Man, I was hungover on Saturday. I went surfing with my friend in the a.m. but after I came home and took a hot shower, I was done, kaput.
So when I saw that Whitney Houston's funeral would be viewable online, I thought, "Perfect, Beth Mann. You have a plan. You could stand some church anyway, you big loser." So I smoked a little weed (to stave off the mild nausea I was experiencing) and curled up under my purple furry blanket with a cup of chamomile tea.
And boy, was I happy I did. It was the best damn funeral ever! It wasn't splashy or fancy. Just the opposite. Sure, it was star-studded but it paled in comparison to the simple grandeur of the New Hope Baptist Church and its congregation. We were invited into a special house in Newark and it was a privilege.
And the choir. So sweet. The most magical element for me. They started out so simply, so quietly. You could barely hear them at first. Then an instrument would join in. And another. Then a few more voices. Soon, they were just blowing the roof off the joint.
Just loving on these women. And so would Whitney. She was one of them, after all. (This video gives you only a little indication. It was a joyous crescendo of spirit and voice that evolved over 20 minutes):
Below, Donnie McClurkin sings Stand with the choir (as requested by Houston's family). One of my favorite pieces of the service. Listen to what it grows into toward the end. Some serious gospel.
And all in Newark. Poor Newark. A depressing and depressed city. Crime-ridden, rundown, burnt-out and tired. It's a hurtin' town that could stand some love and attention. I felt extra proud that we had a chance to see their community working together, in mourning and in celebration.
Go New Jersey!
Then I heated up a frozen double stuffed baked potato I found in the freezer and a slice of white pizza from God knows when and went back to church with Whitney.
I've had a lifelong "eh" relationship with Kevin Costner. (I've always found him a little boring) but boy, he really delivered at Whitney's funeral. He was just so gentle and human. (I don't think he was acting.)
I couldn't listen to Stevie Wonder; I'm sorry but his voice is not a voice I like. Even a minute or two of listening aggravated my throbbing headache so I took an aspirin then hit the kitchen once again, where I ate the remaining tortilla chips at the bottom of a bag, praying for a ginger ale to appear.
R. Kelly....I don't know what to say there. He gives a kind of crazy performance. He's really affected. But somehow it kinda works anyway. And I give him credit for just dangling his spiritual balls out there. (Will I be punished for that? Oh yeah, God gets my jokes.)
The closing of the funeral was hard. To hear her voice suddenly, it was hard. Then the collective gasp when the coffin is raised up high, as if to say, "Please be careful with her."
Overall I genuinely appreciated the splendor and simplicity of the service. It was real and effective, not a bullshit media circus. Newark trumped Hollywood. Right on. It was a good thing amidst a sad story. And everyone seemed extra regular. We were all at church together for close to four hours. We listened. We felt as one.
Afterward, I went for a walk on the beach and talked to God a little. It had been a while. Even raised my hand to the skies at some point.