Early last year Prince was due to tour Australia for a number of small and intimate “piano and microphone” shows. MM and I looked at the dates, looked at our work schedule, looked at flights, the costs and the logistics and promptly and swiftly put the thought in the “too hard” basket. We really wanted to but it felt like a bit too much effort and it was all to happen within a relatively short period of time so we just figured we would make it work next time.
There was to be no next time because as we all know, Prince died. He died about two months after the concert in Sydney that we thought to be “too hard” to manage. Man I was pissed off. Pissed off at myself for putting work first. Pissed off for not being crazy and spontaneous and thinking “bugger it, let’s go to Sydney this weekend to see Prince.” Properly pissed off.
“Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last” – Prince
On the same day that news broke of his overnight passing, I remember telling my staff in a team meeting about how we were meant to go to see him a couple of months ago but just didn’t make it happen. I was telling them this all with watery emotion, teary and philosophical I spoke about life being short, eat the cake, with a side of wine, do what makes you feel happy, make stuff happen, take the trip to Sydney to see a cool band. Profound I know but my thoughts were so visceral. Meanwhile my lovely staff didn’t quite know what to make of all of this but I’m pretty sure they may have been thinking that now would be a good time to ask for a pay rise.
Two hours after my declaration of what counts in life I took a phone call from a very close friend. With an open, broken heart she told me of a tragic situation that would ultimately lead to the passing of someone who was very very close to her, the sister of her soul if you like. It was the kind of call that stops you in your tracks.
I’ve been thinking of this day a lot this week because as I write this, it was 12 months ago, to the day.
It’s also on my mind because last week I attended a funeral of someone who I barely knew but through an online connection she had made quite an impact on me. Three years ago Emma Betts was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Melanoma. She died this month, aged just 25 years of age. If you know anything of her story you will know that she did not let her cancer diagnosis define her and what she achieved in such a short period of time is more than what many can only hope to achieve. Her funeral was really quite extraordinary. Emma’s wish was for it to be a “production” and that it was. It was the first funeral I have attended where the Order of Service included the recipe for Pavlova. The first where guests were required to stand up and sing and by that I don’t mean some church hymn. She was beautifully farewelled with hundreds of people singing “Horses” by Daryl Braithwaite. Forever I will hear that song and think of her and that moment.
Emily Jade O’Keeffe was the celebrant on the day and during her introduction she said that Emma lived a life that made you reflect on how you live your own life. This one statement resonated with me and I’m still reflecting on it. Rebecca Sparrow also spoke and beautifully and eloquently and perfectly summed it up by saying that it wasn’t just the length of her life but the breadth. Length and breadth. God I loved those words. Previously Rebecca had written that Emma’s life is a reminder that growing old is a privilege. You can read the beautiful tribute here. Rebecca Sparrow always has a way with words, she weaves them together like magic so her words have also been billowing around in my head.
We know that life is short and we know those words alone are a cliché. But sometimes things happen that remind you that not all clichés are created equal. It’s a bit idealistic to think that you can live a life where you appreciate every single moment, every day, all of the days. I am forever getting lost in the business of just getting by. Work, family, toddlerhood, motherhood, wifehood. You know, reality. So how then do you find the balance between everyday existence and living a life that someone will one day say that your life made them look at how they lived their life? Of course I don’t actually know the answer to this. I think though there is purpose in accepting the totality of life, the light and dark and the air in between and to then be the best version of yourself but without expectation of perfection. That living a life that can be defined by length and breadth is living all of it, embracing all of the bits. Because tonight I still have to get a toddler to bed and though I would mostly see this as a mild form of torture it is also a privilege. Because tomorrow is work and with that comes demands and deadlines but also freedom and opportunity.
Live a life that despite the routine and the normality there is laughter and kindness, empathy and grace. Humanity is life and death and grief and love. That even when you are going through something awful and sad or just plain average you don’t have to be defined by your circumstances because they are not who you are.