I know how this sounds, but it's an honest question: doesn't it seem like death and devastation were all up in the news in 2012? I think it started with Whitney Houston – a high-profile death that was not entirely shocking but nevertheless tragic.
There will never ever be another Whitney, just as there will never be another Jenni Rivera. These are women who left the world different than when they entered it. They inspired people. They opened doors for other artists after them. And many, many will mourn them - from those who knew them personally to those who felt extremely connected to them through their music.
I admit I did not sleep all that well in the days following the news of Jenni Rivera's death. Following and covering the story of someone's tragic and untimely death 24/7 will do something to you, will make you wonder things, like: What does looking at death mean to your own life? Is it a chance to make all your wrongs right? A chance to be grateful for what you take for granted? A chance to really start living?
It's a little bit of everything, I think.
Somewhere, I wondered, like many others, if maybe Jenni Rivera had been kidnapped by narcos, and would re-emerge at some point on El Gordo y La Flaca, as she always did, with an incredible story to tell – and she really did love telling stories. If you listen to her songs, they're all part of some telenovela-like yet somehow relatable narrative, the basis for her would-be biopic, in which Elizabeth Peña would play her to perfection, much like Jennifer Lopez played Selena.
It wasn't until I went to her parent's home in Lakewood, Calif, and I heard her family confirm that her remains had been identified, that it hit me with full force: This woman was gone, really gone – in what I consider to be one of the most awful ways one can die.
Did Jenni know she would leave this world in the way that she did – in a plane crash on that fateful 9th of December? Something her brother Pedro Rivera Jr. – who led her memorial service in Los Angeles last Wednesday – read aloud a few days after the incident makes me think that she did. It's on the back of her 2007 album Mi Vida Loca and it reads (translated from Spanish):
"Thank you for my roots and my culture, and for music and the experiences that magically transformed this caterpillar from Long Beach into a butterfly of the barrio. Thank you for not giving me any more than I could handle, for allowing me to spread my wings and fly as high as you wanted me to go. Thank you, Lord. I have to run now. I have a flight to catch."
Rivera's brother Pedro said that, two months ago, he'd had a feeling she would die in a plane crash. "I was watching the Ritchie Valens movie, La Bamba, and I had this feeling in my gut that that's how she would leave us. I did not tell her or anyone this at the time, because I said to myself, 'this is just a crazy thought.' But that just goes to show that sometimes there are signs put in front of us that we choose to ignore."
Whether or not we have a feeling of some sort, a premonition, does it really mean we have any more control over when it's our time to go? I personally don't think we have that power. I think assuming we do is somewhat arrogant.
Nothing reminds us how fragile and powerless we are more than natural disasters – and Hurricane Sandy certainly proved her point – a superstorm causing more than $50 billion in damage when it struck the Eastern Seaboard in late October.