Unfortunate news hit on the evening of July 26, when Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away at age 22. Daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobbi Brown, Brown had been in medical and hospice care since Jan. 31 after she was found unconscious in her home in Roswell, Georgina. While the circumstances of Brown's death remain unclear, the words of those reacting to her passing are all woven together by one simple feeling: Bobbi Kristina Brown was too young to die.
When Whitney Houston passed at age 48 in 2012, from “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use,” according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office autopsy, mourners responded in a similar way. The feeling that Houston was too young to die has since stayed with the people who had been forced to feel by "I Will Always Love You" since its 1992 release. Although there were decades of age between mother and daughter, both died in tragic circumstances before their time was arguably over.
But the feeling that someone was "too young to die" is a train of thought that often leads to another train of thought: Dying young means a life wasted. As anyone who has lost a young loved one can likely attest, their passing sometimes ends up linked to this notion that their life up until that point wasn't enough. Synonymous with "carelessness" or "of no purpose," referring to something as a wasted life might, in some ways, belittle the life that was led. And even if those words are uttered innocently, they're no less problematic.
On a night when time should be spent mourning Bobbi Kristina, it doesn't seem appropriate to rattle off the names of a bunch of brilliant, talented, beautiful, inspirational people who also died young, of which there are lamentably many. It does seem like the opportunity, however, to reflect on the way we're treating and discussing her own death, and subsequently her own life.
Brown was young, and though no death ever seems fair, young death is often unexpected and shatteringly disorienting. This doesn't mean, though, that in the time Brown did have, she accomplished nothing. It doesn't mean she didn't experience and live and love. And it certainly doesn't mean her life didn't matter — that her singing or work in media or relationships didn't matter — only because it was brief.
When my sister passed away at 29, everyone was quick to lament over the tragedy of a young life lost. Yet amidst the mourning, I couldn't help but feel like people were so focused on the things she hadn't yet had a chance to do that they couldn't remember the things she'd already done. She was this traveler and chef and fashionista and absolute crazy person, and in 29 years I have no doubt she lived a life's worth of experience, joy, sadness, heartache, and bliss. It wasn't a long life. But it wasn't nothing.
Everyone grieves differently, and though I'm sure some people recover best by letting themselves be consumed by grim reflection, grieving in a way that belittles the person you've lost kind of seems to invalidate their existence. Whenever anyone told me my sister's life was wasted, I felt only anger. I couldn't grasp why they were failing to account for the incredible human she was and the immeasurable influence she had on the people who loved and knew her most. Even on those who didn't. I didn't know Bobbi Kristina Brown, but I'm willing to bet she touched several lives, too.
To mourn in a way that detracts from the character or soul (if you believe in that kind of thing) of the person isn't fair to them. Maybe there are few things that become such an intricate part of your day to day life as losing someone young. Going through that seems to effect everything. But I'm willing to believe that we wouldn't be as devastated for the loss of the young loved ones in our lives had their existences truly meant nothing.