I find relationships challenging. I am a little skeptical because I have a sneaky suspicion that we are not in relationships with each other. We are in relationships with the "idea" we have of one another. I am not sure how often we really listen to each other past the lenses of our own opinions, needs, or wants.
On occasion, I work with celebrities or notable people. I remember a young woman walking up to Odetta at Joe's Pub. She was in awe and excited because Odetta had been a friend of her father. It was meaningful and impactful to this young woman. While Odetta was gracious, she could not recall the young woman's father. The more the young woman tried to help Odetta remember... well... it was... sort of awkward.
Kind of like those of us who assume familiarity with celebrities because they give us a gift -- their gift. We seem to mistakenly take the gift as the whole person; making them something they could never be and then we grieve from a very personal but yet distance place.
I must remember that Whitney Houston was not my child, my mother or even my friend. I was impacted by her music... but the devastation of the loss to her family greatly outweighs my sadness. And if I am not careful, I am inclined to weigh her passing... in an awkward and overly familiar way.
What is familiar to me are my own losses, my own family struggles, and even my own mother's tears as we looked at the news of Whitney's passing and I knew she was thinking "a mother should never have to bury a child". That's familiar to me.
As I wrestled with this loss, I came across my brother and friend, Bunmi Samuel's post on Facebook which put my thoughts into words, which he graciously allowed me to share:
One of the Greatest...
I sung "One Moment in Time" at my 6th grade graduation and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" was my mother's jam. Great memories because of her!
But I'm sad, not shocked; sad because she called out for help and her call could not be answered. We viewed your love and passion and fed on it. We misunderstood your call.
I'm sad because she is so beautiful and did it before it was pop and cool to be so. Damn, she was a Diva, spewing magical charisma. The media and social networks vilified her but then honor on award shows and interviews.
We all know addiction. We still laugh and point fingers as if we don't see it each day.
Whatever her cause of death the signs of unhappiness, showed themselves many, many years ago. It always does. Whether its Mike Tyson way before the bite, Mike Jackson way before the isolation, or Whitney way before the lashing out -- the stardom, the access to everything, and public life without privacy. I know it would shake me. We are not prepared for it.
Wouldn't it shake you?
At 48 she passed, so think how many memories she created. She started rocking as an adolescent. All our lives should be so blessed. 30 years of doing it consistently.
I know she is a soundtrack for my life. Song after song, I can run them down. So I stop myself from laughing at the cruel jokes, assuming why she died, and what role Bobby played. The carefulness is most important because of her family, daughter, and legacy. The addiction ridicule is flowing because many of you have become media whores -- no longer living your lives but loving others more.
What I do know is many critics are only relevant because of her star quality. When it's your uncle, cousin or mother struggling; you don't tweet or gossip that.
So Queen Whitney, I celebrate your courage and "Superhumaness" for as long as you could handle it. I apologize that this world fed off of your pain and all didn't see your pain, through your lens and their own, and cheer on your confidence and tell you that you are just a girl from Newark that grew to be a Diva. Sorry I never met you to tell you keep pushing on. You deserve so much better.
Wow, I sang your song in the 6th grade. I felt confident in my little suit and hopeful in that Bedstuy auditorium that I would live past my teenage years, which was not guaranteed.
So thanks to you babe. You're an angel, NOT a joke.
Big Bunmi, Love to You!
Thanks Bunmi, for your words.
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