22. A Journey of L.O.V.E. for Michael Jackson
I wish everyone could have experienced what it was like to visit Michael Jackson’s final resting place on the one year anniversary of his passing, but since that wasn‘t possible, I decided to blog about my experience to give you a small glimpse into what it was like. I have tried to capture and convey to you the emotion I felt in each place we visited while we were there.
My trip was shared with three other friends. Two are team members on the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait, Valmai and Heather. The other is a dot member I have become good friends with named Kelley. We were all there for the same reason; to pay our respects to Michael Jackson. Other than the few times we got horribly lost, it was a great experience.
We began our journey at Michael’s star on the Walk of Fame. Of all the stars on there, his was of course the one everyone flocked to. We met people from all over the world there; Japan, Germany, France. Everyone wanted to get their picture taken next to his star.
The next day we were on the road to Neverland. The drive up there is absolutely stunning! We passed by the ocean and saw layers of fog hovering over the water. The road up there is a two lane highway encased in beautiful landscape. There are lots of green trees, bushes and small mountains. We stopped at a quiet lake and a quaint little campground that sits not too far from Neverland. It is a very serene and peaceful area. I can see why Michael wanted to live there.
It was quite a long drive from where we were staying though and after a while I began to get restless in the car. I fidgeted around to get comfortable and blurted out to everyone: ‘My butt hurts!’ Right then, the next song on the CD started playing and Michael sang, "You’re butt is mine." It was hilarious! We laughed until we cried. We took it as a sign that Michael was right there with us giving us something to laugh about.
Being at Neverland was a surreal feeling. I felt at peace there, which some people may be surprised to hear, but that is the feeling I got. Standing there peering through the gates, wishing I could go further onto the property, I was able to visualize the happier times. I imagined the children, the rides, the giving tree; all the things that brought him joy there.
We went there in the morning, so only a handful of people were there. That was nice because it gave us a chance to sit quietly and reflect on our memories of Michael. There is a wall made of rocks by the gates of Neverland and it is full of messages of love written to him. I call it The Wall of L.O.V.E . You will see it in the video. We added our messages to it while we were there.
We also visited Michael’s house on Carolwood, but I couldn’t stay there very long because the energy there was heavy, dense and uncomfortable. I knew I was looking at the window of the bedroom where Michael took his last breath. It brought tears to my eyes and I just couldn’t handle it there for very long.
When the day finally arrived to pay our respects to Michael, we made our way to Forest Lawn. Again, there were people from all over the world there. It was incredible! It was such an affirmation of how Michael Jackson brought together a world.
Dozens of media camped out across the street. Helicopters were flying over head and fans gathered in silence, grieving in front of Holly Terrace. I stood there looking at all of it thinking ‘wow all of this is for one man.’ It was very emotional.
Forest Lawn set up a gated walkway where you could stop in front of Holly Terrace, take pictures, give flowers to the attendants, and pay your respects. Many fans went through the line several times. One person said she was going to go through the line seven times because that was his favorite number, but it was too hard to stop at only seven.
People cried, hugged and comforted each other. Cars were decorated with acknowledgments of love for a King. As the day came to a close, the staff of Forest Lawn began to usher us out. We made our way through the line one last time. Standing there looking at his door, with all the beautiful flowers and gifts surrounding it, I couldn’t help but break down. It was so hard leaving.
While we were in California we got to see the actual Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait that David Ilan is drawing with each of our dots. When you are up that close to it, you realize what a monumental task it is to create a portrait made up of only dots. David explained to us that it’s not the dots that create the portrait it’s the space between the dots. Jerry Biederman, the Executive Producer of the MJTP, told us how they came about getting the picture of Michael that David is currently using. A clip of that story is in the video.
What was so wonderful about visiting all these places is that we got to meet fellow MJ fans everywhere we went. It didn’t matter where you were from, what race you were, or how old you were; everyone instantly bonded. We were a family being united together by Michael Jackson and that was a blessing.
It was an experience I will never forget and one that I will cherish forever. I envy those people who live in California because they can visit all these places frequently. Consider yourself blessed.
The four of us have made a pact with each other to return next year!
I hope you will be there too.
Lots of L.O.V.E.
Director of Community Development
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