Monday, February 13, 2012

A Requiem Before The Sepia Stain

"She was a drug abuser, a talent wasted... took her own life, pissed on her fortune and pissed away her beauty.

I know. God, Whitney knew. She said it 10 years ago to Diane Sawyer: "I am my own worst enemy.... pray for my soul... pray for strength."

BUT... I mourn anyway. Not in spite of the countless other "quiet" deaths that have occurred lately. No, in ADDITION to them. I lost a godsister a few days ago myself. But my heart still mourns. If you don't care, God bless. That still won't change the sadness.

So like countless others I admire, but were gone abruptly- Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Biggie, Sam Cooke, Tammi Terrell, Aaliyah, John Lennon, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Selena, Tupac, Michael Jackson- I'll add Whitney. I hope that now, in eternity, she's found that strength that so desperately alluded her in this life."

I wrote that as a rather long status update this morning after reading a few Facebook friends status updates that referred to the late diva as a "crackhead", an "idiot" and a "waste". I was upset when I typed that up and hit "post".
I still feel upset somewhat now. Why? Well, I am a fan. Growing up, not much secular music was played in a home that was still very much full of music. We just heard a lot more Carmen, Be Be & Ce Ce and Kirk Franklin than most of our neighbors. But there were exceptions. And Whitney was one of them.
I could say it was parental hypocrisy, pride for a Jersey girl gone global or Whitney's obvious gospel-tinged vocals. But I think the truth is, she simply was The Best. So even though her songs were on constant rotation on radio stations that were typically taboo, they still found their way on play at our house. So I wanted to dance with somebody, too. I always loved "YOOOOUUUU"! I was every woman, shooped and stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel. 
Now that the childhood Little Li bopping montage that just played in my head has ended, I  can continue. 
What angers me is the attitude held by many that celebs like Whitney are simply idiots who got what they deserved. Her and Michael and Amy. There is such an attitude of superiority. Almost gleeful mocking of their demise. It's so very ugly.
Amy Winehouse
Sure, as time passes, society tends to put a sepia stain on these troubled celebs' memories. No one bats an eye at the girl who tucks a big white flower behind her ear in homage to Billie Holliday. I get many compliments on my small bejewled Dorothy Dandridge pin whenever I wear it. Mock covers of Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath's books hang on Barnes & Noble walls across the country. I've never heard any derisive comments while sipping a macchiato in the cafe about either.
Sylvia Plath
So I suppose given enough time, history will place our recently departed on the "Tragic Greats" shelf along with the many others.
There's no condescending from me, though. I don't view them as weak. Nor as mere "cautionary tales". No, because I know if not for the grace of God, go I. This is not a pass for destructive behavior. I can't condone that. Just an acknowledgment that not having walked their paths, I cannot judge how perilous the journey was.
I pray now, they all may truly rest in peace. 


Jesus-in-the-city said...

I know, Li :(

This is so incredibly sad. I'm not on Facebook but I can imagine the incredibly insensitive things that people say.

I have struggled with drug abuse myself in the past, as well as a laundry list of other sins. I realize that it's easy to judge others from the outside but we must remember that we have all sinned and fallen short even if we aren't drug addicts or alcoholics, by the grace of God. But what about the other sins that we struggle against day after day, thinking we have a handle on them, and the next thing we know, we're doing what we said we'd quit doing the day after and sometimes (in my case) even an hour after we said we wouldn't do it anymore... What about my habitual nagging tone and disrespect of my husband when he does something I don't like, or the next person's constant gossip about people she would never say those hurtful things to in person or the other guy's staring at the latest Cosmo cover girl's cleavage a bit too long?.... I could go on and on... The important thing to remember is that the Bible says ALL sin leads to death and maybe we won't be found unconscious in a hotel room somewhere, but the spiritual death that takes place, even by making the heart choice not to mourn with others who are mourning, has weight when it comes to the things of heaven.

I was looking for a particular scripture to correspond with this post but I came across another one instead:

Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. (1 Timothy 5:24 NLT)

Hopefully people will read that and think twice before passing judgement on Whitney.

A few minutes after my husband texted me that she had passed over the weekend I too had really fond memories of the swinging on the swing set in elementary school and singing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," at the top of my lungs and of the day one of my teachers called me into her office, unbeknownst to me, because she heard that I did a really great rendition of "The Greatest Love of All," and asked me to sing it for her :) I grew up loving Whitney as much as the next generation x-er out there. Whatever her deamons,, on the outside, she was fun, beautiful, talented, glamorous, poised, spirited and she will be greatly missed. I pray for her teenage daughter and for her family, fellow lovers of Christ and hope for the grace, love and peace of Christ Jesus as they go through this intensely difficult time together.

W David Hubbard said...

All I can say is thank you for writing this. Most people feel as troubled as you, but not everyone can express it.

Some people act as if Facebook were the greatest human spectacle since the Roman coliseum. They laugh and mock and sing as their enemies scream in terror at the entrance of the lion. They forget that there are flesh-and-blood people on the other side of these screens. People with beating hearts like them.

But truth be told, some day we all will face the lion of tragedy and suffering in one form or another. And in that moment, all words cease.

It is better to be mindful, even when we object. To speak with sobriety. To have compassion for others, especially our enemies. Our moment in the arena is much closer than we think.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Wow, David, that's powerful. Amazing comment. I just posted it as my status update on FB... and some people just refuse to get it.

@Aja, I think the verse you referenced is PERFECT! Quite fitting. It's important to know that none of us are above sin. And the minute we think we are, we've already fallen.

Thank you both for the beautiful and well-thought out comments.

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