"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." - Chuck Palahniuk
I had been looking forward to this Saturday ever since I crawled into bed last Sunday and prepared for another long work week. I started this day out with the highest of hopes, but had no clue it would turn out the way it did. I got to sleep in. I got to do some much-needed housework. I got to put on some D'Angelo and wash my hair with the house to myself while Homieloverfriend was out for his usual Saturday runnings. Then, a miscommunication between him and I led to one of those arguments where I scream and cry, and he sits silent until I've tired myself out. I felt that the anticipation of this day had been too much...so obviously it all had to go wrong.
I got the news on the way to the Harbourfront Centre's DJ Skate Party where we had planned to meet up with friends. There I was, sitting icy cold and steely-eyed in the car, the cloud of our earlier argument almost suffocating me in the car as we drove. Playing on my phone, I refreshed my Twitter feed, and saw Tweet after Tweet: Whitney Houston was dead.
I was floored. Whitney was one of those people who just was. She was just always there, and would always be there, through good times and bad. The loss was devastating. A child has lost her mother. The world has lost an incomparable gift. I lost a piece of my childhood. Like so many of my friends, I grew up with Whitney's voice floating through my home. Dad had her singles and albums on 45s, so on the weekends when he'd play tunes, Whitney was ALWAYS in the playlist. When my parents divorced, my mom would play Whitney songs to console herself and drown the pain in that crystal clear voice. I think Whitney was able to say things in her songs that my mom couldn't say herself. And when it was time to party? Oh, nary a celebration went by in our home without my mom doin' the Butt to "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". My mom can't dance, y'all - but she did not care once that song came on...and when I hear it today, I can't help but smile.
Obviously, the last major celebrity death that everyone recalls today is MJ. But for me, this death feels more similar to when Aaliyah passed. I always looked at Michael Jackson as a mythical creature with otherworldly aura and talent, but I saw myself in Aaliyah and Whitney. A little, skinny brown girl who could see these other little, skinny brown girls on TV - they were points of reference for me as I grew up as a young Black girl. Whitney, I think due to the age difference, represented what I wanted to be. She was a diva, a queen, a regal, passionate, and once-in-a-lifetime being who had such immense power tucked away in that tiny body. When she opened her mouth, she blew me away. When she was on TV, you pressed pause on your life to watch and listen. I couldn't sing worth a damn, but wanted to find my niche in life where I could also be regal. I could also be a queen. I could also be powerful and one-of-a-kind. Whitney represented those aspirations for me, and will continue to embody them.
Yes, Whitney had rough times. Times that we may not ever know the full depths of, but times that many of us feel entitled to judge, dismiss, and mock. Was I disappointed? Hell yes. I was even guilty of judging a time or two. I couldn't understand how someone who seemed to have it all, and seemed to be in control of it all, could let it slip between her fingers so easily. None of it made sense. Yes, weaker beings may have succumbed to the pressures of having God-given talent used for man-made fame, but not the Queen! Not Whitney! When she started making the moves to attempt to return to the glory of her former self, I was proud. Both the voice and the woman on the TV screen were grittier than I had known, but she was still that regal diva. I still couldn't turn away, because I knew that the piece of her that I identified with was still there.
In the car when I found out that the news of Whitney's passing was true, I immediately flashed to thoughts of my cousin, thoughts of my own mortality, thoughts of what the legacy will be that I will leave behind. Thoughts of how just moments before, I had been sulking over what seemed to be the worst Saturday ever - but I realized I was still here, I was still breathing, and I still had a chance to express love and do right and make great things happen with whatever time I have here on Earth. I wish Whitney still had more time to express love and do right and make great things happen, but I will be forever thankful for the memories of the times that she did all those things, and more.
Rest in peace, Whitney.