I was working on a fan letter to you. You know, just checking in. I had heard that you had been having some problems lately, especially since that really terrible performance a few weeks ago that was all over YouTube. I was going to tell you that I hope you’re feeling better, and that no amount of money or fame is more important than actually being alive.
Then you died.
I suppose I can’t blame people who immediately grabbed on to the spooky fact that you were 27 years old, just 11 years older than me. You could have been my big sister. Being the newest member of “The 27 Club” seems to be both accurate and belittling. I look at my four year-old cousin and I wonder if he has the addiction gene like you did. Any of us could. My grandfather had it, and so did my great grandmother. But they got better. Maybe they didn’t seem happy all the time, but they were alive and they did manage to have moments of joy in their lives .What I’m saying is that they could get there to, you know, themselves.
I don’t know what it must have felt like to 1) feel completely uncomfortable and miserable while sober and 2) have the power to control your condition, but basically decide not to. For the non-addict this seems insane. But it’s a brain thing, a self-esteem thing, and maybe an art thing.
It makes me anxious, as a young artist myself, to see the myth of the tortured, suicidal artist play itself out yet again in the headlines. Is creating good art more important than life itself? Is it more important than taking that big step to accept that itchy, hopeless feeling for the rest of your life so you can live another day? Why did you wrap yourself up in your image and how much and well you produced music so much so that you couldn’t bear to face your flaws? If we were, like, really little kids and you saw a little girl saying “I have to get this right, I have do better, people won’t like me unless I give them something great” wouldn’t you do everything you could to sweep that little girl up in your arms and say, “No, no you’ve got it all wrong. You’re good enough just being you, right here and right now. Now worries, OK love?” I have a feeling you would be really nice that way.
But now it’s too late. A very deep, damaged part of yourself gave in and gave up. You couldn’t fathom living day in day and out without the comforting, buffering haze of drugs and alcohol. You forgot the feeling you had when someone close to you would hold you and rock you to sleep if you were low in yourself. You forgot the joy of swinging too high on a playground swing and then hurling yourself into the air, a little scared that you might land too hard, but relieved and excited when you didn’t. You forgot the feeling of having cousins over you haven’t seen in a long time and sleeping in a tent under the stars. Did you ever do that?
I don’t understand addicts. But I do understand that addiction is a real disease that really kills. I am sad for you, Amy. I was going to say that I’m sad for all the world who will never experience all the music you had left in you. But I actually don’t care about that so much. I guess I care about you because I don’t personally know anyone, at the moment, who is slowing killing herself or has actually self-destructed. I knew you through pictures and recordings and reports. You were a human being– a person who died from a terrible disease that millions of people have. I am sad for all of them, too.
Rest in Peace, Amy.