There are moments in life that break your heart and the untimely death of Whitney Houston is one of them. Although most people remember Whitney as a celebrity, I remember her as a daughter and cousin of a very talented musical family. Her mother, Cissy Houston sang background for Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Bette Midler. Her cousins Dee Dee Warwick and Grammy Award winning Dionne Warwick were famous in their own right. Growing up in New York City gave one a clear advantage regarding seeing talented singers before they became outright stars. Such was the case of Whitney.

I was entertaining an out of town friend and decided to see Cissy Houston in concert at a club in Greenwich Village called The Bottom Line back in the early 80’s. As always, Houston gave a stellar performance and then announced that her daughter, Whitney, would sing a solo. The pride on Cissy’s face was priceless but she was also quite annoyed. The pianist played the wrong tempo as Whitney was singing. Whitney was barely 17, thin, statuesque and had a voice that left the audience spellbound. I was not surprised to hear years later of Whitney’s 40 million dollar contract with a record company. She had a gift that ultimately made her a star but of course, there was also tragedy. Her troubled marriage to Bobby Brown ultimately ended in divorce but out of that marital union emerged the birth of her daughter Bobbie-Kristina who is now 18 years old.

One of Whitney’s last projects was producing an old remake of the movie Sparkle which is scheduled to be released in August 2012. In the movie, she plays a mother to three daughters who are aspiring to be professional singers. In an interview about the movie, Whitney stated that she was able to play the role of a mother based on her real-life role as a single mother, which she described as one of her greatest achievements.

The untimely death of Whitney Houston is a strong reminder that life is fragile. That our days are numbered. That we should live our lives fully; completely; but also responsibly. How do you say goodbye to an icon? With tremendous difficulty.

Goodbye, Whitney. Thank you for your musical legacy. May your family be comforted during these moments of grief.