David Bowie was an icon to my generation. I loved the music, the lyrics, and the beauty of the man who showed us it was OK to be different. He did not preach tolerance. He lived it. I posted RIP online when he died. I stated publicly that I was singing 'Major Tom'. The earth, to some of us, looked 'very different' that day. Along with many others I wanted to pay my respects to Bowie's unique creative spirit.
Then came a little reaction from people objecting to this public expression of grief for a man we had never met. 'Leave the grieving to his family and friends,' we were told, as though our comments in memory of David Bowie were somehow an intrusion into the grief of those who had loved him as a man.
Iman wrote somewhere that she fell in love not with David Bowie, the public figure, but with David Jones, the man. I'm not grieving personally for David Jones, a man I never met. I am saddened by the loss of a fellow human being who touched so many people's lives.
I don't believe this trivialises his death. On the contrary, I think it's important to mark the death of public figures who inspired us and enriched our lives. We did not grieve for the death of Diana, the woman, but for the loss of a beautiful princess. Such public grief has its place, and I think it's important. It's wrong to dismiss it. Because our shared grief is a shared recognition that when it comes to our own mortality, we really are all in this together. 'Every man's death diminishes me, because I am part of mankind."
David Bowie enriched our experience of life. In sharing the loss, we are offering each other support in the face of the human condition. 'Therefore send not to know for who the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.'
It is fitting that David Bowie, who led the way in showing us how to tolerate our differences, should remind us that in the end we are all the same. When a loved one dies, our grief is personal and private. This is something different, and significant, like David Bowie. RIP.