I was moved to tears today and feeling so blessed to receive this Face Book post from my dear friend, Donna. As I read this post I felt that unmistakable nudge from the Lord I have come to know, to share about ‘our’ Michael Jackson experience, a journey of LOVE’s invisible thread in our lives. Today on Paris’ 13th birthday, almost two years after Michael’s death, Michael’s LOVE continues to weave hearts together.
~ Donna, I am so blessed to have met you and cherish your friendship. There are so many whose hearts and lives now intertwine with mine, so many friends who I will always hold dear to my heart because we were inexplicably bonded in our LOVE and grief over loosing Michael Jackson. There is an unspoken knowing as fans look into each others eyes and share their hearts, no words said. Immediate hugs, tears and LOVE for the most precious human being who the LORD chose as the vessel to spread LOVE, music and magic around this globe. Everything said in one glance, yet as soon as hearts are bonded in that glance of knowing LOVE, words spill uncontrollably in both joy and grief. I have experienced this with you and many others. After Michael’s death and before I met friends like you, Donna, I felt I could not fully breath. In sharing our grief it is like taking a new and different breath of life.
On that day, April 3, 2010 we met amongst a large group of MJ Southern California fans who were meeting at Forest Lawn to pay respects to Michael. I felt drawn back to you, Donna, knowing it was your first visit to Holly Terrace I felt the need to check to see if you were okay. Remembering my first visit to Holly Terrace to visit Michael I didn’t want you to feel alone. On my first visit I was alone and I was completely, unexplainably, unexpectedly shattered over the loss of a man I had never met. I could not confide yet to my family how I felt about the death of Michael Jackson. I definitely and sadly could not share with my church family how I felt. Yet I knew the Lord was working in me in a way I had never experienced before.
Uncharacteristically I had been spending many hours late into the night and on every opportunity at work researching, watching every MJ video I could find, reading books and magazine articles over and over in an attempt to feel close to MJ in some way, to bring him back to life. My guilt for not being there for Michael, not praying enough for Michael, the weight of the loss of this incredible human being was so encompassing in every area of my life at times it was almost debilitating. This behavior was not my normal MO. I had spent the last 15 years of my life raising my children as a struggling, single mother, surviving my ex-husband’s drug addiction, abuse and my mother’s long illness and death, lay offs from several jobs and rebellious teenagers. I was a survivor to say the least. Once I had been a crazy music person but for years I had been taking refuge in my church groups and listened to nothing but contemporary gospel music surrounded by prayer, much love, support and encouragement from my church family. It was here in this cocoon that the Lord remodeled my life and healed me of so much pain. When Michael Jackson died it was like a polar magnetic shift happened in my life and I was thrust out into the world again. In my survival mode and ignorance I had missed out on so much of the later years of his life. Guilt over whelmed me. I had kept tabs on him via the media over the years but held on to the notion that Michael would always be there and I could always catch up later. If only I had paid attention, not listened to the media, been a better human being, more like Michael. An invisible force drew me back to Michael Jackson and I knew I HAD to somehow visit him at Forest Lawn.
Having lived here in Southern California for many years and having spent a few years home schooling my children we had made several trips to Forest Lawn. I knew it as a beautiful place with much educational history and art which is shared with children on very entertaining and engaging field trips. Wonderful animated actors portray Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Abraham Lincoln as they teach the children how sculpture is created into masterpieces, how paintings evolve into great works of art, and Lincoln teaches children about the simplicity of the stick toys he played with as a child and his love of reading, even allowing each child try out his stick toy. He coaches them through as the children find it is not an easy task to master. There are statues of children everywhere on the grounds and inside the mausoleum. The main hall of the mausoleum holds statues and art created by artists Michael loved, studied and also included in his concert stage videos. Replicas of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and ‘La Pieta’ and the painting ‘The Creation of Adam’, as well as a Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting ‘The Last Supper’ which is on display behind a closed curtain, where daily the curtain is pulled and an orator explains the history and details of the painting as you sit surrounded by magnificent pieces of art. It truly is a beautiful and fitting place for Michael, who loved art and children so very much.
