08/02/2012 01:40 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2012

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Writers Gore Vidal and Maeve Binchy have died within twenty-four hours of each other. He was 86, she 73. One I knew. One I didn't.

Maeve was a colleague -- a Dubliner born and bred, a lover of cats and a good bottle of wine, someone who wrote every day of her life. Yet it was Vidal who got to me.

In his New York Times obituary, it said that in the second volume of Vidal's memoirs, he recalls what Howard Austin, his live-in companion of 53 years, said on his deathbed:

"Didn't it go by awfully fast?"

And doesn't it? As I read this unanswerable question, my eyes filled with tears. Gordon Snell, Maeve's husband of 35 years, must have thought the same thing.

My generation, now in what I call "the adolescence of old age," used to weep buckets when Judy Collins sang "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" Yet back in 1968 we had no idea what it meant. Now we do. Maybe that's why obituaries have recently taken on such import.

Every day I scan the Times death notices -- the paid ones, not the editorials -- not so much to see who has died, but to find out who they were and why their loved ones thought it fitting to state it in print.

Sharing the page with Maeve Binchy and Gore Vidal is a member of the Actor's Studio, a woman from City Island remembered for her "charisma," a woman of 99 ¾ who died "in the comfort of her home," a member of the 104th U.S. Infantry Division, "The Timberwolves" and a Mason.

How wonderful to have their lives put down in words. Who knows where the time goes? It stays still in memory.