It’s been 15 weeks and 6 days since I last saw you on stage, doing what you love, being who you are. A week after I had seen you, I had a terrible feeling that I needed to accept God’s will, that I needed to thank Him for the gift of another day, but that my strength, my faith would be tested, and so I had tweeted that morning, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the birth of this day. Your Will always, not mine.” I tweeted that at 9:12 AM Eastern time. While I didn’t know what the day was going to bring, I knew that whatever it was I would need to accept God’s Will on the matter. A mere 45 minutes later I started that morning’s training off by playing the live version of “Black Sweat” from the Atlanta concert you had released to my class of excited case managers. I went on to play them “When Will We Be Paid”. I had a case manager get up and begin dancing, others were laughing and singing along, and I stood back with pride that only you could do this. You see, you were on my mind that morning. I wanted, no, I needed to share you with someone, anyone, and the case managers I was training were a captive audience for me. So, I shared you with them. I had needed to hear you that morning and I didn’t know why. Usually, when I am training, I’m all business. Let’s get down and dirty in these classes, let’s learn, let’s get this done, let’s do this right, and my focus is razor sharp: teach case managers how to be case managers. But on that morning, I just needed your presence, your essence, your sound, your groove. I had never done that during a class before, have never done that with any class period in the 2+ years that I’ve been teaching case managers. Something was coming, and your music always gave me strength to face whatever came my way.
About 2 hours later, the Lead Team Case Manager of that office came into the conference room, placed her hand on my shoulder and handed me her phone. I was confused. For one, why was she comforting me? I knew her hand upon my shoulder, slightly rubbing along my shoulder, was a comforting motion, not a “Hey Girl! I’m glad you’re here!” It was a, “I’m so sorry.” For two, why was she interrupting my class? Once I began training, they knew not to interrupt, that my focus was strictly upon teaching. For three, why was she handing me her phone? I didn’t want to look at it. I knew it was bad. I knew I did not want to see it. And with dread, I looked down, at her phone, and read the headline that seemed to rise up off her phone and slap me again and again. “Prince Rogers Nelson, dead, at 57.” No. No, it can’t be. You see, I had just seen you 7 days earlier. I had basked in your presence. You had retweeted me 4 days ago, “What did u do 2 us in Atlanta, @Prince? I’ve barely slept since that nite. #FeelingRejuvenated #FeelingInspired #FeelingLoved” You knew how deeply those 2 performances had touched me, what they meant to me. And you shared it with the world. No, I will not believe it. I almost threw her phone down, but I slowly handed it back to her, shaking my head “no” and repeating “no”, and picked up my phone to check. I saw multiple posts of shock and pain and mourning and threw my phone on the table. Standing up, I said, “No. I refuse to believe it until I hear it from the man himself.”
I walked out of that room and into a small, empty kitchenette gasping for breath and in shock. It could not be true. I had just seen you. You had just retweeted me. I had just played you for my case managers that morning. No. I don’t care that I said to God that morning His Will, not mine, *this* was unacceptable and too much to ask of the world, to accept this, even from God. No. You have not confirmed it and until you confirm it, it’s a lie, it’s some terrible rumor that has picked up wings and flew and any moment you would be announcing that the rumors circulating were only that, rumors, and were not true.
I walked back into the classroom, could hear the Lead Team Case Manager telling my students what had happened before I entered the room. I could hear the gasps, the shock. But I could not feel anything right then, except that it was not true. I somehow made it through class. I called out of my night job because I knew I was in no shape to be driving around all night and giving friendly customer service as I handed people their pizzas. I did make it home, an hour drive from where I was teaching, but do not remember the drive. I don’t know how I made it home. Then I thought of a friend of mine, a friend who I knew I would need to check on to make sure he was okay. You see, he was my friend because of you. It was through your website, Love4OneAnother, that I met this friend. He became a lifelong friend, one I admire and respect, and one I knew this news would hit even harder than it had hit me. I called. He didn’t answer. I left a voice mail, telling him I just wanted to check on him, that I was thinking of him, and was saying this while trying to hold back my own tears.
I turned on the news. I do not watch the news. Every day it is another sad story of us humans treating each other wrong, of hate winning the day, and it hurts me to my core every time I hear such a story. But because I needed to see the press release, when you would finally release one, saying that reports of your demise were greatly exaggerated, I turned on the news. Your picture, your voice, your performances were all over the news, with a start date and an end date beside your name. It hit and it hit hard. There would be no press release from you. I cried. I cried as hard as I did when I was little girl of 9 and wishing I had never been born. I cried as hard as I did when at the age of 10, I felt my only recourse was death and tried to drink bleach. I cried as hard as I did when I would scream at God, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t anyone ever love me? How can I love them so much, and they love me so little? What did I do to make them hate me?” when I was 11.
