Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Time of our Lives

In another validation of the Shakespearean words spoken through Julius Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia; the heavens have indeed blazed forth the death of pop princess Whitney Houston.

Once more, in an uncanny similarity to our reaction on the passing of Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross to name a few, we (well, a majority of us anyway) are consumed with accolade-tinged grief and just like Vandross and Jackson before her, we can't stop telling everyone Miss Houston ‘was the best we have ever heard.’

We bicker and exchange vitriol across the social media landscape, all the time claiming we would have done a better job than the people hanging around our dear Whitney.

Apparently, most of us are trained in the study of addiction and would have known exactly what to do to save our precious pop princess. Some of us, driven by blind pain, want to blame the likes of Bobby Brown for this latest module in Death 101. Some have even, with their novice hat on, placed some responsibility on Clive Davis’ shoulders.

But, if there ever was a demise that proved an individual is ultimately responsible for their own life; this was it. Agree, there are dastardly enablers and numerous Doctor Feel-goods everywhere you look, but none of it will happen without the co-operation of the individual. It takes you to lift that pipe to your mouth, it requires you to lift that fatal glass and consume the contents within. 

Of course, the truth in all this is somewhere, lurking around and evading our peering eyes and heavy hearts. Yes, it is unbelievably tragic that the likes of Whitney Houston - who are ridiculously blessed in so many ways - could have missed out on the gift of long life. But if we could just excuse ourselves the inconvenience of taking a step back, stripping away the emotional language and extravagant reactions, I suggest it is time to listen to Shakespeare again;

“All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances….”

There was a beginning and inevitably, there would be an end. Yes, the iconic likes of Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin and Quincy Jones might call you the greatest voice they have ever heard, but no one can outwit the Grim Reaper.

In the face of this inevitability, it might be more useful if we looked around us in our everyday life and begin now to flatter-shower our nearest and dearest. The friend who is always there for you, the parent who continues to love you in spite your cantankerous ways, the child who accepts your parental flaws and that workplace colleague who always covers for you.

Why wait until a loved one is six feet under before we begin to show an emotional range we seem incapable of displaying on a day to day basis? What is the merit in you being the neighbourhood medical expert, when the guy next door has just died from his excesses? Would it not have been better to reach out a lot earlier and help him that night when you skipped over his drunken heap, to enter your front door three weeks ago?

Why don’t we face up to being less judgmental about people’s frailties  when we are aware of our own little dark indulgences? When are we ala MJ, going to start looking at the man in the mirror?  

As for me, I can confirm and my closest friends can attest that I might not be the King of excess, but I will definitely qualify as a prince, in the very least. One is grateful that one has a morbid fear of needles, powdery substances and anything that doesn't sprout from the soil, but trust me; we have broken bread and popped bottles with the best hell-raisers out there.

By the way, that wasn't a's just a painful fact. And even though I am still standing, there were days when, there but for the grace of God, could have gone I! This is why I believe we all require some introspection.

It’s time to take all that collective Whitney grief, especially now at its rawest and use it to propel ourselves to a better understanding of what our lives represent. We often hear we only have one life, yet most of us carry on through life (myself included), drearily living other people’s dreams and kowtowing to those who we have convinced ourselves, hold some superiority over us.

In other words, we are acting as if this is a rehearsal. Well, it isn't. This is your life and you only have one run. Use it wisely and positively impact those around you.

We remember people simply by their deeds and what connection we had to them. I grief for my younger sister every day of my life, but I cannot add or embellish her achievement. All I have is memories…vivid and extremely clear distinct memories. I can only recount the things she did until the untimely end. I cannot flip or spin it.

To paraphrase John Lennon; the instances and events that marked her 33 young years were the things she did whilst Life was happening. I can only reminisce about her in the days she lived in. Her passing, more than anything else, made me realise one will only be remembered for the mark you make and the type of spirit you invoked whilst you were here.

We are living in privileged times. It is not inconceivable that we or even generations to follow may never see the likes of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston again. So if you know anyone around you doing something amazing, we need to let them know whilst they are with us.

Because in the final analysis, all we have is our memories….the smile your wife, husband, child or best friend flashed you on that memorable trip. That funny dance move your favourite uncle or aunty does whenever they have too much. That glance, that incident, that joke you cannot stop laughing to….those memories.

Bottom line….you have to let people know how much you love them…..and you have to let them know now. Summon the imagination and think about the things you would say if there were no longer here…..and say those things to them during their time here.

During the time of their Lives…