We Can Be Mourners, Just for One Day

bowieI never shared a table with David Bowie. I never shared a bed with him, or a caress, a smile or a conversation, or even a ride on an uptown train. I did not know him. And yet his death touches me. Not in the personal way of a dying parent or a close friend. Not in the hive mind buzz of the passage of a historical figure. But in the way of an icon.

David Bowie, icon, is not a part of my personal story, but he is part of so, so many others. He is a word or a sentence in the story of a young boy who identified with his gender-bending fashion, long before gender fluidity was the noun du jour. He is a nut or a bolt in the frame that holds up a young girl looking for the courage of self-expression. He is a chapter in the story of a man who realized he didn’t need to define himself by any one thing. He is a thread in the fabric of a young woman who gave herself permission for reinvent herself time and time again.

That is what icons do. They bind us to each other in a time and place, in a mood or a song, in a moment of realization or a breath of recognition. It is the gift and the burden of an icon. The pieces of themselves they throw out into the world like confetti get tangled up and entwined with our own. They get woven into our own dreams and personas, into our personal histories. It happens with books and movies, with places and with people, but every now and again it happens with people we’ve never met, someone we have no personal connection too: someone whose shadow looms large enough to eclipse our lives, even if it is just for a moment. Just for one day.

When an icon dies is it any wonder those threads and fibers woven in with our own stories hum in mournful recognition? Is it any wonder they sing out, in one last hymn of good-bye?

In mourning the death of an icon you are mourning a tie that binds you not only to them, but to the person you used to be, the one you are, the one you are about to become. The knot that held you firmly in that time and place unravels. Not enough to send you spinning off into space; but enough to make you pause. Just enough to fall to Earth.

 

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “We Can Be Mourners, Just for One Day

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  1. I’ll always have fond memories of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” because it was one of the songs/videos on Dance Dance Revolution I could actually do, and the kids and I had so much fun with it. Oh, and the awesome Christmas duet with Bing Crosby – I know a lot of people make fun of that, but I LOVE it.

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    1. That’s another thing about icons, I think. We all have our separate, individual memories about specifics, but we feel like those are part of the public domain at the same time. It’s individual, but shared. It’s a beautiful thing.

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  2. Beautiful, thanks Dina for putting this out there and sharing. It’s funny, I was trading emails with a couple friends of mine back in the States, talking about the release of his last record — and I went online to look at his discography, and well, that says it all. I mean, it says a lot of it, but not it all exactly. What a neat, inspirational guy. Would have been fun to share a meal with, but we all can in a sense. I sang “Moonage Daydream” to myself after I heard this morning, in the shower. I’m betting many are bobbing their heads to him now, and will do for lifetimes to come.

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    1. Thanks, Bill. I was a fan, but I have been struck with the outpouring of longing and sadness expressed all over the place today. What a legacy to leave behind, right? If he ever falls back down to earth, all those arms and hearts will surely provide a comfortable cushion for him to land on.

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  3. I wasn’t a big Bowie fan (that said, I wasn’t the opposite, either, I just never followed him) but I’ve always appreciated that he was a big talent and definitely was struck by the seeming abruptness of his loss since I don’t think it was public knowledge he was sick- I didn’t know for sure. But his leaving does seem to have left created a vacuum in the atmosphere today.

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  4. As someone who grew up in a small, boring suburban town and didn’t fit in at all, I can say that Bowie came along and suddenly showed me that there were plenty of other misfits in the world and there was a whole other life that you could lead that didn’t have to be like your parents after all.
    My father hated Bowie with his long hair and feminine clothes. Ironically I have cried more tears for Bowie than I did for my father.
    Good well-written tribute.

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    1. I think that’s why his death has left a void–as does the death of many an iconic figure over the years. I imagine a lot of fathers (and probably mothers) hated him for that very reason–challenging the status quo–which is exactly the reason anyone who didn’t fit in was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. And that was the beauty of Bowie. Add in the music, the fashion, the voice–but it was his individuality I think that really touched a lot of people; probably right at the right time they needed it. Your last sentence breaks my heart.

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D.E. Haggerty

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