I have reposted a beautifully written essay in the link above. I wish more women were open about their struggles with miscarriages, the pressure to conceive, and sometimes not wanting to further expand their family, or have children at all. This essay touches upon the many layers of delicate issues that are often rarely and reluctantly whispered amongst women.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
“Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
During one of my most painful moments, I didn’t expect the magnitude of my pain to be minimized by one arbitrary factor. Age.
I’ll never forget when I called a
friend, crying about a death in my family only to hear her say, “Oh, it was your grandma? She was old, right?… Oh, okay… You’ll be alright.” Somewhere down the line, I failed to realize that the death of an elderly person is apparently, not really a loss.
What I gathered from my friend’s curt sentiments was: My grandmother’s death was sad, but nothing major, and that I needed to stop being so emotional about it. It made me wonder, how does someone who I loved so much, simply becomes deduced to a dead old lady? Was I being too sensitive? Should I have mourned my grandmother’s death with less intensity? Or maybe, I should have quietly mourned and not seek out the support of friends. I did notice that I received more sympathy with my grandfather’s passing because he died from a car accident, which taught me that tragedy trumps old age when determining the significance of a person’s death.
I never understood why so many people are less sympathetic when an elderly loved one is bereaved. I don’t get the logic behind it. When someone was old, his or her departure should be less painful? I understand that in a sense, a child or young person dying is more tragic because they weren’t able to live a long life and fulfill their dreams. I also understand that there were endless possibilities that will never come into fruition. Nonetheless, does it negate the life of someone who was old? Yes, a person’s old age might soften the blow a little, but it still hurts like hell. That person may have lived a long life, but that also means that person created and shared a lifetime of memories, which will leave a huge void for the living.
When I mourned the death of my 82-year-old grandmother, my tears were indifferent to her age. My tears were for the woman who flew from Miami to New York to witness my birth and to help my first-time parents take care of me for a month. My tears were for a woman who created dresses for my Barbie dolls on her sewing machine. A woman who stood in front of the stove for hours to cook 4 course meals for her family everyday from scratch, even though my grandpa told her that it was unnecessary and that she worked too hard. She was far from perfect, but as many of us do, I understood the reasons for some of her flaws and limitations when she passed away.
I also mourned the woman who wandered around and forgot her own name due to Alzheimer’s disease, but despite that, she never forgot my name. I mourned the woman who somehow managed to remember that I had medical problems. She would ask my mother if I was okay and would tell her that she could take care of me and cook for me. I don’t know how she etched into her memory that I was sick, because my illness started during the time she had Alzheimer’s. I like to think she remembered because she loved me so much. These are some of the many reasons why my tears flowed abundantly for her.
During the last two years of my grandmother’s life, I mourned the loss of the person she once was, since she changed drastically due to Dementia, which eventually progressed into Alzheimer’s. When she died, I was mourning the fact she was no longer here on earth with me. What especially hurt was my inability to hold her again, have a conversation with her, or taste her delicious food. Maybe, this pain only merited the text messages that some of my friends sent me as opposed to the phone calls and in person visits that I so needed and desired. In my mind, I saw this as life changing event that deserved some type of empathy.
The motivating force behind some people’s apathy for my loss is beyond me, but it makes me wonder if that
friend would have the same attitude when her grandparents or parents die of old age. I do understand that there’s a tendency for people to only care about things that directly affect themselves. I know it’s apart of the human nature, but for some reason I always expect more. I say this because everyone has his or her turn to mourn, and everyone will need a shoulder to cry on when it happens. No one is exempt from this painful part of the life cycle.
I stumbled across an article about a herd of grieving elephants that touched me. It was about a herd of elephants that were revisiting the place where a member of their herd died, which is customary for a grieving herd. They were so grief-stricken that they destroyed things around the site where the elephant was killed. After reading this article, I decided to do some light research on how elephants grieve.
Elephants have such an understanding of the pain of losing a loved one that they will even grieve an elephant that was not from their herd. Elephants will also grieve a human if they come across one that is deceased. One woman recounted that she was sleeping under a tree when a herd of elephants placed branches and twigs on her and began screaming. She stayed still because she feared for her life. She was later told that they were burying her and screaming out of grief because they thought she was dead.
How powerful is it that elephants can grieve for a being outside of their species? There is a lot to be said how elephants respond to death. I think humanity could learn a lot from them.
No matter how you try to paint the picture, death, regardless of the deceased’s age, is a tribulation for the people left behind. A loss is a loss.
~In Loving Memory of Roselle
“Sometimes, my posts are super long because I got a lot of shit to say.”
– Amirah Okon
Yesterday, Whitney Elizabeth Houston would have turned 50. If you know her music, then you understand why she was called “The Voice.” She was the most awarded female artist of all time according to Guinness World Records, and also had one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. I didn’t personally know Whitney Houston, but my heart ached after her passing as if I did. In a way, I guess, I did know her. She was a fixture in my household. I know her music. I followed her rise to fame, saw her battle here inner demons, and witnessed her strive to rebuild her life.
She gave us the wonderful gift of music. Music can lift your spirits when you’re low, express your happiness, and when you feel like no one understands; there is always that one song that states exactly how you feel. Whitney Houston voice evoked so many emotions in me. I guess that’s why she made me dream of becoming a singer. When I was a little girl, I proudly told people, “When I grow up, I want to be a singer just like Whitney Houston!” Although, it never came into fruition because that wasn’t one of my God-given talents, I later chose the medium of film to touch people.
