Farewell, Whitney, we hardly knew you, but your special magic will haunt us forever

We hear so many stories of superstars destroying their lives with drugs and booze that it’s a wonder that we are affected any more. Thus my surprise at the sorrow I felt at the death of the beautiful and talented Whitney Huston a few weeks ago.

And now the unsurprising report from the coroner that she drowned in her bath with cocaine, marijuana, and a cocktail of prescription medications in her system. So sad, so unnecessary, so predictable. Yes, all of that.

I cannot say I was moved particularly by the losses of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison a generation or so ago, but that may be because I never really identified at the time with them or their music, although in recent years I have acquired a taste for The Doors, if only when I need something to keep me exercising. You want to move fast when you hear that there’s a killer on the road whose brain is squirming like a toad.

But Whitney was different. She was not part of the drug-induced music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Of course, after she’d established herself in the Pantheon that contains names like Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, (and later Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood) and the other strong-voiced female singers, we learned about drug addictions, rehab programs, relapses, and the dimming of her voice and career.

It’s easy to draw the obvious lessons from the signposts along the tired road she traveled: sparkling talent, fame and fortune, easy access to drugs, the wrong spouse and friends, grinding anxiety and the need to escape, pills to make life easier.

It’s unkind and banal, I think, to cry out that her fate was all so inevitable, that she was “asking for it.” Yes, it was foreseeable that she could end up the way she did, dead in her bathtub just like crazy Jim Morrison. But something in me demands more, and I fear there is nothing more. Make a habit of driving too fast and you will die in a crash. Drink too much and your liver will do you in. Money will not bring you happiness. Choose your friends wisely. It is all so obvious, and uncomforting.

A wise woman I know agrees with Dr. Laura that sitting around feeling blue accomplishes nothing, and that the only way to feel good about yourself is to go do something worthwhile, even if it’s only straightening out a drawer. If necessary, fake it to make it. The same idea holds true when it comes to running to a doctor and asking for pills to relieve anxiety and stress. Few doctors will tell you to go home and follow Dr. Laura’s advice. We want pills, and will shop doctors until we get what we want. Of course we don’t tell our physician about the cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol. Would such advice have helped Whitney?

Of course, my lady friend, like Dr. Laura, would have made a good Marine drill sergeant. Pain is weakness leaving the body. No pain, no gain. It works for her, and I have seen it work for others. This particular lady believes that idle hands are the Devil’s work shop. Her only feel-good pill contains one ingredient—work. Broken bones are mere speed bumps.

Exaggerated this kind of thinking may be (as well as my telling of it), but one has to wonder if unfortunates like Whitney and Brittney and Lindsey might have benefitted from some medic giving them that kind of a talk. Who knows?

Maybe, apart from the obvious ones, there are no lessons to be drawn from Whitney’s fate. No, maybe there is just one.

That you can never really walk in another person’s shoes, and therefore you can never really pass judgment on another person. I draw comfort from my lady friend’s thinking in such difficult situation.

“God will sort it all out,” she says.

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