Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I have been moved more than I thought possible by this last two and a half hours of remembrance of the life of Michael Joseph Jackson. It has been an elegant ourpouring of emotion and love, celebration and grief from the family and friends of this remarkable man. I was doing just fine until Jermaine sang Michael’s favorite song, “Smile,” from the Charlie Chaplin film, Modern Times, but when he choked up, I felt the tears. He wasn’t the only one who was choked with emotion. A very emotional Brooke Shields gave a very tender personal tribute, clearly remembering not a celebrity but a very, very dear friend and confidant. Her sense of personal loss was poignantly clear. She painted a picture of a boyish person who laughed and loved life and saw the good in the world. She clearly knew the man and the boy behind the legendary fame and reminded us that no matter how the world saw him, he was just a person. Thank you for that, Brooke.

Michael’s brothers all wore yellow ties and sported a single spangled glove on their left hands. A Gospel choir sang Michael in with a solemnly fitting “Going to See the King,” and provided subdued and appropriate backup to a number of performances. Maya Angelou wrote a very fitting poem and Stevie Wonder composed a blues piece which he sang with a slightly wavering voice. These people made their tributes to Michael in the venue they know best – and they did it with elegance, dignity, and respect. Magic Johnson spoke of fried chicken and Berry Gordy talked about Michael as a father would. Even the Reverend Al Sharpton spoke with grace and without an obvious political agenda about Michael’s contributions to black society and the world. The musical tributes were more subdued than I expected, and included new arrangements of several of MJ’s works – like John Mayer’s rendition of “Human Nature,” in which the electric guitar took the part of Michael’s sweetly pitched vocal line. Unexpected, and I believe it would have pleased Michael greatly.

The sweetest, most touching, and most tragic tribute came at the very end of the memorial when his beautiful daughter Paris spoke just a few words to let the world know that he was the best daddy in the world and that she misses him very much. Janet gathered her into her arms and comforted her as she burst into tears. Such a strong little girl in such a grown-up world. Her fragile little heart was shattered, and that grieves me most of all.

The most fascinating and important tributes, however, had nothing to do with Michael Jackson himself, oddly enough, and I can’t seem to shake the impact they must have had around the world. I heard the name of Jesus spoken or sung frequently throughout this service, and maybe that’s why God took this broken and resilient genius at this time in his life. This service glorified Michael Jackson, yes, but it also glorified the God and Father Who gave Michael the drive to be a humanitarian and a caring soul. God, and His Son Jesus were glorified through the words of the Gospel pieces, Lionel Richie’s song and in the words of Jermaine Jackson, among others, and that makes me very, very happy. There was meaning in his death, after all.

“There’s nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voice as one.”

--Michael Joseph Jackson, 1958-2009

Amen, Michael. Amen. Rest in peace, and may God bless you.


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