“Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.” (George’s last words, which I often think of.)
Fifteen years ago, 29 November 2001, George Harrison dropped his physical body and left the material world. The news didn’t get out until 30 November (my first anniversary with The Who’s Odds and Sods), which was a Friday. One of the ladies in my estrogen Who lists had had a dream about George dying on the 30th, and, sure enough, that was the day the news broke.
Everyone knew he was dying. It was only a matter of time. For that reason, I didn’t immediately cry. This wasn’t some out of the blue death, like John Entwistle’s seven months later. George had been very sick for awhile, and was only getting sicker.
It was raining as I walked to my 10 AM Russian class. I think I might’ve come a bit late. Late that afternoon, I bought my ticket for the Hillel Semi-Formal. My friend “Ella” had convinced me to go, saying we’d all have a really great time and that it would be nothing like the high school dances I’d always avoided. No one needed a date to go.
That night at services, I said Kaddish for George. I’ve always said Kaddish for people I love and admire, no matter what their religion was. This prayer is all about praising God, and never once mentions Death or anything explicitly theological. Most rabbis do draw the line at saying the memorial prayer El Malei Rachamim for a Gentile who wasn’t related to the mourner, but we can say Kaddish and Yizkor for whomever we want.
I wasn’t yet Shomeret Shabbat, so that night I watched some VH1 on the communal TV in the upstairs lounge. They were doing a tribute to George, and airing some interview he’d done fairly recently. He’d also played some songs during the interview, including at least one new song. VH1 was still about music in those days.
It took a really long time for my mind to admit what my heart already knew, but now I proudly own George as my favorite overall Beatle, not just my favorite solo Beatle. I was too emotionally attached to having John as my favorite, coupled with how he’d been my favorite through some of the darkest nights of my soul. He’d been far more than just my favorite Beatle, and I didn’t want to betray that.
It was kind of like when I realized, in late 2000, that The Who had replaced The Beatles as my favorite band. That was honestly one of the saddest days of my life. To the end of my days, I’ll believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I might have taken my own life in eighth grade if not for The Beatles. They’re still the musical love of my life.
I was just gravitating more and more towards George’s songs, both as a Beatle and in his solo career, as well as everything about him. I truly consider him one of my spiritual mentors. He had such a beautiful relationship with the Divine. I’ve never understood the accusation that certain of his songs are “preachy.” They seem pretty non-sectarian and non-judgmental to me.
Now I realize each of the three I’ve held as my favorite over the last 23 years needed to be my favorite at each of those respective times in my life. They just fit who I was. At the very start, I liked Paul most because I thought he was the cutest (such mature reasoning!). Then John was my favorite from age fourteen onwards, though only when I was seventeen did I admit he was my only favorite and that I hadn’t really had two favorites. As Jerry Springer often says in his Final Thought, “When you claim to love both, you truly love neither.”
It’s hard to put into words everything George means to me, what a truly special, beautiful, incredible person he was. But at the heart of it, he just most deeply speaks to the type of person I’ve developed into. He would never have felt right as my favorite Beatle in my teens or twenties.
And maybe I really am slowly turning into my mother as I get older, since George was her favorite too!
My sweet George, may your beautiful light shine forever. It was such an honor to share the Earth with you for 21 years and 11 months.