I don’t think anyone was expecting to say goodbye to David Bowie last night. On reflection, looking at the album he left us just a week or so ago, he knew. He gave us the video for Lazarus only five days ago. The timing was impressive.
We like to tell ourselves stories, half-joking, about people like Bowie. They tower in our minds, they seem different, we feel as if Death would not touch them. Starman, fey and otherworldly. He could not die, only cross back home. Christopher Lee was a vampire for true, only appearing to age, like Dracula. He could not be dead; he must live forever. We know these stories are not true but we cling to them, and when that person dies it is a shock to see their mortality stark before us. If they are mortal, only human, what are we? Christopher Lee was old, and it should have been expected, but I denied it in my head until it happened. Terry Pratchett was ill, and did not want his mind to rot away within his shell, but it was a blow when it came. And David Bowie? We did not even know that he was sick. Shock, denial, grief, and that dread feeling of time flowing away beneath like shifting sands, as those immortal nephilim leave us one by one, and we fight to keep our footing.
I’ve always liked David Bowie, aesthetic and music, but I’ve never been what you’d call a “big fan”. There were plenty of people around the internet who felt similarly and were largely unmoved, but it shook me, I confess. I think it was something about his elven features and adversarial air that made me feel as if he had a long way to go yet. It felt wrong; it felt unfair. It was not time to let him go. Hozier’s In a Week shows the beauty of death and decomposition; demystifies it; embraces it as the fate that comes to us all. Yet it is hard to think of Bowie lying beneath the flowers. There is a piece missing in the mind. It was not time, and yet, for him it must have been. He knew, and gave us one last piece of art.