The rogue waves of shock the world experienced about Michael Jackson’s death is just now beginning to subside. And much like the destruction left behind via the oceanic kind of storm, so many of us are still wondering what the Hell just hit us.
For a while I thought I was losing my mind. And not because of the loss of him, but because of my irrational reaction to it. It was just a few months ago, while clearing out the clutter in a back room, I ran across my old Thriller CD. Without giving it a second thought I tossed it in the garage sale bin. An act not befitting of a beloved fan. This casting aside wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate his music or the genius of this boy wonder. It was because I didn’t realize just what a genius he was until he was no longer in “the flesh.” I can’t discount the fact I’m just a few years older than MJ; with music tastes, at the time, leaning toward country (to be replaced soon thereafter with New Age). Or maybe it was because I was never a typical concert groupie. I remind myself the electronic age hadn’t yet come unto its own during the reign of our Pop King. Thus the true experience of MJ had to be seen—in person. Still, I suspect, the real culprit to my moving on was how hard it was for me to relate to him. The strangeness of this celebrity just didn’t fit into any cognitive form my baby boomer brain could muster. I was never convinced he was guilty of the wretched charges thrown at him during the media circus of his 2005 trial. I simply saw it as another form of TV entertainment.
Indifference on steroids.
Fast forward to June 25, 2009. In the days following his death, while soaking in every sordid detail via mainstream media and beyond, I found myself—this otherwise conservative, rational middle-aged woman—looking for secret places I could retreat to for a good cry. And get this: I flat-out don’t cry. Not at girl-ish movies, even rarely at a funeral. So here I was, crying about the loss of Michael Joseph Jackson, on and off for more than a month. Wondering with each and every grief-stricken moment what on earth was happening to me. Was it a re-entry of hormonal menopause, come back to evoke havoc? Or had his death meant a part of my own youth-a more vibrant era of accepted immaturity and adventure-was now gone forever, never to eek its way back to me? Then, again, there’s always work-related stress, albeit ongoing. For the death of this total stranger, a mega celebrity, no less, to usurp my life so uncharacteristically sent me on a mission to either figure him or me out once and for all. So here’s what I’ve discovered (or should I say uncovered?’
That I’m not alone.
In fact, far from it. I’ve scoured numerous Michael Jackson forums, music, and entertainment blogs, Twittering away. I wasn’t looking for the longtime, faithful servant-fans of MJ but I mean the “git-a-rope,” “just get over it already” crowd of grown-ups who have collectively been scratching their heads while wallowing in the same loss and grief.
Lila Ramkey, a Charleston, W.V. woman wrote: “If someone had told me one year ago that I would have reacted this way to Michael’s death, I would have declared them crazy. I’ve never followed celebrity this closely in my life. I’m a realistic, pragmatic type for the most part and really haven’t understood in the past how people could get so caught up in celebrity.”
Yet, she, like I, can’t seem to “get enough.” Ironically, akin to MJ’s pensive comments just seconds before the music starts in “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” it’s a force … a force moving us both, to where, exactly, we’re not sure. But it’s a strange journey we want to take.
Arlene, a fifty-one-year-old telecommunications executive, who never owned a single MJ album, had this to share: “I was in a meeting at work, when we got the word that he had died. I said something like, ‘Who didn’t see that coming,’ and I went on with my day. The next day she watched reports about him, then listened to one of his music CDs. The following weekend, upon hearing an MJ song, through tears blurted out to her astonished husband,"The world doesn’t have Michael Jackson to kick around anymore." Since then this business woman is beyond obsessed with everything ‘Michael Jackson’; framing his Time Magazine covers and wearing (what was reported to be) MJ’s favorite cologne.
I’ve learned we-unexpected MJ grievers—are as different as we are alike: baby boomers, Gen Xers, seniors with grandchildren. We’re all colors and cultures; middle-income, low income, wealthy, stay-at-home moms, artists, business executives, college students, empty nesters. This list isn’t exclusive to women, either. Men- brave enough to admit to their emotional upheaval at the loss of this man—are also among us. The common denominator we all share is simple: we were asleep at the wheel during the reign of The King. We had no idea how remarkable this man was until his untimely death showered his life before us; like the videotape of his soul that found its way onto our doorsteps.
I’ve not been much of a religious person the past decade or two. But if this phenomenon doesn’t help me wonder about the possible deity connection to Michael Jackson, I don’t know what will. We may have forever lost the opportunity to see this man on stage; or watch him guide his children, perhaps, into a similar career path … but the next best isn’t too bad. I’ve lost count the number of his songs I’ve downloaded. Spent hours upon hours watching purchased music videos. I never even knew there was a “Dangerous” or “Invincible” trove of work to be thrilled by until now. I’ve moved myself into another part of living, by purchasing an iPod so I can walk my dog while listening to his voice playfully belt out “Remember the Time” or feel—along with him—the loneliness of “Stranger in Moscow.” My DVR is preprogrammed to tape anything and everything “Michael.” I’ve bought books written by those who claim to have looked into the whites of his eyes. I eat, sleep and breathe the desire to know him better. Maybe now, in some bizarre way, I can.
Because now, I want to.