So, I don’t know if you heard, but Michael Jackson, international pop super-star, passed away two weeks ago. I know you probably think it’s shocking that I heard on account of my hermit-like existence, but my cave has internet access and cable television. Oh, and we get the LA Times delivered, but I prefer to get my news from reliable sources like People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and TMZ.com.
Anyway, so Michael Jackson’s passing has been strange for me. Not because of the circumstances around it, those are details that don’t effect me; and not because of his strangeness, either true or alleged. No, it’s been strange because of the places that have been involved with his passing and the aftermath.
MJ was rushed to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. Madeline spent 68 days in the NICU in Westwood, at the old UCLA hospital directly across the street. When the news channels showed the throngs of people that gathered at the hospital, I could see Dr. Blood’s office window. We live close enough to UCLA that we could hear the helicopters hovering.
MJ was embalmed and had his private funeral at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills. The news channels were camped out there for days. The last time I saw news crews in front of the gates of Forest Lawn was when they were reporting about Maddie.
MJ public memorial tickets had to be picked up in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium. I’ve obviously seen Dodger Stadium on TV dozens of times since I stopped working there, so it doesn’t phase me. But there was something about seeing people in the parking lot that I’d walked across with Madeline…they were there to get tickets to a funeral. It made me uneasy.
The memorial itself was something I wanted to watch, even though it took place on the three month anniversary of Maddie’s passing. The only way I could deal with it was to seize on some of the silly aspects (and there were plenty). But oh, how I empathized with everyone who got on stage. I’ve sung at two funerals. I spoke at my daughter’s. I know how hard it is to get up there and express your love through song and words. I know how hard it is to lose someone you love.
In one of my magazines, I read a complicated eulogy for MJ where the author referred to him as a “fifty year old man.” And in all the strange strangeness, it hit me that I never thought of him as a man, as a person. And putting aside what he may or may not have done, he was a person to his family. I know that when I hear a news story over and over, it becomes that – a STORY. Something that, while completely true, takes on the feeling of a fictitious fable in the re-telling. And I wonder if that’s what will happen to Madeline. I look at pictures of her, and I already have a hard time believing she was a real person. Is that what it’s like for those that never met her? Is that what it will be like for her future cousins or siblings?
When Michael Jackson’s daughter spoke at the end of the service, my heart broke. But not the way you might think. When I have my conversations with Madeline at her urn, I tell her all the time that I would rather she grow up without me than I grow old without her. Because then she would be alive and living. And I’m sure that Paris Jackson’s father felt the same way, because he is a parent. And while no parent would want to miss their child’s life, I know that I would prefer to miss her life than to live my life missing her.