whitney fan memorial*Like everyone else, I am going to miss Whitney Houston.

I didn’t watch the funeral because I don’t enjoy being sad.  Instead, I’d rather celebrate life, telling those I care about how much I love them when they are here, rather than wishing I’d told them after they are gone.  The same way it makes no sense to only enjoy your meal after you’ve finished eating it, I always found it odd that people treat the dead far better than they would when they were alive.

Last week, to be honest, we were laughing at Whitney Houston:  A Bobby/Whitney crack joke would get a lot of laughs at most Christmas parties, and you know it.  This week, we are crying for Whitney, and that same joke would be worse than a white man using the n-word on his first day on the job.    There is something about death that morphs the ridiculous into the sacred, or turns a talented artist into an untouchable gift from God.  No rapper on earth dares to compare himself to Biggie or Tupac, and no civil rights leader can ever be Dr. Martin Luther King.  I dare to say that had these men lived long lives, they would be as ordinary and flawed as the rest of us.

In the midst of my home-alone reflection, I also had to ask this seemingly awkward question: Does selling a lot of records make you into a better person? I wonder … if you take out the words “She sold 170 million albums” what people would say at Whitney’s funeral?  Again, this doesn’t disparage her memory, but I’ve noticed how being famous can make some people think you are an important and worthy human-being.  I am not nearly as well-known as Whitney, but I’m consistently amazed at how people who’ve heard about me sometimes like me before they even know me.

Do I think Whitney Houston is a significant human being worthy of being elevated above the rest of us?  I have no idea.  I didn’t see how she treated her loved ones, if she did charity for others, or if she went out of her way to live a purposeful life. All I know is that she could sing like an angel and had some personal challenges with drugs and alcohol.

What I also know is that funerals should not be a time to rewrite history or be untrue to yourself.  They are a time to reflect on every dimension of a person’s life and to think about how you’re going to show love for those who are still with us. Every person in your life is going to have a funeral at some point in future;  I highly recommend that you start appreciating them right now.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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