In her new memoir, The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince, Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia spends nine of her book’s 12 chapters recounting their seven years together. Their relationship began with a friendship when she was just 16 (he was in his early 30s at the time), and it culminated in marriage six years later. Not long afterward, they had a son, Amiir, who died within a week of his birth. By all accounts, it was the most heartbreaking moment of Prince’s life. And Garcia’s book illustrates how his grief — as well as his desire to be a father — was both extraordinarily painful and touchingly ordinary.
For starters, Prince had babies on the brain even on his and Garcia’s wedding day:
We got out of the car, and my husband carried me over the threshold on his shoulder like a sack of coffee beans. The house had been completely redone to make it our home. He took me by the hand and showed me every room. … Upstairs in an anteroom outside the master bedroom, there was a crib. My husband went in and cued up the other song he’d been working on: “Let’s Have a Baby.”
Not surprisingly then, Prince was ecstatic when Garcia told him she’d become pregnant on their honeymoon:
We huddled together in bed, living this perfect moment, knowing we were going to be parents, talking about all the things that needed to be learned and done and prepared. The whole house felt full of love and joy and expectation.
Prince even recorded Amiir’s heartbeat in the womb and used it for a song on his 1996 album Emancipation. But he did super-basic dad stuff, too — even reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting:
We planned to do a home birth in the big bathtub upstairs. We watched educational videos on natural childbirth and circumcision and nursing. How to bathe the baby. How to burp the baby. How to change the baby’s diaper.
We both read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but there’s really no way you can know what to expect when you see that first ultrasound. We craned into it, fascinated at the murky image of our baby’s body, waiting to catch a glimpse of a hand or little toes. We took home a videotape and watched it over and over.
It was the same thing when Amiir was born:
I don’t know how to describe the look on my husband’s face. Pure joy. Pure love. Pure gratitude. I’d seen his face when he stood in front of a stadium filled with 48,000 screaming fans. I’d seen his face as he scored platinum albums and received the highest awards in his industry. I’d seen him experience the ecstasy of creative genius. None of that compared to the look I saw on his face in this moment, when he became a father.
Immediately, though, Prince and Garcia realized the baby was very ill. Amiir had Pfeiffer syndrome type 2, “a genetic disorder that causes skeletal and systemic abnormalities.” The situation was dire, requiring multiple surgeries to keep Amiir alive. His death a few days later created a fundamental change in Prince:
Imagine a skydiver leaps from an airplane. He has the best equipment and does everything right. At first, there’s euphoria. He sees so clearly — blue sky, green earth, beauty without limit, a higher perspective. He has absolute faith that he’ll land safely and be a better man than he was before. But it turns out his parachute is tangled. He struggles to fix it, but the chute tears away and disappears into the sky. Panic grabs him by the throat, but still — faith. He has faith. In free fall, he flails, trying to pray, but the force of gravity takes his breath away. He sees the hard ground coming at him, and he knows that if he survives this, he will never be the same.
At the end of The Most Beautiful, Garcia thinks back on her relationship with Prince, especially in light of his death. And she quotes from his song “Comeback,” a touching final word on the matter that references the child’s death and the Purple One’s sadness — and his hope that one day they’d be reunited:
Don’t have to say I miss you
Because I think you already know
If you ever lose someone
Dear to you
Never say the words “They’re gone”
They’ll come back