I can finally cross “go to Paisley Park” off my Bucket List – well, kind of. I went to the fence around Paisley Park this past weekend, but obviously couldn’t go inside, because of the recent death of Prince.
When I added it to my Bucket List, I meant “go inside of Paisley Park and see Prince perform in person. Or simply see him in person and bask in his beautiful creative energy.” Now that that goal is no longer possible, I thought I would at least go to the fence around Prince’s estate to see how other people memorialized his wonderful spirit while Paisley Park was still as he had left it.
I read the tributes and viewed the items that were woven into the fence and left on the ground. I saw lots of purple balloons, purple flowers, purple beads, purple clothes, purple umbrellas, poems, paintings, drawings, photos of people Prince never knew, Bisquick, Doritos, Cap’n Crunch with soy milk . . . As I examined the memorial wall, I felt entertained by the symbolism of some of the items that were references to Prince. Then I felt like I had overdosed on exposure to “purple as idea.” Then I became consumed by trying to understand why death motivates some people to take action more than life does. I, unfortunately, consider myself one of those morbidly motivated people.
I didn’t make the effort to attend one of Prince’s concerts at Paisley Park while he was still alive, even though I knew it was something that would have brought me joy. It took his death to even bring me to the perimeter of his property. It took his death for people to leave notes, flowers, and food at his fence. Prince is most definitely worthy of the outpouring of love that has occurred since his death, but I feel like he would have appreciated the sentiment much more if people left things like groceries at his place when he was alive. He could have felt good donating the items to a local food shelf. If people had expressed their appreciation for Prince with flowers and balloons routinely stuck in his fence while he was still alive, he could have enjoyed hand-delivering them to a local Senior Center and brightening someone’s day. All of the stuffed animals that have been stuck in his fence, out in the elements the last couple weeks, could have been given by Prince to children in need if people would have just tossed them over his fence while he was still alive. Of what use are the things stuck in the fence of someone who is no longer here? Why do so many of us put so much effort into celebrating people with things, and even words, once they’re gone? Why do we often neglect such acts of kindness while the people we care about are still alive?
I realize that Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness and may not have believed in celebrating birthdays and Christian holidays, or receiving gifts on such occasions. But, I imagine that he still enjoyed receiving gifts unexpectedly from the people who cared about him when he was alive. I’ve always been someone who has loved finding excuses to celebrate the people in my life to let them know how much I appreciate them – sometimes to the point of annoying family members who would rather not be appreciated by me so much. But, ever since I was a child, I have been painfully aware that I have failed far too many times to make the effort to do something with a friend or family member before they died. I, and the people I cared about, certainly would have benefited from a phone call, a lunch date, sending a message or token of my love . . . much more than the funeral flowers, memorial money, or the sympathy card I sent to their surviving family.
I think we memorialize people we care about after they’re gone to make ourselves feel better. I believe it does absolutely nothing for the deceased. I didn’t leave anything in the fence at Paisley Park, but I have written about how great Prince was after he was gone. It made me feel slightly better to share my thoughts concerning what he meant to me, but he will never see my kind words. I will probably continue to memorialize my loved ones when they pass in the way that I’m accustomed just to make myself feel better. But, I really hope from this point forward that I am even more passionate about celebrating the people I care about while they’re alive so they can actually benefit from it in some way.
I’m adding something to my weekly To Do list that will hopefully benefit me and help me achieve more things on my Bucket List: Do at least one life-motivated thing, like going to see an amazing musician perform. I believe we should all be making it a priority to do what nurtures our own wonderful spirit, as well as other people’s. If we find that other people aren’t giving us evidence of appreciation while we’re alive, it’s my belief that we should fill our own fence and make a point of celebrating ourselves on our journey “to get through this thing called life.”*
I wish everyone could realize how important it is to give boxes of Bisquick, Doritos, and Cap’n Crunch to the people they love while they’re still alive.
* A lyric from Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved.
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