My father had her all of her records and I would make requests for him to play her songs. I loved “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” “How Will I Know” and “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” Whitney Houston gave me a boost in my self-esteem that I will never forget. I was always taller than everyone in my class, including the boys, and was teased about my lanky figure. When I saw Whitney Houston on Television, I saw a beautiful, tall, slender, graceful, black woman. She was the epitome of a talented and beautiful woman. I’d stare at her photos in awe, and tell myself that I’m going to look like her when I grow up. I figured, she’s tall and everyone loves her, so everyone would love me too. She wasn’t just a pretty face. She had a universal appeal. Everyone listened to her music and she surpassed racial boundaries. She was simply, Whitney Houston, the beautiful singer with a voice that was surreal (this a cappella rendition is a beautiful example). She had a undeniable musical genius that captivated music maven, Clive Davis, and her fans across the globe.
When “The Bodyguard” came out, I would constantly watch MTV and VH1 hoping for her music video to be played. Children today, don’t know the struggle of not having YouTube. One day, my mother surprised me with The Bodyguard soundtrack on cassette tape. I played “I Will Always Love You” for a month before I listened to any other song on the album. I would play that song and just press rewind since it was the first song on the tape. I’m surprised the tape didn’t pop.
Her voice fascinated me. The notes that she could hit were incredible. I know how hard it was, because I unsuccessfully tried to replicate it. She would sing the most complicated high pitch notes, seamlessly. On the other hand, I had to catch my breath to complete the same note. I eventually ventured to other songs and loved “Run to You” “I Have Nothing” “I’m Every Woman” and “Queen of the Night.” I never liked gospel music but her rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” gave me comfort. She was a queen to me. I would sing all her songs and would call Arista Records and ask if I could get her address so I could send her a demo tape. Yes, I was a little obsessed, but it never escalated into stalking (I was a child).
A year later, her decline as a result to drugs started to become apparent. I was in denial. I remember reading in the newspapers that she was late to her concerts for no apparent reason. As an 8-year-old child, I didn’t understand the change in her behavior. This wasn’t the Whitney that I adored. She was graceful, polite, and humble; not the rude, moody, and tardy performer that I read about. Rumors started to circulate about her drug addiction and it made me angry. I’d tell myself that people were just jealous of her.
As I got older, I realized that the rumors were true. I will admit that I was disappointed. My enthusiasm started to wane, and I stopped following her through the media. It wasn’t because I didn’t love her anymore; it was because I didn’t want to see her that way. I didn’t want my memory of her tainted by this new unfit portrayal of my queen. It broke my heart to see her emaciated on the cover of tabloids when I was on the checkout line at the grocery store. I hated that people called her a crack-head. The younger generation never witnessed her greatness. They only saw the Whitney who was an addict married to an abusive husband on their horrible reality TV show. People quickly forgot the Whitney that the world loved. That woman was no longer visible, but I knew she was trapped somewhere beneath all of her inner demons. I was always rooting for her to recover and regain her throne. I wanted to yell out, “That’s not Whitney!” I wanted the whole world to see her as who she really was, again.
When she left Bobby Brown my heart was lifted with hope. I hated that it took her so long, and he had her throughout her prime, but better late than never. Unlike many people, I understood that her recovery would not be easy. The pressure to achieve the level of success that she had at the pinnacle of her career (sold over 200 million albums worldwide) was unrealistic in an era where even great albums barely reach platinum status. The music industry is not what it once was. This must have been disheartening for her. Dealing with her voice not being the same from her drug use was also a heavy cross for her to bear.
With the 2010 release of her comeback album “I Look To You” that debuted at #1, and her 2012 role in the remake of “Sparkle,” she was reclaiming herself. She looked healthy, beautiful, and seemed happy. I had a renewed hope for her and was excited that her life seemed to be getting better.
Hearing about her death was an absolute shock. I was in disbelief. I cried and watched her funeral online. I mourned her like I’ve met her before. I constantly watched her videos on YouTube. I would have late night “Whitney binges” and watch her performances up to 3 AM. I watched all the concerts that I always wished I could have attended. I became even more enthralled with her seeing her live ad-libs. The fluidity of her voice was breathtaking. Her poise. Her smile. The energy of her fans during her sold out concerts. What a treasure she was.
What Whitney Houston revealed was the complexity that we all share. She was flawed. She was human. I think the perfection of her voice and beauty seemed to often make us forget that. I am happy that she was able to share her story about her trials and tribulations in her Oprah Winfrey interview before her untimely passing. Her story revealed how the pressures and demands of being a celebrity can facilitate to his or her’s demise. Whitney Houston is a testament that one’s greatness does not exempt us from life’s perils. The beauty about Whitney Houston is that when she fell, she got back up again. In the end, she may not have won, but her perseverance to move forward was admirable. All of us have our struggles, except celebrities have the misfortune of dealing with it within the public eye. Most of all, we must not forget that drugs does not encompass who a person is – it only destroys it. I refuse to remember Whitney Houston as anything less than the queen she was.
Thank you, Whitney, for sharing yourself with the world. You broke so many boundaries, and paved the way for so many. You will never be forgotten, and have touched more people than you will ever know. I am grateful for the time that you blessed this earth with your gifts and timeless music. I always wanted to meet you to tell you how much you meant to me, and how your music brought me so much joy, but this dedication will have to do. I remember who you were, and will never not let your struggles overshadow the light in you that shined so bright. I can truly say that there will never be another Whitney Houston. I hope you’re rejoicing in paradise.
I leave you all with videos of how I will always remember Whitney Houston. I hope that you will remember her this way too.
Performing “I Will Always Love You” in Chile.
Performing “Saving All My Love” for the troops.
“Run To You” music video.