I was moved like so many of us by the death of Peaches Geldof. The death of any 25 year old is always sad, the mother of young children even more so. Added to that for me is that Bob Geldof has had so much grief in his life, that my heart went out to him. It always surprises me when I am so deeply affected by the death of someone I do not know. I am of the generation that has grown up with celebrities filling our lives and Peaches’ death made me ask questions about our relationships to such. I have come to believe that there is a relationship with celebrity that goes beyond fandom or voyeurism. Bob Geldof is not just a person whose music I loved and whose life made me inquisitive. Bob Geldof is a man who profoundly changed my life and as a result I believe has become important in my life and therefore when his daughter dies so tragically I am beginning to understand how touched I am.
Bob Geldof hit my life with a punk bang when The Boomtown Rats released Looking After Number 1 in 1977. My Beatles’ default had pushed me to the pop end of punk. Here was a band I loved and Geldof was a front man with charisma and dramatic effect. He was from Dublin too. Then, the man who in that first single had sung “I don’t want no charity” changed the face of charity work forever by launching Band Aid that became Live Aid that twenty years later became Live 8. I remember in 1985, in my Theology College bedroom with Feed The World on the wall, trawling the Scriptures to connect Geldof’s selfless work with my faith. It was easier than I thought and I discovered Old Testament prophets and Jesus idea of the Kingdom of God and my life and ministry would never be the same again. As a man myself who is careful to look as careless as possible I loved that he had given scruffiness respect! I named Geldof as a secular saint, to much flak from colleagues in my denomination, but it is a poetic phrase that expresses what I still believe.
I probably believe it more now. Geldof didn’t only show a compassionate and selfless heart on the world stage but in family life as well. When he lost his beloved wife Paula Yates to rock star Michael Hutchence, Geldof was a broken man. That same sensitivity of heart, that caused him to respond to a television news report on children dying of hunger in Ethiopia, was shattered and felt sharp pain. Feeling so betrayed can lead to deep bitterness and resentment but when both Hutchence and Yates tragically died, just a few years apart, Geldof took into his family the daughter of the relationship that left him broken hearted. I found that more incredible than his saving of millions of lives. What a remarkable human being!
While in America, just last week, I was quoting Geldof regularly. Well, I was actually quoting a quote that he loves using from mountaineer WH Murray. It is about commitment and full of spiritual truth and inspiration. I have used many times on this blog. On one of my flights I was reading his interview with Gay Byrne on RTE Television that appears in the book of the scripts, The Meaning Of Life. I was taken by the pain of Geldof’s life. His wife died early. His dad worked away. He was a lonely boy. Then his description of his pain after Paula’s death. It was a sad read but ended on a very upbeat note as he shared a story of being on holiday with all his kids and realised that with his new partner Jeanne and his children he was a happy man and wrote Here’s To You, one of the best songs on his last album.
That I read that just a few days ago and heard about Peaches’ death today was a poignant juxtaposition. There goes Geldof’s sensitive heart again; broken. As his statement was read on the news, “We are beyond pain,” I felt so deeply for him. The other part of his Gay Byrne interview that impacted me was his strong conviction that God doesn’t exist. I know that I am a theist and am biased but I found it hard to believe that he doesn’t believe in God considering all that he does believe in. Today, it must be even harder for him to even consider belief in a deity. Yet, I am drawn to pray for him and his girls and Peaches’ husband and children. It is all I can and know how to do. Jesus called the Holy Spirit a Comforter. May God conjure another miracle and bring that comfort to the entire Geldof family.