And I Will Always…

I woke up this morning in Nigeria to the news of the untimely passing of Whitney Houston.  The night had been troubled and feverish leading to a slow morning made more surreal by unbelievable news delivered by text and Blackberry Messenger.

Of course it wasn’t true.  I wasn’t even going to hunt down the news.  No.  There were more electronic messages and then the harbinger of social media.  Finally, I could not ignore my friend’s voicemail about how upset she was.  It became inescapably true.  Whitney Houston was dead.

When Michael died we were blindsided.  I was in denial for hours awaiting confirmation.  With this news of Whitney, it was irrevocable.   The passing had been confirmed for hours.  I had nothing to face but the truth that this woman who was everything when I was growing was gone.  Suddenly, unceremoniously. Gone.

What bubbled up in me was not sorrow, though.  It was a quiet, humming rage that got louder as I read the missives on social media.  That rage grew to deafening thudding of my heart in my ears.

Why all this now?  Where were we when she was alive?  What difference does our outpouring make now that she is gone to us?  How dare you comment about her “wasted” talent?  How could you look at her legacy of astounding achievement and twist your finger to type “waste”?  Was she not potential realized?  Did she not burn bright only to come down and be among us, human?

The rage has long simmered down, making way for speechless sorrow.  I wish we had honored her in life the way death compels us.  I wish we had acknowledged her impact on our lives.  She was everything to the little growing Black girl that I was.  I sang along horribly as she serenaded me from childhood to adolescence and finally drifted away into adulthood.

She was my hero and like everyone else, I used her voice to fuel my dreams.  When that voice stopped booming, I cast her aside and moved on.  I shrugged off her struggles expecting her to overcome.  When it took longer than expected, I shelved my concern, biding my time, looking away, refusing to acknowledge what was attempting to replace my icon.

Then one day she came back to us, scarred, voice lost to her battle for life.  I was happy though I mourned such a beautiful thing now burned away.  That is when I, like everyone else who already had, took her down from her pedestal believing that I had gotten all that I could have from her.

Whitney Houston was no wasted talent.  In her short life, she accomplished more than many of us could dream to achieve many lifetimes over with just her voice.  In our greed, we wanted more and more from this phenom who gave us infinitely more than we could imagine.  She did not stop until she was spent and used up by our insatiable need for constant affirmation.  When she proved to be human like the rest of us, we went searching for another brightness to bask in until that light dimmed as well.

Little did I know that Whitney would one day trump all the naysayers.  She did so by dying.  Her passing has caused us to finally recognize her impact and honor her like we refused to in her last days.

In passing, Whitney Houston taught the ultimate message.  Nothing is forever.  Our heroes are not forever.  Let us honor our heroes often and always, letting them know they have don’t have to keep producing to retain our love.  Let us let them be human.

She gave us word and song.   They are left behind, a shadow of the incomparable voice and woman that sang until she could sing no more for us.   Thank you for this:

I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of.
And I wish to you, joy and happiness.
But above all this, I wish you love.

And I will always love you.

May we learn our lesson and honor loved ones, heroes and icons before death and after the music stops.  May we embrace our and others’ humanity.   May your soul rest in perfect peace, Whitney Elizabeth Houston.  You are loved.

Gratitude Day 9

Yesterday, I learned that one of hip hop’s icons, Heavy D, passed away suddenly at age 44. Too young…too soon.  In the face of such sad news, I searched to see if there was something to be grateful for during 30 Days of Tessism.

Heavy D has always been lauded as a pioneer among “big men” in the rap industry, but his impact and influence went far beyond his own career pursuits over the past 25 years. He was a triple threat – an artist, producer, and actor – who rubbed elbows with some of the best, and sometimes unlikely, names in the business.–Seandra Sims “Five Overlooked But Epic Facts About Heavy D”,

Gratitude:  I am grateful to have grown up when I did.  In a an era of hip hop at it’s purest and most diverse.  Although I am shocked with the passing of icon Dwight “Heavy D” Myers, I am glad that he was such a major part of my formative years.  I celebrate his life and am saddened that it is in death that I am reminded of his impact on so many lives.

In the place of sorrow, I pour gratitude.  Thank you Heavy D for your kindness, grace and style.  Thank you for being an example of versatile man who proved that hip hip wasn’t the realm of over-aggressive posturing.  You were a gentleman.  You were kind.  You were dedicated to your daughter, your family, your friends and your fans.  I am grateful to count myself among them.

Rest in power Heavy D.  Thank you for your contribution to the soundtrack of my life.  Thank you for giving me something to aspire to.

In Memoriam

On another day as bright and sunny as this one, we lost him.  I denied it as long I could, writing: Is it true?  The heart won’t accept what the tv reports…

So far, it has been confirmed by almost every other major news source except for CNN that the most prolific pop icon, Michael Jackson has passed away. I remain quiet, mouselike, diminished until CNN drops the confirmation. I expect that I will remain in denial long after that.

This has the same feeling that 9-11 did as I ran, covered in dust, away from the collapsing towers. The day was as beautiful and calm as this and yet something so unfathomable was happening. When I am done denying, I will no longer trust sunny, breezy days to keep me safe.

I am no longer in denial.  Denial shifted into mourning, then anger at an unnecessary loss and the treachery of summer days obliviously dealing out tragedy.  I spent much time being angry that it was only in death was Michael truly appreciated for mark he left on the world and the lives he transformed.   More anger came when the media sought to rehash the ugliness he had endured and was taken out on my tv as it was promptly shut off.

Many people understand Michael’s impact personally and the people who don’t perplex me or are just too young…or something else.  The death of Michael Jackson hit me like the death of a family member.  He was someone who was with me through every part of my conscious life: Billy Jean when we first moved to the US, praying that he would pick me up from school, choreographing dances to “Human Nature”, fighting my brother to play with his MJ doll, hiding my face during the “Thriller” extended video, bugging out to and then practicing the dance moves in the “Remember the Time” video, geeking out to him and Janet in the “Scream” video, praying with all my heart during his last court case and on and on…

After watching This Is It, the documentary on his preparation for his last tour, I knew my loyalties weren’t ill-placed.  Here was an inspirational, hard-working, gracious, loving, truly royal soul that deserved all our extreme adoration because he totally earned it and continues to.  That anger has become a profound gratefulness that I had the honor of witnessing his life exactly the way that I did.  His 45 years of achievement and sacrifice inspires me to do what it takes and give all that I have to give in a life that is worth living and easily lost.

One year later and though the facts say he’s out of my life, I remember that as long as he’s imprinted in all these memories, he will never be gone.  Rest in perfect peace Michael Joseph Jackson.