And What About Whitney…?
By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Usually I do not answer a single letter from readers
regarding pop culture icons
or similar issues and the reason is that I simply do not
care about the latest fad or craze that emanates from
Hollywood or is seen on BET or MTV.
I do not follow the latest utterances from rappers nor
do I listen to scintillating conversations from guests on
Oprah’s shows or follow the latest scandal regarding who was
found in whose bed or who was found coming out of a swanky
Beverly Hills restaurant plastered to the gills.
No. To me that is brain garbage and it has no lasting
protein or nutrients and does not have any lasting value or
So. When the following question was posed to me, rather
than make a biting and swift answer, I gave it some thought
with the hopes that the answer will be provocative and
informative and will lead the reader to do their own study
Question: Did you watch the funeral of Whitney
and what did you think of it?
Wasn’t it a shame for her to die so young with so much
talent? I am sure she is singing in heaven.
Answer: Hi Regina. Thanks for the question.
Allow me to give you a long answer to your short questions
because I believe that if you want to know the essence of my
answer, you need to know how I approach the subject matter
of your question.
I saw bits and pieces of the Whitney funeral
proceedings on CNN (and also via Piers Morgan’s program). I
saw T.D. Jakes and Jesse Jackson on the podium along with
Tyler Perry and heard some of the comments of Rev. Kim
Burrell and the actor Kevin Costner.
I understand grief and everyone’s right to display
grief as they so see fit and that my reaction and response
to grief may be and is different from your response to the
same grief inducing scenario.
My qualm and concern is that we as a country have
elevated rock stars, movie stars, rich people and a various
assortment of other people who are described as celebrities
to an unwarranted level of worship and morbid adoration.
It seems that they can do no wrong and if and when they
do wrong, we quickly shove it aside and allow them to
continue in their deleterious conduct as if it does or did
It was a nice funeral insofar as family, friends and
relatives coming together to give their final remarks and to
pay homage to a gifted vocalist. A vocalist who ( as many in
the black tradition) had been trained and “raised in the
church” and who earned her chops in a church choir but later
took that gift and talent to the secular world and made a
It is always a shame when the young die young. We
cannot control the date of our demise but we can do those
things that can, in many cases, slow that demise. Partaking
of drug usage, binge drinking, overeating and other
destructive habits of the flesh can take a negative toll on
the body and mind and spirit.
When those excesses are not curtailed or treated, bad
things can happen including
Death is an equal opportunity employer. It does not care
who your parents are, what zip code you live in, what
degrees you earned, how fat is your bank account or
who do you know in the “in crowd”.
Death comes with its proverbial pointy and bony index
finger, singles you out, calls you by name; and you take
your final bow and exit right off the stage of life and
await the future judgment that is promised by God.
A funeral is not the final step or stage in the life
journey. A funeral is only a temporary staging arena that is
for the benefit of the living. Any funeral, be it Whitney’s
or a king or a queen or a despot or a madman is quite the
Someone gathers the remains or the corpse and prepares
it so that it can remain intact for a few more days while
the mourners are notified and they gather together to share
and reminisce and say their farewells to the recently
Some funerals are sparsely attended and some, like
Whitney’s, are massive in numbers and they are replete with
“big name celebrities” or “famous” clergy types who
apparently lend an air that ostensibly says that God is in
the place. Maybe yes…maybe no.
Regina….a few words about God.
You probably heard at the funeral when Kevin Costner
and Rev. Kim Burrell,
among others, did with great confidence and authority place
Whitney in heaven and have her singing before God.
Regina, be very careful at any funeral when anyone
tries to preach, shout or shoe horn someone into God’s
heaven. They may be totally clueless about that person’s
spiritual standing before God or they may not even know what
God requires about gaining entry into his heaven.
Everyone who says “God” or “Jesus” does not
necessarily know God or his son
Jesus. Sometimes, it is just a good word to say at funerals
when you do not know what else to say about the deceased.
Oh sure, you can as Kevin Costner did (as others did
also) speak in such a way that you could believe that
Whitney is in heaven and all is well and for those who mourn
without hope, such words are comforting but they can be
Why? God knows those who are his and the plan of
salvation by which one enters a right relationship with God
is many times lost on those whose lives have been lived
apart from the Jesus of the Bible or who have not submitted
to the Jesus of the scriptures.
Regardless of the voice par excellence of Whitney or
the singing and dancing performance of a Michael Jackson or
the playing of a Ray Charles or a Louis Armstrong or the
life of a Mother Theresa, if a person’s life does not match
up to what is stated in the Word of God, be very, very
careful about putting that person in heaven simply because
you think that according to your standards, they belong
You may want to because you enjoyed that person’s
talents or gifts. You may want to because in your estimation
that person gave of their life and worldly goods to the poor
and as such they have “earned” the favor of God and thus
deserve to be in heaven.
Not so. Nobody earns or is entitled to heaven because
of who they are or what they have done. And this is
regardless of what a Jesse Jackson or a T.D. Jakes may say
about a person. Neither a T.D. Jakes, Jesse Jackson, Rev.
Kim Burrell or anyone else has the power or authority to
tell God whom to allow into his heaven.
God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not
our thoughts. His entry requirements to heaven are very
narrow but can be find by anyone who is willing to follow
God’s plan of salvation, which is found only in Jesus the
So, Regina, it matters not if you win the whole world
and enjoy its acclaim and you dine on its choicest morsels
of success and fame and fortune, because all of those
attainments amount to a odoriferous dung hill if you lose
your own soul.
I know that I took the long bus tour to answer your
question but if I did not, simply drop me a line and I will
try to do a better job.
Contact Lafe Tolliver at