The untimely death of Stephen Gately prompted me to start writing a blog again…I was shocked and saddened by the news when I got an early morning text from a friend’s husband. I cursed the seedy suggestions and homophobia created in the media void that followed (and was grateful yet again that I don’t ever even glance at the scandal soaked propaganda that is the Daily Mail) but I was truly overwhelmed with grief when I stumbled across the footage of Stephen’s funeral on Sky News.
The sheer force of the emotion shocked me. I had had a similar experience when I suffered through George Best’s funeral; as Northern Ireland mourned a much-loved though admittedly flawed favourite son. I had never met George Best, never even been in the same room as the man; am a generation too young to have experienced ‘El Beatle’ first hand: and yet I watched the footage of his funeral and felt my heart break.
I sat in my late father’s chair in my pyjamas wailing in grief. Daddy had been a huge Georgie fan and somehow, knowing how devastated he would have been at Best’s death made the loss of this one time amazing footballer somehow all too personal.
Stephen Gately I ‘knew’ better: or rather his fame had been part of my boy-band past. Boyzone too, climbed aboard the Take That train of ‘lets get the band back together success’. I dragged a long-suffering friend to Dublin for the weekend, who in turn bribed her sister to keep me company when I went to hear the ‘Boyz’ at the RDS at the beginning of last summer. It was a fun concert; I spent much of it in absolute fits of laughter: their music (the biggest selling band of the 90s) evoking a trip down an exploit filled memory lane.
As I sat once again in my pyjamas; hearing Stephen’s funeral ‘alongside’ the people he had grown up with in Sheriff Street, Dublin I was devastated once more. I listened as each of the band members spoke so eloquently and simply of the ‘brother’ they had lost. When Ronan Keating sang ‘In This Life’ I had to try hard to remember how to breathe. I was reminded that behind this trail blazing, closet shattering, very sweet, beautifully talented pop star was a son, a brother, a best friend and a husband.
When I met my Mum the next day for lunch she asked in that quietly all- knowing way of her’s why my eyes were so puffy; why I was so subdued. When I answered her she asked why I had tortured myself? Why not get up of the sofa and out of the pjs and find something to do with my Saturday? I struggled to give her a coherent answer…
I worry that I glory in my melancholy. That I allow every grief-stricken occurence in life to act as a self-indulgent gateway to the personal grief I do a reasonable job of keeping under control in better circumstances…
But a quieter part of my psychosis suggests that maybe the crying for a pop star who I had felt some sort of connection with (no matter how distant), or even the tears at good movies, great novels act as some kind of release valve. Their catharsis a means of preserving a sanity more delicate than anyone wants to admit….
Why do only the good die young? Is a question without an acceptable answer and I will leave my pondering on the nature of human suffering for a different time and blog space…however there are moments in life that give us perspective. Kick us on the metaphorical ass and whisper with some urgency in the ear we hear best with that,’This is it. This is your chance. This is life. Go…Do!’
I’m not sure that spending time writing about life is truly embracing the spirit of carpe diem (or making the most of the time afforded to me that wasn’t afforded to Stephen Gately) but maybe, just maybe, I am more likely to see the opportunities life presents me with if I can find the discipline to write about their merits…or maybe I will be less likely to have regrets if I am faced with their stark reality in the words that flow from my own fingertips.
(First published on Carpe Diem Carrie O’Hara)