Over the weekend, we finally said a proper goodbye to Whitney Houston.
Hold up: That’s no diss to the Grammys last week, or to host LL Cool J (who appropriately opened the show with a prayer) or Jennifer Hudson (who held down an emotional rendition of “I Will Always Love You”). The Grammys simply had unfortunate timing, going live just a day after Whitney’s shocking death. Producers did their best to assemble a tribute that honored Whitney’s memory, but many viewers (including me) were grieving hard and tuned in to the show hoping for the impossible — closure — only to be… honestly? Disappointed. Anything short of turning over the entire night to remembering Whitney would have left most of us wanting more.
So while we waited for closure, we played out our Whitney CDs and watched the Hulu clips of all of our favorite Whitney videos and performances — like her last turn alongside Kelly Price on “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” her epic rendition of the national anthem, or clips from her films. And we read behind-the-scenes accounts of Whitney’s life from her friends, including bestie Robyn Crawford, who recalled the best of Nippy up close.
By Friday night, fans were as ready as we were ever going to be to celebrate Whitney’s life. At the NAACP Image Awards that evening, Yolanda Adams set it off with a bring-the-house-down rendition of “I Love the Lord.”
Then on Saturday, of course, was Whitney’s official memorial service, which aired via live stream from her hometown of Newark, NJ. Between Tyler Perry, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and the Rev. Marvin Winans in the pulpit, it was the closest thing you’ll ever get to a straight-up Sunday-morning service, broadcast to millions around the world. Stevie Wonder remixed the lyrics to “Ribbon in the Sky,” Alicia Keys threw down on the piano, Kevin Costner recounted her apprehension during the filming of The Bodyguard, and even R. Kelly showed up to sing “I Look to You,” which he wrote specifically for Whitney. (For the many folk wondering why a man with Kellz’s history was at the funeral, it was at a church. Can you think of a better place for him to be?)
“This is the Blackest four hours ever on CNN,” wrote one of my Twitter followers.
By the time pallbearers carried the gold casket out on their shoulders, British-style, to the sound of Whitney singing “I Will Always Love You,” Black America was in tears, right along with Ray J, who touched the coffin on its way out and collapsed in his seat.
Not everybody got what just happened there — the sermons, the Black church experience, the specific way we say goodbye to our loved ones, or really, the fuss over Whitney in general. That’s all right. “We don’t get Elvis or Johnny Cash, but we let y’all live,” another friend (hilariously) tweeted.
Whitney is gone, but she lives in our hearts. Neither she nor her grand send-offs will be forgotten.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk