Monday, February 27, 2006

A Lesson Before Dying

Wassup Blogger Fam! No Weekend Wrap Up today. Suffice it to say, I did a lil' of this, not enough of that, but it was all good...make sure to check out Tam's lovely art..

Anyway...The death of my co-worker, then of the writing pioneer Octavia Butler kinda put me in a wierd space, but maybe I'll blog about that later.

This is a piece I wrote when Aaliyah died, but the sentiments are still the same. Live, give thanks, and BE, ya'll! Hope you enjoy.


A Lesson Before Dying
(A Personal Tribute to Aaliyah)

I didn’t know her.

No better than anyone else did, who grooved to her latest infectious cut on the radio, or watched her image whenever it charmed the television screen. I’d always enjoyed her music, though never having purchased one of her CD’s, I dare not call myself a fan. Simply put, I admired Aaliyah as an artist, as a gifted young black sista, and I appreciated her style and presence.

No, I didn’t know her. Yet her sudden absence weighed on me.

Not because she was one of the few, if not only young female recording artists whom I didn’t mind my lively seven-year old daughter looking up to. Not because my man, along with every other b-boy on the planet, had a mad crush on her. Not because I have a distinct and prevalent fear of my demise being in conjunction with the mangled wreckage of a nasty plane crash.

No, it was brought closer to home than even all that.

Just six days prior, I had returned from my maiden voyage to the Caribbean. It was my little-girl dream. Along with that, I had just received an award for my first book by a prestigious literary organization. I was living wide, loving and being loved, writing and being recognized, all at the same time.

Pretty live stuff.

I’d flown back to Los Angeles, feeling complete. At thirty-two years of age, with a host of life’s triumphs, dramas, and a few dreams tucked proudly under my belt - I’d had a peaceful moment of self-actualization. And, while uneasily gazing at the ocean’s depths from that jumbo jet at about thirty thousand feet, I now find it curious that my thoughts went something like this: If I were to die tonight, at least I’d die happy.

I had to wonder, when I was jolted by the news of Aaliyah’s death, if she had, for the briefest of moments, thought the same.

Her passing was so poetically tragic, so unexpected. Watching the news reports, I felt as if the universe had dealt us a blow, straight sucka punch style, while we naively looked the other way. What a loss, I thought, as I watched the video montages and heard the radio dedications in her honor. All that humility and beauty and talent and promise.


Each second, I resisted the desire to challenge, to mouth the unanswerable words, ‘why’. As much as I didn’t like it, this was God’s call. How could anyone argue with that.

No, I didn’t know her; but I still felt lost. Her untimely death touched me, and we were strangers. I can only imagine the anguish of those whose life she graced personally. For them, I said a prayer.

Finally, after watching one of her many interview clips being replayed, my heart received a tiny piece of solace, where previously there had been none.

There she was, soft-spoken with that startling smile, proclaiming ‘she was a happy girl,’ and how wonderful a feeling it was ‘to be able to get up every morning and do what she loved to do.’ She was fulfilled and happy and complete. Realizing that, I was able to let her go.

Which brings me to this: The fact of the matter is, Aaliyah Haughton lived and died doing what she loved. From very early on, she had a sense of purpose in this life. Her purpose.

She knew it and honored it. She was exceptionally good at it. No doubt, it’s the reason folks loved her. We watched her grow up and bloom, virtually before our eyes. Of course, we mourn her death. And although most us feel she was taken far too soon, we must try to remember, she lived a lifetime.

One of my favorite quote reads:
Don’t be afraid your life will end. Be afraid it will never begin.

Aailyah was doin’ her thing. She was young, beautiful, talented, gracious, and grateful.
She was a self-respecting, classy artist with a loving and appreciative audience, and she had financial compensation to boot. If she had never known commercial success and fame, I’m sure she would’ve sung just as passionately in the shower, at the churches, weddings, talent shows and birthday parties, in between her nine to five gig. She knew what she was born to do, and she died doing it. How many of us will be able to say the same?

More fact: Each day, millions of black people get up and drag ourselves to jobs we hate, jobs we swear hate us. We gripe, curse, and complain ‘till days end, and exit the high-rises and offices and stores with less than when we came. Day in and day out, we toil; feeling unhappy and unappreciated, and inadvertently hand over pieces of our souls that we can’t get back.


Perhaps we all need a lesson before dying. Many of us aren’t in the position of doing what we love and getting paid for it. A great deal of us don’t even know what we want to do, really. Have yet to discover our gifts, our purpose. Our passion.

Here’s my take on it:
Find out.
No matter how long it takes.
And when you find out what it is: Do it.
As often and as hard and as honestly as you can.
It will keep you sane and motivated.
And if at present, you can’t do it in connection with your current nine to five, that’s cool.
Do it after work. On the weekends. In your spare time.
Find time. Make time.

Get movin’. Go outside. Read. Turn off the TV. Listen. Pray. Step outside the box. Find some inspiration. Stop complaining, blaming, and hatin’ on other folks. Chances are, they’re busy doin’ their thing.

