I just lost a friend. A really, really good friend. Someone I loved and respected and admired. And I’m going to miss him. Terribly.
His untimely and decades-too-premature death has had a profound effect on me. More so than I would ever have expected. And I know I’m not the only one who’s grieving over the loss. He was a friend to many. And not just a casual friend, either. We let him in to places in our life that not everyone was allowed to go. What we had with him was very unique.
I mean, we’ve all got lots of different types of friends—people who help and support and inspire us in very diverse ways. We’ve got the friends we can and can’t confide in. We’ve got the friends we travel with and the ones we grab coffee with and the friends we share our secrets with. And while each of them is meaningful in their own way, they’re all different. But we only let a chosen few into our core. And he was one of the chosen.
He comforted and consoled me as often as he inspired and energized me. He was one of the ones I turned to during times of struggle, in times of joy and change and fear, and everything in between. And I was grateful to have him there because he always seemed to know exactly what to say.
The person I lost wasn’t a parent, thankfully. Or a spouse, God forbid. Or even someone I knew personally, believe it or not. We’d never even met, crazy as that sounds. Yet he was a consistent part of my life from the time I was in high school until now. That’s why this is such an unusual kind of loss—the kind that makes you wonder exactly how to grieve.
The fact is, he was such an integral part of my history for the last thirty-plus years that I’m having troubling picturing a future without him somehow woven into the background. Because he’s been such a constant throughout my life.
See, in spite of the fact that we never came face to face or spoke a single word to each other, he was a very real, very significant part of my youth. And, consequently, my life. He was there for everything—all through high school, for the entire summer of senior year, on my first road trip and every road trip since, every dance party and mixed tape.
My friend was a singer, an artist, really. And I celebrated every word he sang—every yell, every scream, every pause—because each one meant something.
Even as I’m sitting here typing, listening to him wail away, lip syncing along with him, my throat is tightening ever so slightly and my eyes are starting to tear. That’s because the soundtrack that he created over the last three decades was the soundtrack of my life. Of Dave’s life. Of our life together.
His lyrics were there to comfort and inspire me, graduate me from high school and from college, and mark every milestone in between.
He taught me it was ok to be different and to find my own beat and to follow it. And while I’m well aware that the relationship we had all these years was very one-sided, almost surreal, I still can’t help but feel a strong sense of loss that this person who’s been such a big part of the fabric of my life is gone. And Dave feels it too.
Does this mean I’m paralyzed by grief and won’t be able to move on? Of course not. But to me and my generation, he was King. He was soulful and humble and driven. He was passionate and gifted. He was an icon. And for those of us who loved and admired him and kept him close decade after decade, the idea that he’s gone is just hard to fathom. Because what made him such a good “friend” to all of us and what makes his death so profound, is that he was whatever we needed him to be whenever we needed him. And he brought out the best in us, even during the worst of times.
So while I may have only seen him perform twice, his shows, like his career, defied explanation.
Honestly, I think he described his relationship with all of us best when he said …We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. And that’s exactly what he helped us do every single time we heard his voice, in a very unique and memorable way for each and every one of us.
Rest in peace, Prince Rogers Nelson. Rest in peace. You’ll be missed.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/itIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.