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Sunday, February 19, 2012


She was just a kid from Newark, NJ.

But she took up permanent residents in our hearts.

We'll have to wait a few more weeks before the toxicology reports come in to know what killed her.

My guess? She pushed the metaphorical needle too far.

I don't need a toxicology report to know that this was a woman who didn't mean to die. Didn't want to die. Loved her daughter. Loved her mother. Loved Jesus. Loved her glamorous life. Still, in some ways, loved her bad boy former husband.

But, for some reason, she didn't - couldn't, apparently - love herself.

She sang about it. Beautifully.
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy to achieve for herself.

And, it's just my hunch at this point, but I think it ultimately killed her.

I watched her funeral this afternoon. I was, at first, fascinated by the fact the the CNN crew was there. In Newark, NJ - which is where I once worked and ministered and lived and moved and had my being. And that the telecast was being hosted by none other than Soledad O'Brien and Piers Morgan.

Piers Morgan. In Newark, NJ. Covering Whitney Houston's funeral. At the New Hope Baptist Church. On CNN. I couldn't imagine it

And yet, there they were - Soledad and Piers and the camera crew - set up about a block away from the church, amidst the abandoned buildings and littered, chain-linked parking lots I knew so well from my years in Newark, interviewing Mayor Corey Booker and Rev'd Jessie Jackson and Rev'd Buster Soaries and Pastor Joe Carter.

It was almost surreal. I had to watch.

Indeed, I watched the whole thing, from start to finish.

On a Saturday afternoon.

I never do that.

Part of what was so mesmerizing was that it wasn't just a news event. It was church.

No, I mean C.H.U.R.C.H.

Oh, yes, the place was flush with celebrities and the performances by Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder and BeBe and CeCe Winans  were amazing. (You can find the program here.)

But, it was, after all, church. Black. Baptist. Church. Almost four hours worth, in fact.

I had forgotten how deeply satisfying that experience is to the soul.

It was Kevin Costner's eulogy, however, that gave us a window into Whitney's soul. He talked about her insecurities which he discovered when they worked together on the film The Body Guard.
‘Whitney was nervous and scared that she wasn’t good enough for the role. But I told her I would be with her every step of the way.

‘I wanted to tell her that the fame was rigged. That I didn’t care how the test went, that she could fall down and start speaking in tongues. That somehow it was a kind of acting method.

‘The Whitney I knew despite her worldwide fame, always worried. Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ 

‘The part that made her great was also the part that made her stumble.’
The part that made her great was also the part that made her stumble.

All that talent. All that beauty. All that love. All that wonderful family.  All that money.  All those homes. All that fame. All those awards. All that deep spirituality from a good church family.

None of it was enough. 

Costner said:
‘People didn’t just like you Whitney. They loved you.'

‘I was your pretend bodyguard once. And now you’re gone too soon.'
I don't know that anyone can protect us from ourselves. Especially not from our own insecurities.

No one can make us be 'enough' or have 'enough'.

That's one of life's hardest lessons.

To know we are good enough.

That we have enough.

That we are, in fact, enough.

Here's how Costner ended his eulogy:
‘What you did was the rarest of achievements. You set the bar so high that your colleagues don’t even sing that little country song. What’s the point?’

‘I think Whitney would tell you, all little girls wanting to become singers. Guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle you have.

‘Off you go Whitney, off you go. Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father.'

‘When you sing before Him (God), don’t you worry. You will be good enough.’
It's too bad she didn't know that on this side of Paradise. Or, maybe she just didn't believe it.

Maybe there's time for others to learn it and believe it before they enter Eternity.

Perhaps that is the greatest lesson in Whitney's short life.

In Costner's words: "Guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle you have."

Or, in the words which Whitney, that little girl who came from Newark but lived in all our hearts, sang with conviction but apparently never really believed herself:
And if, by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love
Let the church say, "Amen."


americanRuth said...

I loved reading that Newark gangs observed a day's peace in her honor. What a great tribute and how beautiful to have accomplished one more good thing through her death.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

americanRuth - Well, there was a moment that could have become a drama that stained an otherwise spotless service. Bobby Brown, her former husband, arrived late with an entourage of nine. There are conflicting stories about what happened next. They couldn't accommodate all nine. Not all nine were invited. They were moved. Three times. The third time, Bobby and entourage quietly left the church.

I'm just glad the whole thing was handled with dignity befitting the funeral of a Pop Diva and a child of God.


Lovely, Elizabeth. Just lovely. Thanks!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Susan. There's a whole 'nother blog in here about the increasing, alarming use of /addiction to prescription drugs and yet another one about our addiction to gossip but that will have to wait a bit. Right now, I just want to mourn Whitney.