Wait A Minute…Who Left This Soapbox Here?

In the midst of the outpouring of love for Whitney Houston after the shocking report of her death yesterday, there was an occasional person who asked, “Are you surprised?” or “What did you expect?”

My answer?

Yes, I was completely surprised because I expected Whitney to make it.  Maybe “expected” was a strong word.  Perhaps I just really, REALLY wanted her to.

There was a great commercial on T.V. a few years back that showed a classroom full of children during the 1980’s.  The teacher asked the children how old they would be in the Year 2000 and the kids could not even comprehend the concept enough to do the math.  So, the teacher tells them, “You will be 28!”  at which point every child in the room recoils in horror at the thought of ever being that old.  Now, if you can resist the overwhelming urge to kick the crap out of these smug little bastards, you’d see that there is no absolute age at which the “old” switch is flipped and we instinctively migrate to Florida with 3 blue-haired roommates in search of the best early bird specials and bridge games.  Old age is relative.

So absent a guideline, I am just vain enough to be shocked when anyone my age dies.  Death is for old people.  My age will always be too young to die.  Today.  Tomorrow. Twenty years from now.

So, no, I didn’t expect Whitney to die from a drug overdose at 48.  Just like I don’t expect to die from cirrhosis of the liver at 48 (y’all know I enjoy wine!) Or my friends who smoke to die from lung cancer at 48.  Or those of us who overeat to die from diabetes at 48.  Or those of us who are sedentary to die from heart disease at 48.  I don’t expect it yet these detrimental lifestyle choices are far more common than drug abuse.  I’m sure we know more people who chronically overeat than abuse drugs.

If I did lose a friend to these lifestyle choices, I would certainly hope no one would ask ”Are you surprised?” and “What did you expect?”  Because at the end of the day, I want to believe we always have time to overcome our bad choices and get better with age, not worse.  I just don’t expect these choices to kill us at 48.   When you’re young, you always feel like there’s time.  Perhaps the most dangerous lifestyle choice of all is youthfulness.

Looking back, I laughed along with the comedians who made jokes about the waif-like songbird who, in retrospect, was waging a spiritual battle against her own demons and losing.  “Crack is whack!” — it was just so funny.  The life lesson for me is that even when a cry for help rhymes, it is still a cry for help.  I’m not saying there was anything anyone could do.  Like anyone else suffering the disease of addiction, she had to choose life and health for herself.  I’m just saying that I didn’t have to sit on the sidelines and laugh.

RIP Whitney Houston.  You are finally in the arms of the One who can fill the void.

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15 thoughts on “Wait A Minute…Who Left This Soapbox Here?

  1. As one of the folks that made the comment “are we REALLY surprised”, I stand by the comment. We all have flaws and we are all here for a short time. We all have talent, and a very few of us actually impact the masses to the degree that Whitney or Hendrix did…but the story Is a familiar one with a all too familiar ending. Great talent, drug use, out with a whimper instead of a bang. While I wish the ending was both different and years from now, not everyone gets over that hump, regardless of how loud we cheer for them.

    So my question stands, knowing what we know about drugs and human frailty, are we really surprised that it ended this way? Sadly, the answer to the question is still no.

    • Mike, this post is less an indictment of the question and more my response to it. (which, by the way, I didn’t see your question because I would have felt totally comfortable responding to it if I had cuz that’s how you and I get down 🙂 ) I understand the question. And I understand why folks are asking it. But in my heart of hearts, it never occurred me that she would die at 48. That’s the truth. Just wasn’t an option on my radar. So, I was, indeed, truly surprised, shocked even. Now, I also know someone who dropped dead of a massive heart attack at 42 weighing in at just over 400 lbs on a 5’7″ frame. I was also surprised when HE died. My point is really about how our (perceived) youthfulness can sometimes feel like insulation against our bad choices and my personal reality check that it, in fact, is not.

  2. I get your shock that she, or anyone for that matter, has died at that age from your explaination……but the more you think about it, are you really? About her? If you think to every time she has popped up at an appearance somewhere over the last maybe 10 years or so, there has always been a collective “OH MY 😦 …I hope she gets help and turns herself around”. As horrible a person as she was towards other people before Bobby and the drugs got her, we still pulled for her to find her way through when we saw the damage she had done to herself. I’ve known you for 35 years so I’m giving you fair warning – or some would call it a SPOILER ALERT – I smoke about a pack of Newports a day, I like fatty greasy food and have been known to over-eat, when I finally get done work I am as sedintary as possible cuz my joints are sore….but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t drink that much – in fact I still have 10 Heinekens in my fridge that have been there since before New Years….all that being said, I am not going to live to the ripe old age of 100 – I probably wont make it to 75. So if I kick anytime before then, I don’t want you to be surprised – I did it to myself……as did Whitney

    • Yes, side of weiner, I AM shocked as attested to by my post AND my response to Mike’s comment. I am shocked. I don’t know about her being a horrible person or her bringing anything on herself…all I know is that she sang beautifully and I was shocked when she died. If you die from your choices, I will likely recall fond memories of you and how you make us laugh. And even if you are 100 when you kick, I will be shocked. Why? Because I will be 101 and that, my friend, is far too young to die.

  3. I wondered once again what it is about “Hollywood” that does this to people? I totally subscribe to the idea that people make their own choices and whatever you do, it’s “yours” to own and own up to. But what is it that makes these showbiz people so vulnerable? It’s not money. People who make more money are as sober as saints. It’s not fame. Not all people equally famous wind up drug-addled and lost. I think it’s something in the water.
    I’m WAY over 48 and some of the risks I’ve taken probably should have killed me. The difference probably is, I didn’t make risk a lifestyle. But there’s something in the water in Hollywood. I think it’s got something to do with not being “real” — nobody loves you for YOU, they love your image. There’s a disconnect between image and reality that “stars” have a hard time negotiating and it’s damn bad that drugs and “The Life” (which should be called “The Death) are the first thing these people fall for. Crisis in self-image, I’m guessing.
    And like you, I was shocked. Come on, grrrl! Get your wits about you!
    — and she did not. Forty-eight. Even Michael Jackson made it to 50. Sheesh.

    • Having lived in and around Hollywood for 10 years, my view is that celebrity, the way it’s done in America, goes completely against the natural order of things. In the natural world, we’d populate the alpha positions in humanity with people who had some level of superior characteristics useful to selectively regenerate the strongest, smartest and finest human qualities that ensure the survival and perpetuation of the highest ilk. In Hollywood, we just pick…Snookie, for instance, cuz she’s a train wreck and hype her up until she truly believes the natural laws (and sometimes municipal, state and federal laws) don’t apply to her. To your point, some seem to handle it okay. In my view, the greater the dissonance between a person’s perceived reality and the image they’re pushing, the more likely they are to dive off the deep end. You can’t play make believe forever.

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