The list of celebrities whose death stun me, stop me in my tracks, and force me to contemplate life is a short one. I recall when Aaliyah died. A friend hosted a girls night in of games and girl talk. I left her home late, climbed into my car, and an Aaliyah song was playing when I started the car. Then a second song played followed by a third. “That’s strange…why 3 of her songs in a row?”, I thought to myself. Shortly afterwards, the disc jockey announced solemnly that Aaliyah died in a plane crash earlier that day. This was before Twitter, Facebook, or even Google. We did not have access to information on our phones like that at this time. “Are they sure? Maybe there’s a mistake. She was just on 106 and Park promoting her new single…this doesn’t make sense”, I was trying to grasp his announcement, make sense of it all. I arrived at home to find the August 2001 Vibe magazine on my bed. I left it there with the intention to read when I got back home. An illustration of Aaliyah was on the cover. I turned on the television to look for the story. I turned to CNN and there were the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Her new album hadn’t even dropped yet. [Correction: her album dropped in July 2001, 1 month prior to her death.] She was dead. Wow! I was sad almost as if I knew her. I felt like I did. I’d been her fan since I was in 8th grade. She was only 1 year older than me. Her life was just beginning to take off much like my own. I couldn’t believe she was gone. Just like that, a plane crash and her vibrant life was done. Just a few weeks later, planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. My reality shifted: my short 20 year old life could end that suddenly on a plane. I would leave behind a well of unfulfilled dreams and photos of a beautiful life short lived. Tragic.
This past Thursday I came across a Facebook post that announced the death of Kim Porter. Kim Porter was a mother, model, and actress. She was most notably known as Sean “Puffy” Combs’ longtime on and off again girlfriend in the 90’s/2000’s and mother of 3 of his children. I did not follow Kim Porter. In fact, I don’t know that I thought of her much at all outside of her role in the hip hop mogul’s life. I’m sure that whenever I came across her televised on a red carpet or in a magazine I made mental note of her beauty and how sweet she seemed to be with her children. I’m sure I also made snap judgments (just being transparent) about her and Puff’s (he’ll always be Puff to me) long and strained relationship. My point being that I did not feel connected to her, she was not a celebrity of particular interest to me. She was not Aaliyah or Whitney. So I was shocked to find myself feeling just as saddened, stunned, and pondering life the same way that Aaliyah’s death or Whitney Houston’s death left me feeling. I never gave this beautiful woman much thought, but now here I am grieving her death through social media posts and entertainment news updates. My reality shifted again: I could die however peaceful and leave behind motherless children. Tragic.
You see, the thing about Ms. Porter’s death is that I feel we are connected in motherhood-black motherhood- even if she was not a favorite celebrity of mine. She is nine years my senior, a bit of a gap. However, we have children in the same age group. My sons are growing into teen and young adulthood just as hers are. She was watching her oldest two, both young men, flourish into their budding careers while at the same time just getting her twin daughters off to their first year in middle school. How is this even possible? She went to bed last Wednesday night never to wake to her children again. I grieve the fact that she was robbed of her children’s future. She will not get to see the reward of the work, sweat, love, and tears that she has poured into them over the years. This of course makes me wonder what that future would look like for my children should, knock-on-wood, I not wake to see them the one day.
Who would encourage them when they face tests that they feel are bigger than they are? Who would know just the right thing to say to get their mind back in the game? Who will soften the blows of heartbreak? Who will cheer for my 15 year old soccer player as he makes his attempt at becoming an international soccer star? Will they even take his efforts as seriously as I do? Or will they encourage him to find a more “realistic goal”? What about my 23 year old- my first born pride and joy? What happens when it’s time for him to take the bar exam? Who will he call first when he finds out he passed? Who is going to help him find clever ways to propose to his lady one day, whomever she may be? Which of them will be the first to give me grandchildren? Will someone offer their partners the same expertise I have as a nurse/doula? My heart breaks at the mere possibility that I would not be here for them as they navigate these testy years of early adulthood.
My fear has little to do with lack of trust in our village. I’m sure many people will circle them with more than enough support, love, and encouragement. It’s not the same. There is no doubt that Ms. Porter’s children will have the most tight knit of villages to surround them with an outpouring of love and support. Her children will want for nothing. Nothing except the loving embrace of their mother when their day just isn’t right. They will wish to ask her how she thinks they should approach a certain situation. They will wish for the time that they could watch her dance her signature dance, or hear her sing her favorite song, or one last good night kiss before bed. They will want their mother. They will long for the moments with her that only they as her children knew. They will ache for her feminine essence, her natural rhythm, the sound of her heart. They are the only people on this earth who know her from the inside out- her womb being their first home. I grieve for her children.
I travel frequently, often without my children. My mind plays the game of tragic what-ifs all the way from my house to the airport until I board the plane. I usually send a text message letting them know I will call when I make it to my destination. I tell myself, “everything will be okay because everything always turns out okay”. Then I put the worries away and get on with my travels. I would hate to worry a tragedy into existence. The mind is powerful. That’s what I do when I travel by plane. I’ve never even considered that I may lay down one night never to wake up to them again. Never. I don’t know what to do with this fear of leaving behind children who still very much need their mother’s guidance and support. The only thing I can think to do is add more love until the fear shrinks away. Simply add love.
May Kim Porter rest in the sweetest peace. May her children, family, and friends find peace and comfort in the love that she left behind.