Whitney Houston is dead; that’s now yesterday’s headline. Still, I’m grappling with how I wrote off Whitney because she could no longer sing. I was chief among those who knew that, due to years of alcohol, nicotine, and narcotic abuse, Whitney Houston would never be able to return to her formerly fabulous self. Yes, there are freaks of nature like Chaka Khan who seem to have not lost their chops after similar struggle but she is the exception and not the rule. Even Whitney Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick sings an octave below most of her original keys mostly and probably due to years of smoking various plants.
In the aftermath of her death, I’ve learned that she was loving, kindhearted, giving, and a mentor/sister to many of the young ladies in the music industry. Whitney had something like 40 people on her payroll; she toured endlessly even when her voice failed her just to continue supporting others. Story after story at her funeral regaled her as a mother, sister, friend, and cheerleader for other artists.
I didn’t have a personal friendship with Whitney so I wouldn’t have known of all her positive attributes but I am well acquainted with my own family and friends and I’ve treated some of them no better than I treated Whitney Houston. Various family and friends struggle with esteem, addictions, illnesses, and some struggle with the truth. There are some that have caused me a great deal of pain, so much so that I resigned to loving them from a distance, but pain and distance blurred my view of them until I couldn’t see the loving relationships we’d once shared.
There will never be an opportunity for me to say to Whitney that I’m sorry for not looking beyond your faults to see that you needed the love and support of the same community that buried you. But I have been afforded the opportunity to say this to those who remain: I’m sorry for focusing in on your faults and forgiving conditionally.
Looking back on some of the negative things I said about Whitney Houston, I am embarrassed. My emotional distance from some friends and family is shameful. Instead of wallowing in it, I’ve determined to not be the same. Pastor Kim Burrell sang a song of tribute to Whitney at her homegoing service, “A Change Gonna Come,” and she couldn’t have been more on time with the message and her interpretation of that song. Change will come. Yes it will.