After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye - Jan Gaye (2015)
I cannot tell you that Marvin’s death led me to the realization that drugs were ruining my life and caused me to put them down. It did no such thing. The sad fact was that in the immediate aftermath of his death, I used drugs to block the pain, only delaying it and ultimately increasing my usage. Like a dark cloud, my drug addiction hung over me for a year after Marvin’s passing. Finally, with the support of Rick James—who himself was plagued by a series of relapses—I ultimately did stop and am glad to report that for many decades I have lived a life free of the madness brought on by drugs.
In the years following his death, I went through every emotional phase known to man and woman. I was furious with Marvin for leaving us; for not being there to watch his children grow up; for missing the joy of his grandson.
Mostly, though, I was furious and angry with myself. I had fallen for Marvin. I had followed him. Even after following him proved to be a senseless thing to do, I kept exhibiting the same behavior.
How could I ever forgive myself for fucking up on such a massive scale?
For years I couldn’t. For years I was driven by a bitterness fueled by rage. Marvin had abandoned us. I had abandoned myself. Marvin had manipulated and used me. I had manipulated and used him.
The more I thought about those eleven-plus years that we were together, the more potent my self-disgust.
And yet . . .
I put on a record. I close my eyes and listen to Marvin sing “What’s Going On.” I close my eyes and listen to Marvin sing “God Is Love” and “Save the Children.” I close my eyes and listen to Marvin sing “Let’s Get It On” and “I Want You.” I close my eyes and listen to the sublime ballads from Vulnerable.
The softness, the sweetness, the engaging harmonies, the heart-healing soulfulness, the sound of a man in pain and joy and hurt and hope and love, the expression of someone who reflects divinity even as the weight of his human frailties brings him back to earth, back to my arms, back to my life, a life that he has never left and never will. A musical life of love.
It has taken me a long time to learn, but I know now that love is not diminished by the opposing emotions that accompany it. I’m talking about jealousy, insecurity, distrust, even hate. Those emotions pass, but love lasts. It lasts because it contains the one ingredient that ensures its everlasting endurance: compassion.
After the dance of our romance—after all the senseless crazy changes we went through—I’ve learned to feel more deeply for Marvin than ever before.
In that same poem that Marvin loved, “The Four Quartets,” T. S. Eliot wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The love I shared with Marvin was excruciatingly difficult and exceedingly easy. Yet in its difficulty was a gift: it has forced me to do a great deal of introspective work. “Work,” wrote Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, is “love made visible.” Beyond helping me find compassion for Marvin, that work has led me to find compassion for myself. That I lost myself in someone else—someone as remarkable as Marvin Gaye—is no longer cause for self-condemnation. It is cause for sublime celebration.
I was who I was and I did what I did. In spite of my history, I have survived. Marvin’s history, with all its brutal complexities, cut short his survival. He was who he was and he did what he did. I no longer have to judge him or judge myself. Compassion overwhelms judgment.
Night and day, Marvin’s voice becalms our hearts and nourishes our souls. And so he lives inside me, he lives inside all of us, as a spirit of harmony, a soaring spirit that connects us to the power of inextinguishable love.
My children and I do our best to move forward. We strive to conduct ourselves with self-respect while honoring the great artistic legacy Marvin has left. Difficult as these past thirty years have been, we remain grateful for his presence in our lives. He is a gift.
Our gratitude is boundless—for all the challenges and strife, all the victories and harmony, for all we enjoyed, all we suffered, all we endured, all we lost, all we gained, all we learned, there is deep and abiding appreciation.
The final words are not “the end.” The final words are . . .