Happy Birthday Aaliyah

I’d planned a Bonne Année post, complete with stuff I’d accomplished last year and with this year’s resolutions. And then, I looked at the calendar and saw what today was.

I miss Aaliyah. I didn’t personally know her, or even meet her though it was my wish growing up that I did. I remember getting her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, as a gift and I listened to it everyday. From the first time I pressed play, I was hooked and knew I’d be a fan for life. There was a tenderness to her—she was genuine. She didn’t even know I existed and yet, I felt close to her like we were friends. To me, she was the big sister I never had.

In middle school, I wrote to her fan club just expressing my admiration for her and my hope to see her some day in concert. I’d hoped that she would write back, but I knew that was nearly impossible. But I wondered, what if? Every song of hers that came on the radio, I made sure to turn it up and sing to my heart’s delight. During the summer of 1998, I had an apprenticeship with the University of Maryland Dental School and would race home just in time for MTV’s TRL, where Are You That Somebody? remained at the #1 spot for weeks and eventually retired.

Scott Weinberg (film writer) had asked on twitter, “Who was the first celebrity death to really punch you in the gut?” When she died, my heart broke like she was a part of my family. I was downtown with some friends and we heard it on the radio on the way back to university. And we were all just silent, like we had to process what the DJ just said. I just kept praying that it was a mistake—it couldn’t be true! She had so much more to accomplish, so much she was already doing. What about her poor family and friends? It just wasn’t fair! But that’s how selfish we are as humans—wanting her to stay regardless of the higher plan. We’ll never see another like her, but I pray to never forget her.

Happy birthday Aaliyah.

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