Reflecting on Jennifer Hudson's loss

Two years ago, I felt pain like I had never felt before. Losing a parent is the hardest thing anyone has to experience in life– aside from, I would guess, losing a child.

But to lose a parent, a sibling and a nephew all at once…

I just don’t know if I could deal with it.

Surely by now you’ve heard about the murders of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew here in Chicago. News like this is terrifying and horrible, no matter whose family it happens to. The fact that it happens to be the family of a recent Oscar winner and singer with an album currently on the charts is irrelevant. This would be news even if it was a typical family living a typical life.

The question that remains is not “How does this happen?” because the answer to that is, simply, “It just does.” Things like this, unfortunately, happen all the time, all over the world. There are crazy people out there who think nothing of taking the life of an innocent 7-year-old child, his uncle and his grandmother. It sucks, and we grieve inside when it happens, but that’s the reality of the world we live in.

The question that remains is also not “What is happening to people today?” because things like this have happened for centuries, and will continue to happen for centuries to come. Residents blame the police and the politicians, the politicians blame the schools and the families, families blame themselves and everyone else. There are fingers pointed in all directions but never any answers.

No, the question that remains is neither of these. The question that remains is, “How does one cope with such a terrible loss?”

When my father died, it was sudden. He was sick, yes, but he wasn’t dying. One day he was there. The next, he was gone. Poof. No more. Whether he died of a heart attack or at the hands of a murderer, the fact remained that he was gone, and we were left to carry on from that point forward. There were no long goodbyes or final words. It was over in an instant.

The pain we felt from that point forward was immense, but I can’t help but imagine what it must be like to experience that times three.

Add to that the emotional trauma of having to identify bodies and speak to the police about finding person who did it. It takes an incredibly strong-willed person to endure that sort of torture.

I grieve for Jennifer and her family. Because the added pain of this situation is that Jennifer Hudson is a celebrity; therefore this story will continue and be talked about for months afterward. Trials will happen and convictions will (hopefully) be handed down, and it will all be in the news.

At least when I lost my dad, my family was able to move on from the point of the funeral in relative peace and quiet, and we healed in our own private ways. The Hudson family won’t get that sort of healing time. And for that reason, I grieve for them the most.

Today in History: Princess Diana's Death

I can scarcely believe that Princess Diana died 11 years ago. It seems like just yesterday that I heard the news for the first time… only to not believe it at all. It didn’t really sink in until after I heard it from my sister that it was really true.

In my 1997-1998 Online Journal (pre-blogging), I wrote about the moment I first heard about Diana’s death. I had been camping with my friends, and a latecomer to the group first broke the news:

August 31, 1997
… When we got back to the campground, we found out that another friend, Steve, would be arriving in a little while. Steve had gone camping with us in Michigan numerous times. When Steve arrived about an hour later, he said, “So have you guys been living in a vacuum, or have you heard that Princess Diana died?”

We thought he was joking. Steve tends to joke a lot, and a lot of times we don’t know whether to take him seriously or not. We laughed and said “Yeah right,”

“No, I’m serious, she’s dead,” Steve said, and told us about how the paparazzi were chasing her and the car crashed in a tunnel in France. We still didn’t believe him, and he finally gave up trying to convince us.

I, however, was disturbed just enough by what he said that I had to check it out. I snuck out of the campsite and went up to the grocery building and called my parents. My sister answered the phone. The first thing she asked was, “Have you been hearing any news?”

I knew what was next. “No,” I answered. What’s up?

“Princess Diana Died. She was in a car accident.”

I felt my heart sink. I couldn’t believe it was true. “Oh my GOD”….

She told me all about what happened, how the paparazzi were on their tail, how they took pictures after the car crashed and she was still alive; how her boyfriend was dead and so was the driver; how she died a few hours later at the hospital.

I was instantly stunned, and couldn’t think of anything else after that. I ran back to the campground and broke the news. Everyone was shocked, and apologized to Steve for not believing him. I just sat by myself for a while thinking about it.

It’s funny, she wasn’t our princess, and yet she was. They have been calling her the “Princess for the People” and it was true. She was royalty in everyone’s eyes, no matter what the British Parliament said. She was such a humanitarian, and so incredibly beautiful. And now she is gone…. and I will always remember– just as those who were alive when John F. Kennedy was assassinated– where I was when I heard she had died.

The news kind of marred the rest of the day; I couldn’t get it out of my mind… but the day did continue, and we did have a lot of fun. It was so beautiful on Saturday, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and at night, the stars were so bright it seemed as if you could pick them right out of the sky. I sat and stared at them, wondering what really happens after we die. Where we go– what we do. Yeah, deep, I know, but I guess I just think of those things when I realize just how insignificant we really are. It’s humbling to think about that once in a while.

One of the most powerful moments of her funeral — and there were many — was Elton John’s performance of “Candle in the Wind,” re-written and dedicated to his friend and fan, Princess Diana, with the subtitle “Goodbye England’s Rose.” It went on to become the best-selling single of all-time; a record that has yet to be broken, and probably never will be broken. And Elton John has stated that, aside from special occasions, he will never perform the song again.

Here, then, in memory of Diana, is his mournful performance of that song at Diana’s funeral. How he made it through without bursting into tears is anyone’s guess. I know I couldn’t have done it. But Elton is a pro, and he handled it masterfully.