I had a very good idea where Michael was laid to rest and I was drawn to Forest Lawn in a way I have never experienced in my life. The need to visit him there and ask his forgiveness is beyond explanation to me, but I needed to tell him I was sorry, so incredibly, deeply, crushingly sorry for how the world had treated him and that I was sorry for abandoning him in his time of need. This was a couple of months after he was interred and the public had been told by the media that no one was allowed to visit him. Yet I knew the area and knew I must go.
There was not a soul around as I found Holly Terrace and slowly climbed the steps to reach out to Michael. I remember feeling the world around me stopped, completely quiet except for a few birds chirping and singing in a distant tree. The silence seemed so oppositional to the amazingly full life that Michael lived, so final, so wrong. I stood alone at the doors of Holly Terrace peering through the glass, listening to my own heart beat, with sharp stabs of heart ache and brokenness piercing every breath and fiber of my being, wishing with all that was within me that the Lord would have taken me instead and left Michael who gave so much to this world and still had so much to give. I thought of the dynamics of Michael’s life and the torment he endured, the phenomenal diametrical power of malice, cruelty and lies which the press, talk show hosts and rag magazines had inflicted on the most kind, gentle, loving and caring human being that has graced this planet. Twisting and distorting his image and reputation to suite their need to make money off his name. The thought of the incredibly horrific way the media had treated this precious, gift from God was so overwhelming my knees buckled. I found my way to the cement bench at the doors of Holly Terrace and gingerly, carefully sat down feeling as though I still should not be there. The weight of the global bullying and torture Michael Jackson endured hit me full on as I sat there looking at, feeling, experiencing the end result of that global bullying, feeling the reality that Michael Jackson, Peter Pan who should have lived forever, lay dead behind those doors was too much for me to handle. Although there was no one around I found it painfully impossible to stay at the doors and retreated to the safety of my car where I could privately cry and talk to God. I thought my heart was being torn out. I sobbed, my body shook with grief as tears streamed down my face. Then I gathered myself to drive home.
Donna, it was on April 3, 2010, Paris’ birthday, on one of those Southern California MJ fan gatherings, we sat on that same stone bench at Holly Terrace and talked about Michael right out side the doors to his resting place. We shared about family and Michael, spilling our hearts. You were looking through the most wonderful book delivered to Michael at Holly Terrace, a collection of condolences and remembrances from fans all over the world. I kept gazing back at your beautiful flowers you had brought for Michael and I felt a nudge from the Lord as if angel’s wings were touching my back telling me those flowers were special. Then I glanced down at the page in the book you were looking at and right there on that page was a personal note from another dear MJ friend in N.Y. I have come to know and love. This special lady who has the kindest and most giving heart for children, on a regular basis she lays her heart out on the line in very tangible ways for children who have no one in this world. She is on the forefront of the fight to give LOVE to abused and neglected children. I am so honored to know her. I was beyond amazed that at that very moment while looking at your heartfelt beautiful flowers, and feeling the nudge of angel’s wings, that I would look down to see her message to Michael jumping up off the page at me. Out of the thousands in that book there was her humble message of everlasting love and devotion to Michael. I had no idea she had written anything, was not looking for anything special in the book but just perusing it and taking in the out pouring of LOVE for Michael from around the world. This clearly was one of those confirmations from God I have come to recognize as Michael-incidences. The nudge I felt from angel’s wings grew stronger pushing me on. Yes your flowers were definitely special and I felt the Lord or Michael or both tell me “Paris would absolutely LOVE those flowers.” I still hadn’t thought about going to Hayvenhurst. I thought if I told you what the Lord and Michael were telling me (as we were still at that time total strangers) you would think I was completely bonkers. The push at my back, a gentle but firm insistent urging grew stronger. Then you confided that you had brought a present for Paris for her birthday. I knew that a group of fans had already taken presents and dropped them at Hayvenhurst for her and I personally really didn’t plan on going there but then suddenly I could no longer keep my mouth closed about God’s urgings and heard myself offering to take your beautiful flowers for Michael to Paris instead along with your precious present for Paris. I thought to myself “What the heck are you doing, Betty?” but then it didn’t seem to matter as I have come to recognize when God gives me a Michael mission I must do it, finish the task, see where it leads me and it always inevitably leads to blessing others in some way. Sometimes it leads to much criticism as well but when the Lord is the one guiding me with His blessing I pay little attention to what others say.
