Whitney.

I don’t even know where to start. I can say that she had a smile that makes me smile. A voice that gives me goosebumps. A spirit that can’t be held by any speaker or TV screen. A beauty that was obviously deeper than the skin.

I’m no bandwagon jumper. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston. My mom loved her pre-Bodyguard, 80’s hits best. My grandma watched The Bodyguard at least once a month for years (in part because she thought Kevin Costner was the FINEST thing back then and she SWEARS if Whitney didn’t love Bobby, she would have been with him instead).

I read “Waiting to Exhale” as a precocious child. As an adult, I own a meager 15 or so DVDs and I count the cinematic version, starring Whitney, as one of them.

As a pre-teen, I sung in the church choir. One of my favorite songs to sing around the holidays was Whitney’s “Who Would Imagine A King.” I love the lyrics…”Mommies and daddies always believe, that their little angels are special indeed. And they can grow up to be aaaaanything, but who would imagine A KING?”

At home, Christmas is never complete until Whitney’s rendition of “Joy to the World” comes on WDAS. It feels me with joy and makes me want to worship something crazy.

My favorite Whitney album is “My Love Is Your Love.” The title song always made me think about my mom. As an adult, it has added meaning that is equally special.

So, when my aunt sent me a text that simply said “Whitney Houston died,” I started seeing double. I scrolled my phone over to Twitter for confirmation and my heart dropped. That night, I shared Whitney memories with everyone else, and in doing so, the reality of the situation felt surreal.

It was two nights later as I wound down from a rather easy, pleasant day at work that I burst into tears. And I just laid on my bed and cried. It was a good cry — the kind that cleanses and soothes all at the same time.

I was good after that — until the end of her funeral yesterday. When the pallbearers hoisted Whitney’s casket onto their shoulders, my eyes filled right up. I guess on the inside, I felt a little of what Ray J felt. Once her body passed him by, he just looked back and the expression on his face said “Are you serious?!? Will I really never see her again?” That’s how I felt.

That’s the feeling you get when you see a loved-one wheeled away or lowered into the ground. You know that’s it forever. And that is much to bear. Much. So yes, I am a Whitney Houston fan and I will be for the rest of my life. But I am also apart of her extended family. And I wish her safe travels on her way to paradise.

I am not in any position to judge any decision she made during the course of her life. I am truly angered by people who have dwelled on her trials and tribulations. In general, I can’t stand holier-than-thou people. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.

As New Jersey governor Chris Christie said after being criticized for ordering all flags flown at half-mast in Whitney’s honor,  “There but for the grace of God go I.” And it’s true. You can be up today, and down tomorrow. Alive today, and dead tomorrow. Remember that before you judge.

I will say that Whitney has been described on the number of specials that have aired this week as having a heart of gold, a generous nature, and a down-to-Earth way that made all those around her feel comfortable and loved. This comes as no surprise to me. I have no doubts that someone as genuine as she will have any trouble getting into heaven.

In any case, I know that Whitney would want me to stay focused on the positive, continue to love, maintain a strong relationship with God, and to live my life with bold courage, a resolute spirit and an open heart.

Thank you, Whitney. Your anointed voice and the example you set by loving effortlessly will be with me forever.

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