Find your thing, and do your thing. Start. Don’t wait. Don’t stop.

Do whatever it takes to be happy in this life. Not the selfish kind of happiness, but the kind that radiates and reaffirms your uniqueness. You’ll inspire other folks, folks you don’t even know, to do the same. Just like Aaliyah did.

See, God made sure that everyone has their something. When you resist finding it, or doing it, or believing in it, all you really do is piss Her off.

Everyone’s “thing” won’t catapult them into mega-super-stardom or present itself in multiple figures on a paycheck. Doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Your gift or passion could be fixing cars, styling hair, succeeding in the entrepreneurial arena, coaching little league, salsa dancing or collecting jazz CD’s.

Whatever it is that replenishes you, sustains you, honors you; that makes you feel alive, and human, and in tune: Do it.

Don’t wait ‘till you get your bills paid, ‘till you lose twenty pounds, ‘till you fall in or outta love. Don’t wait ‘till you’re married, or ‘till you have children. Or ‘till those children grow up and out, or ‘till you’re retired. You might not live that long. Or, you just might.

Just don’t be afraid your life will end. Be afraid it’ll never begin.

For those who only knew Aaliyah from a distance, maybe her short life was a big lesson.
A cutting, hard, seemingly unfair lesson. Maybe someone needed a reminder.
Maybe it was me.
Maybe you.

A reminder to also hail and celebrate the super stars in the real world, the brothas and sistas in the daily grind, inspiring and thriving and doin’ their thing, outside the limelight of the million dollar sports contracts or the record deals.

As a reminder to honor the people close to us, who lived and died without a line of type in the newspaper or a mention on the airwaves. Because they were loved, too. They were important, too.

We all should learn a lesson before dying.
That life itself is a blessing.
That there are no guarantees.
That tomorrow is not promised.
Time waits for no one.
To appreciate our loved ones, and to tell them about it. Every day.
To be thankful and strive.
To grow and stay real.
To celebrate another day.
That life ‘aint no dress rehearsal.
It is here, now, today.
Don’t be afraid your life will end.
Make it begin.

Thank you, Aaliyah. May you rest in peace.

Today's Daily Om is about A Life of Passion: Getting Back to What you Love! Check it out.


So...Wise...Sista said...

There's tons of depth in your words...thanks for sharing that. Octavia Butler. Wow. Couldn't believe it. Still can't. But perhaps now her work will get the shine it always deserved.

That Girl Tam said...

That was beautiful...and even if we live out our dreams in small ways (i.e. my cards and your writing) and we don't do it FULL TIME, that little bit still brings joy into our lives. Because imagine what our lives would be like if we hadn't taken the steps to get it done in the first place...

Thanks again for the props!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I need that

Supa said...

Today's the new moon, ya'll. Perfect for new beginnings....

I just realized last night, one of my biggest fears about dying...when I do leave my body and cross over into another realm (die), I won't be able to write about it. Writing is the truest way I am able to be present to my

Can I keep a blog from the other side?!?!

Furious Styles said...

Thanks for those words. They are truly moving indeed. Death has a somber way of making us reflect on our lives and our own mortality.

Living your life today is the best thing any of us can do. I was always taught to rejoice when some is passing from this world to the next. Especially if its someone who really loved life and found their passion and followed it. Far too many people never reach that point.

dpm said...

I hear it. Live now. Death is guaranteed and life isn't. I think it's important to remain concious of the fact that life is a blessing. I plan to die happily without regret. This is why I live.

Although I'm saddened because Butler left us suddenly, I'm happier that she left us with the jewels of her gift.

African girl, American world said...

gurl preach!!!!

Live like you're dying....make the most of each day and you're so right about doing something you love!

I needed that today Jamal - thank you!

mrpunchcar said...

damn. currently reading octavia butler's latest - and i guess last - book "fledgling". it's about a vampire girl that's able to stay out in the light unlike other vampires because she has melanin, meaning she's black. love octavia butler. parable of the sower and talents are two of my favorite books of all time. live like you're dying.

Supa said...

mrpunchcar - Live like you're dying. True true. So that means anotha wild, felonious nite at Popburger is in order?


Holla atcha girl.

P said...

It's official. I have exhaled.

Just breathtaking.

Me said...

AMEN ! loosing my both my parents to cancer made me realize that life is short and you have to enjoy it while you are here cause you dont know when your time is up !


Dee said...

WOW!!!! I needed that today!!!! THANKS!!!!

Anonymous said...

Girl, thanks so much! I have been struggling with the career sacrifices I've made to get my book published and have been growing tired of my "in the meantime" gig. But I really just need to keep plugging away and keep writing. It's hard when friends are off to Turkey & Nigeria for two weeks and enrolled at their Ivy busines school, while I'm plugging away at a desk job. But I gotta keep doing MY thang, right??

Thanks for the inspiration!

Single Ma said...

WOW! This post was my wake up call. Thanks!

EmergingPhoenix said...

Always Inspiring...