Thank You, Michael Jackson
Since the announcement of Michael Jackson’s death, the media has been scrambling to find a way to encapsulate, document and wrap up a life that, to many, means so much more than what simple words could ever express.
At MTV (which wouldn’t be what it is today without him) this past week, people had to put their feelings aside to do what they were assigned. Write scripts. Pull tape. Create photo galleries. True feelings surfaced over the subsequent days via text messages, tweets, emails and Facebook status updates. People were hurting.
And inside, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. It was (and remains) intense grief made more unbearable when considering what his family must be going through.
Where did Michael go? How could he be gone? For a moment, I forgot that inevitably everyone dies. All I felt was pain.
We only knew him as an artist, as a friend we could call upon by simply popping in a cassette or a CD. Playing a video on YouTube. A talisman, a promise of happiness – if only for a while. A generous philanthropist who, through word and deed, reminded us all that “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” He was a role model to me – someone who pursued his dreams with passion and dedication.
But he was still just a man, loved by his children and his family. I cannot fathom what they are feeling right now.
I had intended to write this post as a way to finally accept that he is gone. But right now, I still can’t. So I’m not going to try. I selected this particular video for the post because when I was young, I had a series of pet mice and rats. No one could understand why. They kept dying from various diseases, seemingly interchangeable. I don’t think even I yet fully understand my interest in them. But MJ loved small animals too – so much so that he agreed to sing a song about them. It was about finding love in an unlikely place, recognizing beauty in a living creature, one often overlooked. As I grew up, I had pet spiders and other unusual pets. Of course, my pet history never topped Michael’s 🙂
He wasn’t ahead of the class – he was the teacher of his own school. His memory lives on in countless artists who draw inspiration from him – who, like me, watched him growing up and felt inspired to create.
His music was an integral, unforgettable part of my childhood. As an adult, after moving to NYC, I often found solace in his words and voice. He was a “familiar friend” that I could take with me, wherever I went. I took that for granted – I would go months without listening to him, then suddenly feel compelled to days of “just Michael songs.” I think that on some level Michael understood this about his relationship to his fans – people loved more than just his music. They loved his relationship to their lives, what he reminded them of – Joy, happiness, freedom, strength, escape, possibility.
The good news is that all those things are still available to people, in this life – if they choose to accept it. Michael wanted people to feel joy and happiness in their everyday lives. Those are the moments we remember the most.
Eventually I will be able to celebrate Michael’s life and accept what is.