There was probably no way she wouldn’t have been noticed by the world – a voice like that doesn’t stay hidden. The angels had to be on her side.
But even angels can’t stop demons from taking root in the soul, the spirit. Darkness is an insidious thing; it finds its way in and by the time it takes hold, you can’t even remember why you let it enter in the first place.
Many years ago, I sat at a Formica table on a musician’s tour bus, snorting lines of coke with two actors who taught me more about drugs than anyone should know. There was a moment when my internal eye saw us clearly – three people mired in the dark forces we’d let claim us, desperate in ways we didn’t even understand. I should have stopped right then, of course, but I didn’t. I bowed my head and snorted another line.
Not too long after that, though, I did stop. My two companions didn’t. They’re both still alive, but one only barely. Neither of them shook themselves free of demons enough to accomplish what they might have on this earth.
We watched as Whitney Houston unraveled. The spotlight doesn’t turn away when a famous person is destroying the gifts they were born with. We heard, in Whitney’s case, a voice kissed by angels become raspy. The damage was evident. We saw her erratic behavior as she spiraled downward. It seemed that everyone – those who knew her and those who didn’t – shared a sense of helplessness.
She died young and alone in a hotel bathtub, and whatever is determined to be the actual cause of death, the aloneness might be the saddest part of the story. Because it’s in the solitary moments that demons whisper their worst messages.
In the end, it’s important to remember that, no matter how gifted some people are, they’re as fragile as we all are underneath.
Many of us try and stay ahead of the shadows inside us. It’s easy to decide that drugs will help us outrun them. We’ve seen it often with famous, incredibly gifted people, and we will undoubtedly see it again.
It should make us pause and remember that we’re all pilgrims finding our way through this world, and the world can often be harsh. I’m sure Whitney Houston fought hard to lift herself above the shadows inside her and grab onto the hands of her angels. But once you let go of those hands it’s hard to find them again.
The best thing we can do for her memory is to remember that.
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