Ask Me About His Life
“Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that Prince died?”
“You like Prince? I heard he died because…”
“Oh. You knew Prince? Did his death make you sad?”
“So, do you know what’s happening with all of his money?”
“Hasn’t it been a while since he died? Aren’t you over it yet?”
These are all questions people have asked directly to my face. I don’t think these people are ignorant or asking out of meanness, but as Prince said, “Curiosity: it knows no shame.” And in this case, curiosity does not tiptoe around grief. To each of these inquiries, I respond with the same, simple statement:
“Ask me about his life.”
Almost two years later, on a cold Sunday night, one of Lenka Paris’s DJ sets plays in my car during my drive home after another long day of being kicked in the head by the sheer concept of mortality. The tears start, and I miss my exit. I’ll just take the next one. I sniffle, and it is perfectly in sync with the beginning of the next song, Human Body.
“Can you take me home where we can be alone? Can you make me happy until my pain is gone?”
The song passes, and then another, and suddenly, I find myself parked at Lake Ann in Chanhassen across the highway from Paisley Park. The lights are all turned off upstairs. The building thrives during the day, but the view at night is different than it used to be. Prince, always aware of his own existence and his impact on the world, used to walk the hallways, turning lights on as he entered a room and off as he left. Driving by at night and glancing at the building, you could watch the light as he moved through his world. His absence swells in my head, manifesting self-constructed questions about how it feels for him to be gone, but I catch myself:
“Ask me about his life.”
Friday, February 22, 2002
Fans gather in the Love4OneAnother Room at Paisley Park for a routine, unexplained party, but the atmosphere is different. Why isn’t there any music playing? It’s been almost an hour; where’s Prince? Did you hear his mom passed away last week? I heard the funeral was today; why is he throwing a party and not at the funeral? Why isn’t there any music playing? Oh, look!
Prince drifts down the stairs at the back of the room, pausing on a step in the middle of the staircase. Without greeting the crowd or answering any of the questions incubating in their minds, he starts to sing a Capella:
Like a motherless child…
Like a motherless child…”
After several minutes, the song ended, and Prince turned around and walked back up the stairs, leaving the entire room to create silent harmonies through their tears. When he finally returned, he played a high-energy, mind-blowing show for the next six hours. One anonymous attendee recalls feeling as though Prince needed to work through his grief that night and just get those raw emotions out of his system.
Did I have any moments like that after Prince died?
“Stop. Ask me about his life.”
But, wait, aren’t life and death symbiotic? You can’t have one without the other, and you can’t fully celebrate life without the realization that death is part of that experience. I grew up learning from Prince; it was like learning a new language, and now his lessons are embedded in who I am. So why did it take me this long to realize the example he showed us about how to deal with death? Maybe I needed to be sitting in a snowy parking lot in Chanhassen on a Sunday night to realize that he didn’t just work through grief faster than the rest of us, he simply became an expert at accepting those emotions into his being. The goal of grieving isn’t to get over the loss or to avoid it; it is learning how to seamlessly morph that experience into the very fabric of your identity. Prince, I am finally moving you out of my tears, and into a permanent dwelling in my soul. Thank you.
But, please, ask me about his life.