I’m such a huge Whitney Houston fan that although news of her death broke almost 24-hours ago, I’m just now pulling it together enough to attempt to write this post. Before you write me off as a fanatic, just listen.
Whitney’s music has been a staple in my life since childhood. Everyone says they grew up on Whitney, but, I really, really did. They say that a person uniquely identifies with the music they listen to frequently during pivotal points in their lives, particularly their young adult years. That explains it all. You see, my mother, who died when I was nine and whom I miss every day, worked almost an hour away from where we lived. When I wasn’t in school, my grandmother and I would drop her off in the mornings and pick her up each evening, so that we’d have access to a car during the day. That was four hours a day I spent on the road, two of which were with both of the most important women in my life, all of which were spent listening to Whitney’s first and second albums in full rotation.
Three generations of women bonded over her smooth, heartfelt ballads. My mother would tell me that I was her one true love and sing the words of “You Give Good Love” to me day after day. Back then, the messages behind most of Whitney’s hits went right over my head, but I still felt the love, and the beat. Whitney was like a sister, and her music was how the women in my family got through the good, the bad, and the ugly. She was there for us when the men in our lives weren’t, or just could not be. Her music always picked us up, and for those three minutes that we belted out the lyrics to one of her songs together in unison, we had not a care in the world. I will never — ever! — stop cherishing those precious moments with the two most amazing, dynamic Black women I’ve ever met. Moments I had no idea then would be cut so short, so soon. I lost both of them to breast cancer before I ever became a woman myself, and before I truly felt the feelings Whitney sung about with her every being. I hadn’t yet learned the lessons she must have had to in order to pen lyrics so heart-wrenching and true. After my mother passed, and my grandmother, each time I played Whitney at full volume for hours, days, and nights, to mourn their passing and frequently throughout my life to remember the times I know they’d want me to.
After my mother passed away my father and I healed together, through Whitney’s classics. As we played her albums together on road trips and special occasions, he would tell me which songs had been he and my mother’s favorites (“Saving All My Love for You” and “All At Once”), and which she’d dedicated to him in the past (“You’re Still My Man”). We cried together; we cried with Whitney. We healed through Whitney’s music – there’s just no doubt about it.
Fast forward to the moment I knew I’d met the man I was to marry and had fallen deeper in love with than I’d ever known possible. I knew my husband and I’s love story would not be complete without a little Whitney intertwined in it. I once surprised him with a special dinner and serenaded him with Whitney’s “You Give Good Love”, explaining why that song represented all the love in my heart, and then some. After he proposed to me on Christmas Eve night 2009, I sang “All The Man That I Need” and cried crocodile-sized happy tears. I know both my mother and my grandmother would be proud of my choice. They would have adored my husband the way I do, and that means everything to me. At our wedding, my father and I chose to dance to Whitney’s “One Moment In Time”, because it was truly our moment. The moment we knew we’d survived the loss of the woman we both loved beyond words. The moment where he could feel confident that he was putting me in the care of the man who loved me as much as he did. The moment I’d found my “Greatest Love of All”. The day was truly “So Emotional.” My mother and grandmother were there – I felt their presence the entire day, and especially as I held my dad close and we swayed to, by far, Whitney’s greatest song ever.
Whitney, I’m certain that you’re now up in heaven with the other angels. We’ll miss you dearly — more than you could ever know. If you’re listening up there, know that I thank you for providing the soundtrack to my life. Thank you for blessing the world with your beautiful, one-of-a-kind voice, and for touching our lives one classic love song at a time. Now you, my mom, and my grandmother can all sing together, up in heaven, as it should be. I can live with that.
Whitney, I will always love you.