Talking about death to children is not an easy thing to do - far harder than teaching the facts of life! But how do you approach it when you are not sure of your own answers? I have tried to put together the worries and questions my children had, and how my husband and I, as agnostics, approached the answers.
What's the worst word in the English language? It's not what you think. It's not four letters, but nine - "malignant". One month shy of her 36th birthday, my wife Carolina handed me the results of her biopsy, which indicated advanced breast cancer. I felt like the earth was swallowing me up. It was October 11, 2011.
Social media now extends into every aspect of life, from parents posting 12 week scans on Facebook to friends setting up 'in memory of' pages to remember loved ones. Our digital footprint exists from cradle to grave and beyond, with digital communications changing the way we talk about death and even how we plan for it.
The whole furore of Christmas and talking to my friend left me with a great sense of depletion. I recently found employment and I even worked in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. While I was working I thought about my friend, who told me that she did not want any medication and preferred to live with just her memories.
I am not claiming to have been more upset than anyone else; but George Michael's sudden death affected me because he played a part in my life in a way that David Bowie, Prince or George Martin did not. So the next time the Grim Reaper comes calling for a celebrity, I will have sympathy for those that surprise me with their emotions rather than snigger and sneer.
Bowie made me think differently. He gave me permission to read literature and philosophy and like abstract art. Then later, inspiration to leave my small Northern town and try my luck in the big wide world. Aged thirteen I never anticipated that my schoolgirl hero would have such a huge influence on how I learnt to deal with death and mortality, through a cancer diagnosis and the loss of my father.
My wife and I had only one reading at our wedding and it was from his short book. Our lives have been held together by many things, but John Berger's words are the literary resin that binds us. As we turn to face what 2017 holds in store for us - as the angels chatter distills and clarifies - the incredible legacy of Berger's writing is something magical to draw on. It can help see us through.
The LGBTQ+ community does indeed owe George Michael a debt of gratitude. Alongside the rest of the world, we thank him for his amazing musical legacy, for his ability to make us sing, dance and cry. However, we in the LGBTQ+ community should also be thankful to have had George Michael as one of 'our own'.