I called out of work on Friday. My eyes were nearly swollen shut. I called out of both jobs. I kept the news on. I didn’t sleep. That night, as I was watching CNN’s report on the timeline leading up to … and thinking I was all cried out, my tweet flashed onto the television screen and the reporter was saying, “Just days ago, Prince tweeted that he was hashtag feeling rejuvenated.” I was not all cried out. I did not want to be a part of that timeline. I should not be a part of the timeline leading up to … I was no one. I was not a part of your world. As with so many of your fans/fams, I was only skirting your world, I was at the window looking in, and admiring the majesty and beauty of the world in which you existed. How could *I* be a part of *that* timeline? How could *they* claim my words were your own? I was angry. It was one reason why you rarely gave interviews in the beginning, because you didn’t want to be misquoted, you didn’t want your words to be taken out of context, and here they were putting words onto you that were not your own. It has been 14 weeks and 6 days since the Lead Team Case Manager first put her hand on my shoulder and began rubbing in a comforting way. The world has moved on without you. But you are on my mind every day. They tell me you are gone. I have read the words. I have watched the tributes. I have seen the tears and pictures of the memorial around Paisley Park. I look at The Park and I remember walking those halls during the Celebration in 2000. I remember a friend and I speaking with a security guard and hearing someone clearing his throat and looking toward that sound and seeing you across the large concert room, waiting for your security guard. I remember touring Paisley Park and finding peace in those hallways and rooms. Peace that I had never felt in any other place, except in my deepest meditations. I felt at home there, which for someone who had moved 25 times by the time she was 21, and has moved countless times since then, had never truly felt at home anywhere before. But I did there, in your home. It felt … right. But now, I was seeing purple heart balloons and flowers, letters and paintings, lining the fence at Paisley Park, while the Park itself looked too quiet.
They say you are gone and yet, I have not seen one true memorial for you. I have not had closure. I wake some mornings and forget that awful day 14 weeks and 6 days ago. I feel you are still here with us, and I am merely awaiting the announcement of your next tour, your next album. Then suddenly, it hits me again, and they tell me you are gone. But how can you be gone? We have not even had a memorial for you. We keep getting these tributes by artists singing your songs and everyone seems to think that should be enough, but what they do not seem to understand is that we do not want tributes. We want you. No one can do your music the way in which you can. No one can sing the way you do. No one can move an audience, groove an audience like Prince can do. The tribute that meant the most to me was Sheila E’s. She came closest to embodying the spirit that you contain on stage. At times it felt as though she was channeling you. But you see, those that were on stage with her, and she herself, had studied at the hands of the Master. They knew what he expected from them on stage, during a performance. They knew how he pushed them, to always strive for more, for better, for perfection. And because they had studied at the hands of the Master, they came closest to exhibiting your Spirit. That night, I almost found closure, but it was way too short. I needed more time to be able to say good-bye, if I can ever say those words.
And now, they prepare another tribute, for the “fans”, but it is not a tribute we want or need to find closure. You have touched our lives. You have been a part of our souls, there during our trying times, our happiest times, our saddest times. We have laughed, loved, and cried with you. We have made love with you. A tribute is merely a bunch of people getting on stage and trying to sing songs that for fans, only you can do them justice. It is your words, your voice, your performance, the people that were closest to you sharing you with us, and allowing us to say to “good-bye dear Prince” that will ever allow us to find closure, to finally hear those words they keep saying to me, “He is gone” before we can find acceptance. These tributes with the Madonna’s and Lady Gaga’s of the world, only intensify our longing, our need for you. I know they do the best they can, and they will try to honor you, but for your fans nothing less than you will do.
I miss you. I miss getting excited to see your tweets come up on twitter. I miss the excitement of wondering where and when you might perform again. I miss waiting for the announcement of a new album, a new song. But more than that, I miss knowing that your pure spirit is here somewhere on earth, sharing the same breath, the same moon, stars, and sky as me. No, I didn’t know you, had never met you, but you were a part of my life and touched my life in a way that no one else ever has. Through the love of your music, I met friends that have remained by my side, have helped me through bad times and celebrated good times with me, I have developed a stronger, more loving and faithful relationship with God, and have learned so much since I first sought you out in 1998. I had heard you before then, but had to be a closet fan because my ex-husband was racist and when I said you were sexy after seeing you on MTV singing “Little Red Corvette” as I walked closer to the television because even through the screen and monotone speakers of that television, you drew me in, I found myself on the floor with my ex standing over me and calling me some foul names. He is an ex for a reason. From that time, until 1998 when I met a boyfriend who reintroduced me to your music and took me to my first Prince concert, I was a closet fan. There was so much music you had put out, music I had never heard before. And after seeing you perform, feeling pulled to you in a way that was unexplainable, I needed to know more about you. And so, in May of 1998, I got the internet (after your concert) and in June of 1998, I found Love4OneAnother. I had always had faith, always had a relationship with God, but after listening to your music, those songs I had never heard before, after reading your words, after meeting my friend and engaging in deep, spiritual conversations in The Holy River chat room, I knew what was missing in my life, my relationship with God was not as deep as I needed it to be, and so I dove head first into studying the Bible, reading everything I could get my hands on about Waking Up, and began meditating – all with the guidance of my friend that you brought to me. So, no, I never met you, but I loved you and you brought me gifts that are priceless, and since I am merely a fan, a tribute should be enough, but it’s not. A tribute is not personal, but the way you touched my life through your music, your shared thoughts, was very personal to me, and as such, us fans need something more personal to be able to let you go, to say good-bye, to tell you we love you. No more tributes, we need a true memorial. We need you in your own words, your own voice, and to share the memories of those that loved you best, knew you best, were closest to you, to know we mattered to you as much as you mattered to us, that you loved us, as much as we loved you.