I remember we stayed a bit longer at the doors of Holly Terrace and both together and at different times peered through the window to see Michael’s resting place. It wasn’t long before I knew in my heart I must go before dusk fell and deliver your items to Paris for her birthday. The whole day was the most incredible series of Michael-incidences. I took hold of your gifts and hugged you goodbye only after inviting you on my journey. You were so afraid to drive there....you have come a long way baby. You now drive all over for our Michaeling adventures. I still wish so much you could have been there that day. I arrived at Hayvenhurst and parked down the street, taking a deep breath and saying “Ok Lord, I feel like You wanted me to deliver these to Paris for Michael and Donna… so here ‘WE’ go.” I carefully gathered your items and began my purposeful walk down the street to the compound, just as I approached a small pull out section along the street and just about half way down the street from the compound driveway two cars, Range Rovers, pulled up along side me filled with MJ’s nephews and other younger family members. They waited there and kept turning to look back toward the driveway. I smiled at them as they looked at me and kept walking. Then I realized they were waiting for the rest of the Jackson caravan. As I approached the drive way a Mercedes pulled out and stopped at the end of the drive way. Those inside began waving and pointing at me. I waved back and self consciously smiled. I realized suddenly they were pointing to my T-shirt which was a Justice for Michael Jackson T-shirt. I was very happy to know they approved of and felt my support for them and were aware of the fans desire for justice for Michael. Then a dark suburban pulled up behind the Mercedes and they waved at me too. I suddenly was so shy and felt as though I was intruding on their privacy. I wanted so badly to look inside the vehicles to get a closer, better look at which Jacksons were waving at me but my feeling of intrusion on their lives took hold and I cast my eyes down lowering my head in embarrassment instead. I believe it was La Toya or Randy waving as I believe they both have Mercedes. I am still not sure. I just felt like it was none of my business and didn’t want to intrude on them or this special day. My mission was to deliver your gifts.
There was a lot of action at the compound that day and clearly a Jackson family party was taking place. There were several body guards at the gate and it was wide open but the one tall good looking body guard (I wasn’t too shy to notice that Hee Hee) who was waving and talking to the family members in the cars parked in the driveway turned to me, looked me in the eye and gave me a great big friendly smile. He took my hand warmly, shook it and thanked me for coming. I was shocked and surprised at such a heartfelt and warm welcome. The Jacksons still continued to sit and watch me hand over the flowers and present. I told him the flowers and gifts were from you “Donna, a local So. Cal., Michael Jackson fan” and I was delivering them for you to Paris for her birthday and had just come from Forest Lawn. He genuinely acknowledged me and the gifts saying, “Paris will just love these flowers. They are so beautiful.” He went on to tell me that she was so happy, grateful and appreciative to receive all the gifts from the fans and that he would make sure to personally deliver your the flowers and present to her. He also said the Jacksons so appreciated all the fan support and presents as well. I thanked him and told him to please convey a very Happy Birthday to Paris from all the fans then stepped back, turned and began walking back to my car. It was then another final SUV joined the other two vehicles in the driveway and the caravan pulled out and joined the nephews who had been waiting down the street. They all then caravaned off down the street and on to Ventura Blvd, away from Hayvenhurst.
To this day I wish I would not have been so shy and had directly spoken to the Jacksons, to tell them personally how much I pray for them and miss Michael. The larger SUV at the end of the caravan looked to be Michael’s dark navy SUV and I believe the children may have been inside; however no matter because I would never want to be that kind of fan who pushes in and intrudes on their privacy. In fact I pray daily for them along with my own family for their safety and protection in all areas of their lives.
Additionally as I write this post and only weeks after Elizabeth Taylor’s passing, one of the beautiful works of art at the main mausoleum is the statue 'The Angel of Memory'. Elizabeth Taylor is now buried just under this statue. Both Michael and Elizabeth were created and chosen by God to be works of art in and of themselves and for her to be buried where many beautiful works of art are openly displayed for viewing seems fitting to me. Elizabeth, Michael’s dearest friend, now lays at rest forever immortalized amongst great works of art from past centuries. The thought that you need to pass by her resting place to view the main show room which contains the art from Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci is not lost on me and brings a smile to my face as I think about how this particular final resting place, even in death shows what a beautiful star she was in life. Elizabeth was a loyal and dear friend to many in her life but most especially to Michael Jackson. I will always love her for that. She like Michael will never be forgotten. There will never be another like either of them...Ever.