“I’m going to call Pat to find out . . .”

“Oh, BeBe. CeCe and I just hung up with Pat. It’s all true.” Everything changed with just the flash of a phone screen.

It changed when Benjamin and I drove to my daughter’s work and told her that Whitney had died.

It changed when we cried together.

It changed when I realized my kids were more concerned about me than their own hurt.

Even now, I look at my phone, thinking she’ll call. But she doesn’t.

If you can, lean in and listen to that voice—the one that sang the National Anthem, the voice that drew us into The Bodyguard. Imag- ine that voice in the form of a phone call. Can you hear it?

“Hello-o, my bro-tha,” she would sing as I answered. Up and down the scale she’d soar—her typical phone greeting to me. We sang our hellos. “Hello, my bro-tha. Whatcha doin’ today? Mmmhmmm.” And of course, I would respond in kind. “Whatcha’ doin’, my si-ster! Can you get together sometime? Ohh-ohh, mmmhmmm.”

We’d perform our conversational opera, she and I. Can you hear it? Not just a voice, but a person behind the voice. The playful sister always wanting to sing, even on the phone.

That same playful girl and I were planning my fiftieth birthday party. Hers would follow the next year. We’d talk about what we’d do for the party and who I’d invite. And now, when I think about that birthday, I only hear an echo of our discussions. It’s a heavy echo. And I find myself singing back to it the same way I’d sing to her phone calls. But the echo fades and only my voice skims the empty hallway.

She’s gone. And I miss her.The Whitney I Knew by BeBe Winans, © 2012. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, TN. Used by permission. Tell us what you thought of this excerpt on Twitter: #TheWhitneyIKnew @WorthyPub

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