When I heard of Michael Jackson’s death, I felt a wave of confused sadness. Immediately, I was flooded with memories of hearing his music in Japan, where I was raised. The teenie-bopper magazines sent to us from the U.S. held photos and stories about his life as one of the Jackson Five. My friend Josephine and I absorbed these when we had sleepovers.
Years later, I watched his “Thriller” video over and over, captivated by his talent. In the mid-80s, when I worked at a refugee camp in The Philippines, the Vietnamese kids would blast his music through a cassette player and do the moonwalk. Michael was truly an international legend.
Recently, Michael was a confusing icon. Now that he is dead, I suppose he will be remembered more for his music than for the uncertainties that stemmed from his bizarre personal life.
My son Daniel died in February 1997 from cancer treatments, and months later the world mourned Princess Diana and Mother Teresa’s deaths. I was in such raw pain, I could not join the mourners. I recall that at that time I wished my son had been so well-known that others would have grieved his death like they did these two celebrities. I wanted flowers strewn around the driveway of my home by passersby. I wonder if some of the newly-bereaved feel that way right now with all the attention given to Michael’s passing.
I’m not sure why we choose to make so much over the death of celebrities. In a way, I feel sorry for Farrah Fawcett for dying right before Michael; he has taken the limelight away from her death. Sounds like an odd thing for me to feel, perhaps. Then again, of course, the media is making more over Michael’s death; he held talent and an international audience like no other.
Regardless of how we feel about the deaths of celebrities, I think it’s a time to realize many of them were lonely and sad people with addictions- in spite of their fame and fortune. My hope is that each of us would embrace our own life and realize that although we most likely will not be mourned like the King of Pop, we can be grateful for those who love us and walk with us every day. To be loved and feel loved on a daily basis, and to know those who died before us loved us dearly-wrap your arms around that and smile.