The looser your affiliation, the more you need to sell it.
  1. CSI:  Missouri. Sniff around for as much information about circumstances of death as possible. Call or text the deceased’s true friends under the guise of commiseration. “Wasn’t he just on vacation?” “I wonder who was with him that night … do you know? I want to reach out to them too, just to let them know I’m thinking about them and see if they’re okay.” Picture the hub-and-spoke model:  the more info you glean about his/her death, the more your gossip circles will come to you with their own information.
  1. True friends of the deceased only:  Skip the passive, painful grieving and dive headlong into vengeful anger. Grieving is for the weak. You are a #BossBabe or John Wayne/Vin Diesel, whichever fits. It hurts to sit with the pain, but it feels so good to take a pound of flesh. Armed with your knowledge/speculation from step 2, you won’t just find the smoking gun – you’ll aim it at whoever caused this.
  1. Men only:  This is peak white-knighting time. While the deceased’s true friends are still grieving, jump into their social media replies (public) and slide into their direct messages (private) to show how empathetic and nice you are. That wilting little flower needs a strong stake to lean upon, and it’s gonna be you. You’re already finger-pecking your “heart”-on to her selfies and her pictures of rocks/plants/furniture, and now’s the time for those hundreds of micro-supplications to pay off. Experienced men would tell you that women are finely tuned to sniff out transparent pandering from simps – while laughing about you to their friends and lovers – but they don’t know you. You’re different.
  1. Drafting the deceased. You were already at war with something – an ex-partner, an ex-boss, “the system,” whatever. So as you reject the healthy grieving process and refuse to seek acceptance, enlist the departed into your angry self-righteous war against whatever. This allows you rationalize staying mired in pain – which you secretly enjoy – while you tweet about it using the deceased’s name.

Or, the alternative path:

  1. It’s not about you. You can acknowledge your friendship or acquaintanceship on social media – yes, even with those pictures that make you look goooood – and still shine the spotlight on the departed’s personality, their best traits, and the things in life they cared about.
  1. You don’t need all the answers. “But I need closure!” has one pronoun, and it’s you. Can you allow yourself to release your need to know his/her last words, last drink, last text? Let the family seek the answers they need. They’ll share details if, and when, they want.
  1. “What do you need? How can I help?” These two sentences, directed toward family and real friends, are processed more easily than 1,000-word Facebook posts. Start here.
  1. True friends of the deceased only:  You were not his/her caretaker. Natural cause, accident, chronic enablement, or self-inflicted – regardless of how the death happened, you might feel responsible in some way. You’re not, but don’t just take my word for it. If you’re crazy enough to do politics for a living, which I highly discourage, you should already have a professional therapist at the ready. If not, find one now.
  1. “Can I allow myself to be positive and honor his/her memory in spite of what has happened?” These words – in a format I have stolen unapologetically from author Larry Crane – are for you to repeat as you move forward in the weeks, months and years after your friend’s death. They can help guide you away from hopeless apathy and blind anger and into acceptance, peace and love. As with any mantra, it means absolutely nothing if your actions don’t follow your words.

Cora Faith Walker’s family and friends need time to grieve. Down the road, one way to honor her legacy might be found by looking to the example set by the loved ones of Missouri’s own Spence Jackson. We lost Spence – a veteran Missouri political communications maven – seven years ago this month, at the age of 44. Jeff Layman and Joe Passanise worked with Spence’s family to establish the Spence Jackson Memorial Scholarship at Missouri State University.

For all that Cora did for the many communities she served – as a Missouri state representative, as a health policy advocate at the Missouri Foundation for Health and as the Policy Director for St. Louis County government – I’m sure Washington University and Saint Louis University Law School would be honored to create the Cora Faith Walker Memorial Scholarship. Tuition, mentoring and – if it pleases the recipient – a stylish dress and pool heels thrown in.

John Combest began publishing daily in October 2001 to centralize Missouri political news and decentralize truth. You can reach him at, or follow him on Instagram (@johncombest_com) and Twitter (@johncombest_com.) He grew up in Spanish Lake (Hazelwood East H.S.) and lives in Chesterfield.