One year ago today, I woke late after having gone back to sleep exhausted from a long night’s work. The landline I had as a sort of “bat signal” was ringing in the other room continuously as I drifted from the state of dream semi-consciousness repeatedly. Only my mother and daughters hold the number for emergencies necessary because, as a writer, I often turn my cell ringer off for days.
But on that day, April 21, 2016, the distant ring was hauntingly demanding. The phone was ringing uncontrollably, and I finally surrendered to wakefulness at 1:23 p.m. EST.
Upon awakening, concerned for the now obvious desperation to contact me, I grabbed my cell. I remember dozens of missed calls and texts with specific words simultaneously catching my eye. “Are you okay?” “I’m so sorry.” Several that demanded, “Call me NOW!” And then there was the commonality of these messages by the name repeated... Prince.
Immediately, throwing my phone to the side, I grabbed my iPad and googled his name. “Prince Dead at 57.” Time, which he swore didn’t exist, stood still. A burning scream flamed through my soul making its scorching way to sound. My husband running into the room as my shock-filled eyes turned to him with disbelief and said, “Prince is dead.”
Still, not capable of accepting the news, I called my dear friend and Prince’s long time friend and band member, Morris Hayes. The phone rings and rings. That never happens. Even if Morris is in meetings, he always answers to say he’ll call back.
Refusing to turn the television on grasping to my disbelief as long as possible, I immediately called my brother-in-arms, and longtime best-friend of Prince, André Cymone; it’s now 1:26pm EST.
“Is it true? Tell me it’s not true.”
André solemnly replying, “I’m waiting to speak to (a specific family member), but I’m afraid it is.”
Instantaneously, I am able to see past my consumed state of shock and awe to tell André how very sorry I am. André lost a childhood best friend and family member that day. This awakening me to the vastness this grief has birthed for not only myself, but the countless who I call friend and family.
I finally succumb to the call from my daughter in tears as she exclaims, “Mommy, I’m so sorry.” It then becoming all too real.
The remainder of the day, except for remembered moments, is a complete haze. A purple haze, for an obvious reason, but stated here because I watched as the world literally turned purple. What artist in the history of our world has created such a dramatic echoing void so quickly as Prince? None.
Grown men who had never met him personally in tears. Fans, or as he preferred to call them, “fams,” reacting as if their next of kin had suddenly passed. How deeply this man, whom I had become a spiritual voyeur of early in my youth, touched the life pulse of generations. Young girls to old men, of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, were in mourning for the loss of a part of their life experience ― that for some they themselves did not even understand the depth of emotion.
Overwhelming is an understatement. There were so many dimensions to his transition. I hadn’t visited him at Paisley Park for several years, and decided only recently to make my pilgrimage back that coming fall. Now, words unspoken would remain adrift in the air and heart indefinitely.
A rainbow over Paisley Park only moments after it all ― no, it doesn’t surprise me at all.
The internet brought Prince to me in a most unpredictable way. Being the spiritually minded person I have since first memory, spirit is what matters most to me. The connection that happens on that level is rare and sacred. But since the first time I experienced the ethereal octaves, sensually drenched sounds and incomparable mind of this genius sturdy enough in his five-foot stature to go by only one name; there was a connection that defied reasoning. Having never been a fan of anyone, rather an admirer of talented fellow artists, I was never able to fully make sense of the connection I felt to Prince. That held true for decades, until the day came that I met him. It then all became clear in an instant.
What I hold close to my heart today is the memory of a man who, while complex and beyond doubt human, surpassed earthly boundaries to create sacred spaces of intimacy with countless millions. The gifts he gave came from a place he was born into and undoubtably few ever reach this side of heaven. And he shared it all with us. Even those whom he never met, and possibly with them especially so. Pure, without the chaos of dueling personal egos, Prince was able to share the core of his being.
As a poet, I can speak to you for an hour attempting to express what I can encapsulate in a single sentence. Prince was a messenger who will continue to deliver insights and emotions for countless years. He changed the course of history on more than a musical level. He challenged us to have Love 4 One Another.
For those who didn’t have the rare opportunity to step into his world on the tangible realm, know that anything you want to know about who Prince was, he gave you. It’s all there, written within the lines of his lyrics and swimming within the rivers of melodies leading to the sea of the reoccurring central theme of his course from beginning to end ― Love God.
Allow this to comfort you, knowing he has left an eternal mix-tape for all that defies space and time. And that is in what he chose to release to the world freely, not including his vault, which is the equivalent of an artists most private dresser drawer that will now be rummaged through by an awaiting public meaning well, only wanting more insight into the man and music they loved.
When you miss him, when you are curious, when you want more: go to the music, his discography. Silence the world around you and attentively, delicately, passionately, wholeheartedly encounter the heart and soul of the man who was dynamic enough to be known worldwide by a single name, own a color and turn the world on end with his unapologetic charismatic bravery during life and into his departure.
I only began writing this moments ago as I woke this morning. Trying to make sense of a world that has changed so drastically during such a short course of time. Deciphering emotionally, knowing it is time to move on, but how does one move on from a mountain? It will always be within their view. Gratitude so deep it could choke if not set free to bring new beauty into the world.
Prince changed my life, of that there is no doubt. Both before and after our meeting. His one time muse and Angel known as Aura in Graffiti Bridge, Ingrid Chavez, wrote a poignant song for Prince in the days after his leaving. I took that journey with her and leave you with it today. “You Gave Me Wings.” Ingrid often writes my life’s innermost musings unknowingly. Once again, she did just that. And it is with those wings I now fly off into a new world knowing the mountain will always be within sight.