I’m sure you’ve heard the sad news of the artist, Prince, dying so suddenly. I bet you’re tired of the endless “RIP Prince” posts on Facebook and Twitter. But, before you roll your eyes and click away from this page, allow me to express why I am so deeply affected.
I’ve often wondered how and why we can feel such profound loss over a person we’ve never met or known personally. While I don’t have a lot of connection to David Bowie, I understand the massive outpouring on social media. This is how we grieve now, as a united community.
When John Ritter died, I heard it on the morning news and felt like I had been slugged right in the stomach. Growing up, I struggled with depression and anxiety, and was teased at school for being different, but when I watched Three’s Company, and Jack Tripper relentlessly threw himself into his love for comedy, I laughed. When he bodily flung himself into a hammock and manipulated it to dump him onto the ground time and time again, I laughed. When he drank from the wrong side of the glass and dumped milk in his lap just to cheer up a friend, tears of laughter and joy streamed down my cheeks.
When I laughed, I felt better. I felt like I was that sad friend he was cheering up by pouring milk into his own lap, like he had done that just for me. For thirty minutes I could forget about the pressing weight in my chest I got when I’d think about going to school the next day and facing an unkind world full of mean and obnoxious kids who only cared about what brand of shoes I couldn’t afford.
When Jack comforted Janet in the ballet episode after she was treated badly by her teacher, he didn’t say “I told you so,” he said “May I have this dance.” To me Jack Tripper embodied everything a friend should be. He was happy to make a complete fool of himself just to make a friend smile. When John Ritter died, I felt like my friend died.
When the Prince song ‘Kiss’ comes on the radio, I’m instantly transported to my best friend Connie’s house, on a summer afternoon. We’d pop in the mix tape we had carefully crafted the night before, staying up until 3am and trying to be quiet so we wouldn’t get into trouble for staying up so late. That tape would play, and we would crank up her mom’s stereo, dance around, and sing at the top of our lungs with a creative, talented man whose image always conveyed confidence, individuality, and weirdness in the best way. Prince taught us that it was not only ok to be yourself, it was super effing cool to rock your own vibe in this life.
Prince was one of the world’s most talented guitarists. When people like Eric Clapton praise his abilities, you know you’re witnessing greatness. Playing Purple Rain in the actual rain is so cool. When asked if that was going to be a problem, he sarcastically asked if they could make it rain harder. Challenge accepted! It’s a wonder he wasn’t electrocuted holding those guitars in the pouring rain. He rocked it though! He never slipped, neither did his dancers. The YouTube video is well worth watching if you missed the Super Bowl half-time show that year. That purple guitar was rad.
The next time you see a celebrity death tribute posted somewhere on social media, instead of being rude or dismissive to the person sharing their feelings, why not consider what that death might mean to the person posting? If you can’t, relate, why not keep scrolling?
We mourn as a community. And we also mourn as individuals, each with our own meaningful experiences.
I’m going to reminisce about those nights with Connie, when we’d play a made-up game, like the goobers we were. We’d set that mix tape to record a song, and we would run out into the deserted street at 3am to see how many cartwheels we could do before Little Red Corvette was over.
I miss Prince.
I miss Connie.
I miss who I was when I danced and sang to forget my troubles.
@ElusiveJ (Juliette) said it best on Twitter when she said “We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us to know ourselves.”