Like most of the world, I woke up to the news that David Bowie had passed away today; and none of us even knew he was sick. The fact that he kept his illness private is astounding in today’s culture. To keep something that newsworthy quiet is a hard task indeed.
Even harder for Bowie, I imagine, was not letting his friends in on the secret. Those who had known him, loved him and supported him for decades sent out their shocked and surprised tweets and messages of sadness.
One particular message stood out the most – that of his longtime friend and collaborator Brian Eno, who had no clue his friend was dying. Eno shared that he received an email from Bowie seven days ago, which read, “Thank you for our good times, Brian. They will never rot.”
Looking back on this email, Eno realizes that this was Bowie’s goodbye and shared so in a New York Times interview.
Saying goodbye is hard; hard for the recipient and even harder for the sender.
Would it make a difference if Eno had known that was Bowie’s final words? Would he have maybe shared a more meaningful return message? I’d say Eno is thinking about that final message, and analyzing every word.
In fact, I would bet my own life that he is because I have done the same.
After losing my friend to suicide, I have analyzed our final meeting over and over in my mind. Unlike Eno, we had a face to face meeting three weeks before her untimely death to celebrate what was to be her last birthday. I didn’t know it was goodbye then but looking back, it clearly was. The signs were there in the long hug, the standing at the door watching me drive away, and the squeezing of my hand in thanks just a little bit longer than normal at the kitchen table as we shared a pizza I brought.
A few days after that visit I received a thank you note, thanking me for all the gifts I brought on that last visit. The last words she wrote to me were, “I loved all my gifts but most of all I love you.”
It’s the last words that make a difference. How we respond to them and what we do with them is up to us. We can’t always recognize when it will be someone’s final goodbye. The choice is ours though to carry those words with us for a lifetime.
Bowie said, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.”
My friend loved nothing more than to dance. And, when I was 12, there was nothing more I enjoyed doing than putting on a little Bowie and finding the serious moonlight.
So, “Let’s Dance,” shall we?