Thursday, August 16, 2007
Where were you when?
It was thirty years ago today.
Where were you when you heard that Elvis was dead?
I was in Charleston, S.C., serving a little mission church. I was not an Elvis fan.
Ten years later, the summer of 1987, I was in Memphis, finishing graduate school. Late in the evening of August 15th, moving toward midnight, I joined thousands of others - fans, the merely curious, the imitators and their fans, at the gates of Graceland. As the evening wore on the Graceland staff passed out little candles, the kind we use at Christmas eve candlelight services. At midnight we all lit our candles and slowly, quietly, filed past the music staff gates, up the winding drive and past the graves of Elvis, his twin brother, his mother.
The crowd was subdued. Several members of the crowd fainted, most likely a response to the Memphis humidity and the summer heat. As we processed past the graves I heard soft sobbing behind me.
Perhaps it was the crowd, the late hour, the rocky state of my marriage, or maybe the event marking the tenth anniversary of Elvis' death. For whatever reason, I felt moved nearly to tears and others' sobbing felt contagious.
I had come to appreciate Elvis, even to be a fan. I've got some of his hits. I've visited the mansion. I was in Memphis when the Lisa Marie was taken from the airport, a mile from Graceland, and ferried to the parking lot across the street from Graceland. I saw it happen.
And tonight, in honor of his passing, I'm going to watch one of my favorite Elvis movies: Bubba Ho-tep.