I was cooking dinner yesterday, standing at my sink preparing potatoes. My sister, visiting from Chicago, was sitting at the table looking at her iPhone. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “George Michael passed away.”
“NOOOOOOOO!” I yelled, reaching to grab my own phone. Honestly believing it was a hoax, I scanned Facebook and Twitter to confirm my suspicions.
I think we all know that of course, it was true. George Michael left us yesterday. Christmas, of all days. For me, and likely most of you—George Michael was more than just another musical icon. He was a significant part of the soundtrack to my life. I loved Wham!, adored his solo career, and yes—I admired him as a person, too. Many of my friends met him at various points, and the one characteristic that continued to be mentioned over the years was “generous”. He was generous with his time, his feelings, and even his thankfulness for his fans.
I was in disbelief yesterday when I heard the news. I didn’t have time to really process, and my house was full of people who have no understanding. To them, rock stars are just rock stars…people who make little indent on our lives. To me, they are something quite different. The music and people who matter most to me, and George Michael is/was certainly among them, changed my life forever each time I listened to their songs. They matter. Forever.
Today, I’m sad. The sense of loss is profound. Wistfully, I think back to the times when my friend Karen and I would sing every word to “Young Guns (Go for it)”, or when I discovered “Wake Me Up” (which in my opinion, is impossible to listen to without smiling – no matter how sick of it you might be!). I remember putting “Faith” on repeat in the car when I’d drive back and forth to Redondo Beach to see my then-boyfriend (now husband), or watching the video for “Careless Whisper” over and over.
Yes, I was one of those girls who would squeal for George. He was incredibly good-looking – and just got better with age. Sure, he came out as gay. That didn’t stop me. I had believed those songs were written for me before, and I still believed that after. I worried for him when I heard about his drug problems and his stint in jail. I didn’t look at him with disdain, but with deep concern. I didn’t want anything to happen to George, because for all the happiness he’d already given me over the years, I felt (and still feel) he deserved it all to come back to him at least two-fold. I remember when he was sick in the hospital with pneumonia, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he emerged. I wanted to watch George continue to age gracefully, and still keep singing with that gorgeous, uplifting, incredible voice.
Sometimes, even the most heartfelt wishes can’t come true. I know I’m not alone today when I think about just how many people—really good people—have left us this year. 2016 feels particularly brutal in that regard, but I am also aware that we’re aging, and these things are likely to continue happening. I don’t like it. George Michael was an 80s icon and he was a huge part of my young adulthood. I don’t want to say goodbye to that anymore than I would want to say goodbye to dear friends. The sadness is profound, gut-wrenching, and overwhelming. Knowing that others feel similar should be a help, but truthfully—it isn’t. I wish that none of us needed to weather the loss.
Yes, the music is here forever, and death is a part of life. That does little to stop the sense of loss right now. In time, the music will help heal, and I look forward to that.