You have to be living in a cave at this point to not know that Whitney Houston has died, and while it might seem like just another singer taking too many drugs and overdosing to some, it brought back some deep and overwhelmingly sad memories and feelings for me.
The first time I heard Whitney Houston sing was when I was home on emergency leave from my duty station while serving with the US Army in the Republic of South Korea. My youngest brother, and youngest sibling, was dying of bone cancer – it’s called Ewing’s Sarcoma. It was, and is, a horrible disease.
Cassette tapes ruled the music media format back then and I went into a store to find some music for my brother to listen to while having his chemo, radiation treatments, and blood transfusions. I was also looking for something new to take back to South Korea for myself. There was a significant lag time on new products reaching us back then and I wanted to see who some of the latest musical talents were. The seeds of the digital age were just beginning to sprout a little back then, and the internet and smarts phone were still waiting for some of their inventors to be born. Browsing in a music store was the only true way to see what music was available at that time.
As I was scanning the music racks for all the new singers and bands that had come out while I was away, Whitney Houston’s first “album” caught my eye. One of the titles – The Greatest Love of All – beckoned me to buy it. I would listen to that song again and again as I drove to and from picking my brother up for his appointments. It truly gave me strength and even solace at a time when I desperately needed it.
I struggled deeply with the reality that my brother was dying and the fact that I was 7 ½ months pregnant made it even more poignant. Talk about life and death! I couldn’t understand why someone so young was going through such a horrible thing. Not that I would wish this disease on anyone, not even those who have caused me great pain in my life, but it just seemed so unfair for it to be happening to someone who had not yet lived his life.
This past weekend, as the airwaves were consumed with her music, I remembered how those songs got me through one of the most difficult times of my life. I hope they can now do the same for her child.
So, here’s to the songwriters and producers that created those songs back in the1980’s that helped – and still help – me navigate some difficult times in my life, and here’s to Whitney Houston’s powerful voice that made them touch more than just my ears.
Words really are powerful.