When Kanye Prayed

A number of similarities exist between my family and the Kardashian family that at times has made it seem like my own is some parallel universe version of America’s most notorious reality TV family. My mother, Karla with a K, gave her three daughters K names and our brother a different letter. My father, though not defensive of one OJ Simpson, did have an untimely death ala Robert Kardashian, Sr. And as a matter of fact, my oldest sister shared a wedding date with Kim herself, though Kari’s marriage has lasted well beyond the 72 days Kim stayed with Kris Humphries.

Thankfully there are not too many other coincidences, and while it would be nice to have their millions in the bank, I’m grateful for my humble upbringing and the shaping it did for me. But a few years back when things for that family were a little different than present-day, Kanye West penned a song for his and Kim’s first daughter, North.

As I lay me down to sleep / I hear her speak to me

Hello ‘mari / How ya doin? 

I think the storm ran out of rain / The clouds are moving

Written from the perspective of his beloved mother who had passed, Kanye imagines what she would have said to him and the legacy she would have wanted him to pass on to his daughter.

I talked to God about you / He said He sent you an angel

Look at all that He gave you / You asked for one and you got two

You know I never left you / ‘Cause every road that leads to heaven’s right beside you

It rips me apart every time. Literally just now picture me, a sobbing, blubbering mess with Kanye West rapping quietly in the background. 

I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of psychoanalyzing Kanye, the Kardashians, or any of their harmful behavior. But it would be years later that Kanye released his “gospel” album, that I found in spirituality and passion fell miles short of this one song. 

My sister had my first niece almost a year to the day after Kim had North, and though that parallel didn’t line up as perfectly (I think their pregnancies may have just overlapped), I felt this longing Kanye sings about wishing my dad was alive to meet his first grandchild. 

But that’s the beauty in that line Kanye sang, “He sent you an angel…you asked for one and you got two,” speaking to how in losing his mother and gaining his child God blessed him with some kind of a spiritual guardian as well as an earthly gift that he would need to guard as well.

While I don’t really believe in our loved ones becoming angels in the literal sense, that sentiment just encapsulates the gifts and the losses that life is all about. There is certainly no replacement for our loved ones when they leave us on earth, but there is so much more love to give and love to have when we bring new life into the world or just meet new people. The ties that bind us to those we love are never broken even if the person on the other end passes into the next life. 

It’s spring. The season of rebirth and new life and everything fresh and pretty. For me, March is the anniversary of my father’s passing, and this week I lost my grandma. 

Before I got the news I had been pondering the fact that this year would mark about half my life that I have lived without my dad. While it didn’t necessarily send me into a grief spiral thinking about him, I reflected on life and our relationships and the time we do get with those we love. It’s never enough, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You can “live each day to the fullest” and try to avoid hurting feelings and things “just in case,” but at the end of the day I think we’ll all almost always feel like we could have done more.

But reverend Kanye said 

So hear me out / hear me out

I won’t go / I won’t go

No goodbyes / No goodbyes

Just hellos / Just hellos

And when you cry / I will cry

And when you smile / I will smile

And next time / When I look in your eyes

We’ll have wings / And we’ll fly

He knows he’s gonna see his mother again. He clings fast to that faith and he knows life isn’t about trying to stay happy all the time—it’s the good and the bad. But those who love you are going to cry with you, just as they’re gonna cry with you. In the chorus he repeats a paraphrase of mother’s actual words saying “You’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes.” 

Unfortunately by now Kanye has made so many public (and again, harmful) mistakes that it’s hard not to see him as those bad things. And again we don’t have to unpack that here, but I think it is an important lesson in humanity and empathy and forgiveness—all things that really really come in handy when we’re addressing grief and human relationships.

You can’t have the good without the bad, and we would be lost in life without its hardships. But when we hold fast to love and kindness and those who give those things to us unconditionally, it gets a lot easier.

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