This post has been circling around my head for a few years, came out of an experience that happened when I was younger and has resurfaced because of the Amy Whinehouse discussions of the past week. In fact this post really has nothing to do with her at all apart from to illustrate an observation of disturbing human behaviour - the re birthing of the dead into saints and angels.
Let me start at the beginning. When I was 16 my father died. He died suddenly and was only 39 at the time. My mother and father had divorced when I was 5 and the majority of my family memories involving my dad include my mum's anger at him being unreliable (not paying child support on time, turning up on his visitation days... you know that kind of thing). As a child I did what any child does - I did anything I could to prove that I was worthy of his love. A futile exercise given he died before I could even accomplish graduating high school. I only disclose these details to explain why at 16 I didn't really know who my dad was - as a real person.
After my dad died though, he was no longer a somewhat irresponsible risk taking, unreliable parent. He became perfect. Stories of his humour and cheekiness where shared freely, while those that showed a darker or dare I say more human side were kept from me. Looking back on the behaviour that followed his death, I can now see the wider family dealing with the shock of his death as much as I was. But the outcome of this behaviour was to create the myth of a man who never existed and that I didn't know. That became another painful dart in addition to the one of never getting to know who my father really was anyway.
Think now to the death of pretty much every celebrity and can't you see the same process happening? Micheal Jackson is no longer a drug-addicted, recluse with questionable relationships with younger people but just the King of Pop and a misunderstood rock idol. Today Amy Whinehouse is no longer the butt of "how pathetic" comments (which were never helpful given that I believe addiction is a disease) and is now a shining musical talent taken from us tragically too soon and number 1 on iTunes.
Obviously influenced by my own experiences I find this need to re-invent human beings into angelic creatures that never did anything wrong extremely dishonest and disrespectful to the memory of the person affected. If I die tomorrow I might expect people to say I was kind, clever and funny but you know what I was also equally pig-headed, irritable and selfish and to forget that is to forget who I really was (or am).
Just my opinion.