When Cece Winans appeared to sing “Don’t Cry” at Whitney Houston’s funeral, I had not realized that Whitney recorded with her on 1988’s “Heaven”. Whitney had been a featured vocalist on “Hold Up The Light”, a song I saw later on a memorable episode of “Martin”. Whitney would work again with Cece Winans on a 1998 recording of “Count on Me” for “Waiting To Exhale”, a drama describing the black female trials and triumphs of finding love and keeping sisterhood. When Cece Winans sang “Don’t Cry”, I felt slightly judgemental and thought the song had been misappropriated. “Don’t Cry” epitomizes the sadness early Christians felt during the crucifixion and death of Jesus. I listened again today with new ears and found that “Don’t Cry” was more fitting than I thought.
We memorialize the lost by celebrating them on their birthdays. Houston would have made 54 on August 9th. Five years later, it’s still poignant to accept that she was only 48 years old. My best friend is approaching 50. I willingly forget because he lives with a brilliant awe that I admire. He’s always active, thoughtful, and connected. I’m connected too, but my awe is not as contagious. That is my opinion, anyway. Perhaps, that’s why I’m perplexed by his love of genealogy.
I ask myself: Why is he so interested in people that have died? He tells me: It keeps me connected. I respond: If you say so.
I struggle convincing him just how awake and connected he truly is. In just ten days, I will begin my final semester as a undergraduate English student. I reminded him today that he is an important light on my journey. This occurred while reassuring myself we are both complex. And I cannot force him to learn something before his time. Forcing change before the time comes is arrogant. We cannot force people to awake until they make that disciplined choice. Does anyone remember the “Awake, O Sleeper” bible verse?
I’ve been pretty complex, but I never really wanted to believe it. It’s taken literature to show me just how multi-layered I am. In my race to appear practical, I’ve forgotten how to embrace complexity. I’d imagined my future one way because that’s what I’d heard.
The most important lyrics in “Don’t Cry” are:
“The time I shared with you will always be; and when I’m gone, still carry on.”
In grief’s journey We do not dare to dream for success and strength when we lose someone. We suffer the pain of loss as our only connection. I lost my grandfather in 2010. For years, I believed my dream were wrapped in the absence of his encouragement. He was the father that believed steadfastly I’d succeed at something beyond my vision.
Sometimes, faith and hope is all we have remaining. It takes discipline to grip faith and hope when those nearest are replaying in your mind the virus of mediocrity.
I have a re-imagined future. But I had to face pain directly and understand that the time I shared with the dearly departed is still vital to my move forward. Their deaths were not the silencing of hope, just a re-imagination of something great around the corner.
In American media, Black Americans are suffocated with images that say our black skin is a curse, but black men and women have every potential to reap productive lives. We must turn those “reality shows” off, and stare into the world we live in. There we find actual reality, and if we work within that, we might, by the grace of God, find a window into a re-imagined future that helps the broken around us.