As I heard about the (then) upcoming four-day celebration of Prince to commemorate the second anniversary of his passing in April 2018, I thought a lot about his devout fans, or his “purple family,” as they called themselves. (Prince did not like the word “fan” because of its association with the word “fanatic.”) Over the years, he had welcomed them into his Paisley Park home studio for concerts.
Since I hadn’t known a thing about Prince while he was alive, I wasn’t part of the special purple family alumni who would be at this gathering in Minneapolis to celebrate their love for him. I had been feeling rather melancholy that April and had written in my journal, “As April 21st approaches this year, I am surprised at the level of sadness I am feeling—like I miss him.” At the same time, I knew that I could reach him, much of the time.
It was a great honor, especially since many thousands of others loved him too. I also knew love isn’t finite. There is abundant love to go around, and none of us were really separate from him nor from anyone else for that matter. At a soul level, we could all love and be loved by him. Still I wondered, Do I really miss him, or am I tapping into the grief of his distraught fans and friends?
I’ve been aware since I was a child that I could “pick up on” other people’s thoughts and especially their emotions. My ability as an empath has served me well as a therapist, but I’ve also had to be vigilant and proficient at not letting myself get too overwhelmed by other people’s emotions.
But by Saturday, April 21, I was quite a mess, feeling sad and weepy and it didn’t make sense. Do I even have the right to miss Prince? I never followed him or his music. And although part of me wanted to be included in the beautiful, exclusive group of his long-devoted and loving purple family, I wasn’t part of them. I hadn’t been there from the beginning with them. Nonetheless, on this day that led to a dark night, two years after Prince’s exit from this earth, I was grieving, feeling all of it.
Quite by accident, the previous day I had stumbled across a video online of Prince, walking into either a health clinic or doctor’s office just a few hours before he died. It was followed by another clip that scanned the interior of his home, Paisley Park, and landed on Prince’s sunglasses and jacket, just as he had left them, and then—and it was horrible to see—Prince’s body lying in front of the elevator!
“Oh God, why did they show that?” I cried out, as waves of nausea stirred in my stomach. The queasiness roiled inside me throughout the day, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. My grief deepened. Any fan who saw those news clips must also be horrified. I cried for his fans.
That night I called out to Prince, “I just can’t do this anymore! Why did you come to me? I’m not a writer. Do you want me to communicate something specific for you?” As I considered his fans, I added, “I want to be able to talk about this in a way that they’ll believe. I would love to be able to offer some comfort.” Then in a burst of frustration, I said, “Forget it. I need a break from all this.”
And that was that. I called it a night and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, my first thought was, I need to set things straight with Prince. I am not bailing. But he was right there with me, a step ahead, in fact. Just as I was formulating my commitment to not bail, I heard his gentle voice say, “Patricia, please stay.” “Thank you,” I whispered. Our thoughts had blended in an instant, and all was well.
The next day as I started watching the news on my iPad that was propped up as usual on the kitchen counter, the news program suddenly evaporated before my eyes, leaving in its place one word, glowing in white lettering: FEEL. At first I was irritated that my program had crashed. I tapped at the power button, trying to get rid of the intrusive word. Not another glitch with my electronics…And just like that, the unwelcome word was gone.
But when I turned my iPad back on and tried to resume watching the news, it was the same scenario, again and again. Program disappeared; FEEL came back and remained. In fact, the glowing white word would not go away, but I had the wherewithal to take a photo of it, and a video, where you can see my finger pressing the Xfinity icon for streaming the news, and then everything disappearing except for the stubborn word.
FEEL. What’s that supposed to mean? But as soon as I posed the question, I knew the answer. Prince made the word appear on my iPad to encourage me to FEEL all my feelings and invite others to do the same. Aaah, of course it’s you. Thank you. He’d found a new form of expression—displaying a word through the cell phone signal onto my iPad. Very cool.
It also reaffirmed for me that we both have a choice in this connection. And now, each day, I choose to recommit to him, to myself, and to what I’ve come to understand is our sacred covenant.