Whitney Houston ~ At first glance, three gifts of her death

And I will always love you.  I will always love you.

My first introduction to the song was in 1974, way before SHE recorded it for The Bodyguard.  I am a longtime fan of Dolly Parton.  I’ve loved this song for a long time!

News of her death crept up on me that morning.  An article in my morning paper, but no screaming headline telling me she had died.  The story unfolded.  Stunned, I googled the Youtube video of the Biggest Song of so many of her big, big songs.  I can’t help but wonder ... if we put aside the sentimental-love-story-breakup verses of that song and focus on the chorus...  Just the chorus.  Go back and watch her sing it on Youtube.  You’ll wait for the moment.  That moment.  It’s at about 3 minutes and a handful of seconds in.  Silence.  An almost uncomfortably long silence.  But you’re waiting for it cause you know it’s coming.  A quick look into the camera, her head turns to the side, the payoff.

And I will always love you.  I will always love you.

Of course, I didn’t know her.  Feels like I did, but I did not.  I wonder if she could see all that we saw in her?   Could she see it and feel it and knew it to be true in the beginning?  And then did she lose her way, unable to find herself, again?  Ever?  I wonder.  

Whitney Houston was/is many things.  And the list changed as her life seemed to catch up with her.  When the world first met her we saw a young woman who was physically stunning, playful in her music, descendant from music royalty with a killer voice.  As she matured, her beauty magnified.  She herself became regal, commanding, other-worldly almost, with a voice unmatched.  A class of her own.  And then The Bodyguard, and the movies that followed.  I remember hearing “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1999 questioning the new sound.  Little did I know, that this cutting-edge track was ushering in a new wave of music that is still evolving and delighting audiences worldwide.  Whitney was Whitney!

And then the descent, chronicled in that ill-advised, yet seemed-to-be-devoured-by-many reality show.  And the rumors and the stories and the tabloid headlines.

And the two-part Oprah interview, and the promised comeback that never really was.  But that many of us wanted so badly for her.  For us.  For her daughter and her family.  We’re Americans and we love (perhaps expect/expected) a happy ending.

And I will always love you.  I will always love you.

What can I learn from Whitney Houston?  Who I never really know.  Yet, it feels like I did.

  1. Whatever I saw/see in Whitney ~ the greatness, the talent, the beauty, the one-of-a-kind-unmatched-brilliance, fill in your blank ______________, I am only able to see because I am all that, too.  All of it.  I could not see it in her, if it wasn’t in me.  And in the same breath, if I see missed-opportunity, bad decision-making, weakness, a waste of a life, a tragic ending ... I am all that, too.  Or, again, I wouldn’t/couldn’t see it in her.  The Talmud says, “We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”

    So when you think of Whitney Houston’s life and death.  What do you see?  What do you feel?  Are you willing to claim all that...as you?  Can you embrace all of it?  Not to act on it, but to see it and make room for it.  Honor it even, perhaps?

  2. I love these words:  “And I will always love you.  I will always love you.”  What if I told you that one of the reasons you were born is to learn to love yourself the way that love itself loves you?  To discover, in fact, that at your very core, under all the layers, you are love.  How would you feel, right now, if I invited you to find a mirror and look directly into your eyes.  Directly into them and say “I will always love you.  I will always love you.”

    Do you think Whitney Houston could do that?  Could she look into a mirror and sing those words to herself, and feel it at her very core?

    Can you?  If not, would you like to be able to?

  3. Whitney never hid her church-roots, proudly sharing her mother’s Gospel roots.  Yet, that God, didn’t seem to be enough.  That understanding of God (whatever it was) could not keep her alive, could not “bring her back from her darkness,” was not a path to joy for her.  Not in the end.  

    What if there’s a more expansive, interpretation and understanding of God?  A God that does brings joy.  Always.   Regardless.  What if it’s as simple, and as complex, as three little words?  God is love.  Not the love of her most famous song’s sentimental verses...but the love you can feel as she belts out that chorus at 3 minutes plus a few seconds.  A divine love.  A love whose breadth, and depth, and reach and magnificence we limit by our human humanness.  A love we get glimpses of (only glimpses) when we humans go beyond our limiting thoughts about what is humanly possible.

    A parent moves heaven and earth, traveling the globe, to search for the best cancer treatment that’s available for his child.  A mother in India (or any major city in the U.S) goes to bed hungry, over and over and over again, while giving her children the little food she can scrape up.  An ex-husband gives the mother of his children one of his kidneys...because...she’s the mother of his children.

    I’m talking about that kind of love magnified millions of time.  A love that does not judge, does not want, does not punish or insist or demand or turn away.  Ever.  A love that is ... divine.

    Who would you be if you decided to believe in THAT kind of God/love?  A divinely loving God.  A God that created you and holds you in the palm of his/her hand always.  Offering you, surrounding you with, sending you only one thing.  24/7.  Love.  Who would you be, today, if that’s the God you choose to believe in?

    Who might Whitney be?

Don’t waste Whitney Houston’s death.  Don’t let her life end as just another too-soon-death of a flamed-out superstar.  Don’t waste it.  Let it be a new beginning for you.  To begin to fall in love with your self.  To begin to remember what you are made of. Truly.  Divine love.  To believe that you - and every other human being - is being loving held.  Always and forever.  It can’t be any other way.

To Whitney Houston ~ as you are now free of your physical body, and as your journey continues, as all of ours will ...

"I wish you joy and happiness.  But above all this, I wish you love."





  • Tom i don’t know you, but we share a mutual friend. She shared this article with me. Its beautiful!!!

    Marvette Washington
  • Serious serious BEAUTIFUL heartfelt writing. This should be published :)) Just Saying :))

  • A beautiful piece Tom! Thank you!

    Kristine Carlson
  • Nicely said. We would all live in Heaven on Earth if our focus was on unconditional LOVE.

    Kathryn O'Gould

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