Under the Quilt

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An Eye Opener

You know how sometimes you feel compelled to do something even though it feels a little strange or goes against what seems right? On Friday, I did get a seat at the Celebration of Life for Gerald Levert. It was something I'll never forget, for many reasons. Most of them I can't put into words. I will admit that I barely knew who Gerald was before hearing of his passing. He was the singer (and co-writer) of the song, "Casanova" back in 1987. Other than that, I was mostly going to see the other celebs perform. If I had known ahead of time what it was going to be like, I may have stayed home. I'm glad I didn't.

I showed up in downtown Cleveland with plenty of time to park and walk the few blocks to the Civic Center. Silly me decided to find a parking spot as soon as I reached the downtown area (I basically panicked and was saying over and over in my head....must. find. first. parking. available. parking. space. ). And so I did. And so I walked a bajillion miles to the Civic Center (leaving my gloves, hat, and scarf behind of course) in freezing cold temperatures with the wind blowing ferociously off of Lake Erie. But I was thankful for it.

As I approached the building, I saw a sea of black. I immediately felt out of place. Not because I was one of the only white people in the vicinity, but because almost every one of the thousands of people in line were wearing black and decked out in their Sunday's best. I had wondered, earlier that morning, what would be the appropriate attire to such an event. What I didn't realize, was how much of a memorial service it would be. But I in no way was the only one dressed in jeans. So all was well. (And later on I would discover that I was dressed fancier than even Stevie Wonder.)

Among the speakers, were all of Gerald's close family and friends. His parents (dad Eddie of the O'Jays), his siblings, his children (heart wrenching). Usher spoke, but didn't sing (dang, he's fine). Bryan McKnight spoke, but didn't sing (ditto on the dang comment). Stevie sang.....it was utterly beautiful. If I never hear him perform live again, I will die happy. He's one of those people that is on my Must See List. Angela Winbush sang beatifully. I still don't know if I've heard any of her previous work, but she reminded me of Aretha and Patti. Speaking of Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle, they did not show.

Stevie's performance was so touching, I was crying through part of it (of course, I was crying through part of all the performances....big mush). While he was singing, Gerald's father was sitting right next to him and either hugging on him or spontaneously singing along. You could feel the love even way in the back of the auditorium. He said he almost didn't make it there, having sat on the tarmac for 5 hours and the airport losing his luggage (causing him to wear a fuzzy sweat outfit). But he said that God didn't care what you were dressed in (even though you KNOW he wanted to be dressed to the hilt for the occasion).

Since coming home Friday evening, I have been doing a lot of thinking (not that I don't any other time, but you know what I mean). The overall consensus from all the family and friends that got up and spoke was that Gerald was one of the most geniune people you'd ever meet. I realize that most people speak grandly of someone who has just passed. Especially in front of a large crowd and if it's being broadcast on TV and radio. But every single person that spoke of him, had a different story to tell of how he would literally give them the shirt off his back. He would do ANYTHING for someone. And how he treated people with respect, even the people at the bottom of the totem pole. The ones that most people don't even think about when they reach stardom.

So, my new motto, whether anyone has ever thought of this in these particular terms is........Do what makes you happy, but just remember to be kind, gentle, and respectful along the way.

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