08. The Power of Michael
As I sat on the plane waiting to leave for home after paying my respects to Michael Jackson on the 2nd anniversary of his passing, I had to hold back the tears. I was not ready to leave. Even though my body was on that plane, my heart was back at Forest Lawn. This trip was a life changing experience for me and I didn’t want to let go of that feeling.
Last year I visited the places Michael used to live; Neverland, Hayvenhurst and Carolwood and had powerful experiences at each place, some good and some bad. The only house I cared to return to this year was Neverland. I remembered how I felt at peace there. I had been able to visualize the happier times. I imagined the children, the rides, the giving tree; all the things that brought him joy there. I couldn’t wait to experience that again.
I remembered how the ride up there was so full of laughter, song and declarations of love for Michael. The scenery was absolutely stunning and I was looking forward to seeing it again, but this year the canyon was foggy and the ride up was cold. I was a little tense driving because I had to keep my attention focused on the road due to the weather.
When we arrived, there were no flowers, no ribbons, no signs of Michael. It felt empty to me. I stood in front of the gates, my fingers wrapped around the railing, peering through the slats at the property trying to get a glimpse of something that would re-ignite that feeling in me, but it was not to be. This time it felt like I was visiting a beautiful ranch, but not Neverland Ranch. A voice inside me said, You’ve experienced all that you need to here. There is no need to return again.
I left feeling sad that I hadn’t experienced Michael’s energy there because it touched me so deeply last year. I was a little nervous that I may not experience it anywhere this time, but later that evening my fears were put to rest.
We had the privilege of having dinner with Michael’s drummer of 30+ years, Jonathan Moffett. From the minute he arrived we all felt something special about him. He gave every single one of us individual attention that made each of us feel like we were the most important person in the world. He had to travel quite a distance just to have dinner with us and we were very grateful for that.
We all sat with baited breath, hanging on to his every word, as he told us some of his stories about Michael. Everything he said confirmed what we already knew: Michael was a master at his craft, a creative genius and a kind, caring, compassionate man who was just trying to conquer the world through love. Jonathan's loyalty to Michael is inspiring.
He doesn’t know this, but Jonathan gave each of us a precious gift that night. For a few moments, he gave us Michael. Through his embrace, we felt Michael’s energy. Through his stories, we felt Michael’s heart. Through his undivided attention, we felt Michael’s soul. It was as though Michael was working through Jonathan to make sure we all felt his love. It affected me so profoundly that when I got back to the hotel room I broke down in tears.
Jonathan’s impact on me didn’t end there. We bought tickets to an event at which he and Alex Al, Michael’s bassist, were playing on Friday evening. During the concert, they played live to Michael’s vocals while pictures of him flashed on screens above the stage. It was an amazing experience, the next best thing to being live at one of Michael's concerts.
One of the best moments of the evening was when they played "Earth Song." Jonathan is an incredibly talented drummer. I can see why Michael wanted him on his team. He puts his heart and soul into every song he plays. With him passionately beating the drums and Alex pounding away on the keyboard, an occasional glance up above from each of them felt like they were saying, Michael, this is for you!
Meanwhile, I’m over in my seat with tears streaming down my face as I watched image after beautiful image of Michael light up on the screen. With the entire audience swaying to his voice singing Ahhhhhhhhh Ooohhhhhhh, the love we felt in that room was astounding. We all knew Michael was with us that evening. We felt it. To top it all off, we got to hear more about what it was like to work with him, something I never tire of hearing. Both Jonathan and Alex knew what the crowd needed that evening. We needed to feel Michael’s presence, and through the music, they graciously helped us do just that.
I experienced the power of Michael in so many places this time, including Gardner Street Elementary School. When we arrived, we were escorted into a very special room: the one with the chalkboard that Michael signed. Here’s a picture of it.
We also got to sit in the very classroom he once sat in while attending school there. We met the teacher of the 5th grade class we were there for. He has been educating his students about Michael, teaching them about who he really was, what he wanted for this world and what they can do to help to make it a better place. I couldn’t help but wish that every student in the world could be given the opportunity to learn what he is teaching those kids about Michael. What a gift he is giving them!
Something else that moved me was the creativity I saw in the fans. It was all over the lawn in front of Michael's resting place. As I walked down the line looking at all the beautiful flowers, cards and gifts fans had placed there, I was amazed at the thoughtfulness they put into it. Many of his favorite things were left there: a Supersoaker, a KFC bucket and those little Dum Dum pops.
On the grass laid a beautiful crown, a picture of Elizabeth with Michael, and Mickey Mouse; but there one was very special and unique item that stopped me in my tracks. It was a patent leather shoe. Tears began to well up as I recalled the speech Marlon gave about Michael’s shoes at his memorial service.
During the week I got to have some incredible conversations about Michael. Our trip to Disneyland was one of those occasions. The picture below is the actual scene of the traffic we encountered on our way there. It took us two hours to get there, but it was time well spent.
We laughed, we cried, and we bonded, but when Heather, MJTP Director of New Generation Outreach asked me a question, the reason for being caught in the traffic jam became clear. It gave us an opportunity to contemplate the work we’re doing for Michael.
She asked me, “Outside of the obvious, which is for Michael, why do you do this work?”
For her it was an easy answer. Like Michael, she loves the children, so this work allows her to make a difference in their lives through him. The question stumped me for a minute though, because I’ve never really looked at it that way. Why do I do this? The answer is that I love helping people experience love, especially Michael’s love.
If I can write something that touches the heart of someone who loves him, then I feel like I’ve done what he wants me to do – keep the love alive. When love is alive in your heart it draws him near you, as I so magically discovered on this trip. That’s when you will feel his presence the most. Those words he sung to us so many times are indeed true: “Where there is love, I’ll be there.”
I also discovered why his music is so important. It's because that is where you will feel his love the most. "I know the creator will go. But his work survives. That is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work." Michaelangelo, quoted by Michael Jackson in a 2007 interview with Ebony.
I got confirmation this year that love really is the answer…at least it is for me. When love was present within me, I felt Michael. When it wasn’t, I didn’t. When I treated others with love, I got it back in return. When I didn’t, we all suffered. I could easily say back to Michael what he sung to me so many times: “You helped me understand that love is the answer to all that I am.”
Just like last year, I stayed at Forest Lawn until the very last possible second, shedding tears as I walked away. This time they weren’t tears of sadness and grief though; they were tears of gratitude. Gratitude for being blessed with the opportunity to experience the Power of Michael once again. Something everyone should have the opportunity to do.
Director of Community Development
© 2011, Linda Higgins, All Rights Reserved
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