On Monday morning, when I heard the news that David Bowie had died of cancer, my immediate reaction was not sadness or grief.
I just didn’t believe it.
“That’s not right,” I said to myself in the kitchen, as the news filtered through, “it must be a hoax or something. He can’t be dead.”
This wasn’t because I deemed the man to be immortal or anything. It was mostly about the release of his new album only three days before. If it had been an accident, a sudden death, that juxtaposition of creativity and death might have been possible but not this. How could someone be so productive, so vibrant, so artistic on one day and then be gone on the next? It just didn’t compute.
But, of course, it was true and the outpouring of love and respect that has come out from the world in these subsequent days has really been something to see.
It was not totally unexpected either, to see a sort of mini-backlash against all the people who felt so sad. It is in the nature of modern media to react to news and then react to the reaction. Some people thought it unseemly for so much apparent grief to be expressed over the loss of someone who was not family, who was not a friend, who we didn’t know.
I think those people missed the point but then it’s a lesson you have to learn rather than one you can be told. We don’t grieve people simply because they were family or because they were a friend of ours. We naturally grieve those few people who actually manage to touch our hearts.
And they can touch it from an arm's length away or across an entire universe, the effect is exactly the same. Our hearts have been touched.
It might be a writer or a film actor or a popular singer, it doesn’t matter. When our hearts get touched, they stay touched and when that person who touched them goes away, they are going to leave a dull and a hollow place behind them.
I was not the biggest David Bowie fan ever. I liked and greatly admired much of his music and it was a part of my growing up and my life. But, somewhere along the line, he must have touched my heart, because I feel his loss even though I never met him.
There is a person who has touched me very greatly with his music and his artistry and I won’t say his name here lest I bring the attention of some ironic power onto him. When he goes, and I hope it’s not for a long time, I will feel it. I will feel it as many of you have felt it for David Bowie and for Alan Rickman and for all those other people who have gone before.
Give me a bit of space to be sad when that happens just like I will gladly give you a bit of space now.
Because, as a man called Tom Jones (not that one) once wrote.
“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”