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Chapter 6 - I Choose L.O.V.E.

The long mirror reflected back an image of beauty as Isabella looked at herself dressed in a white satin strapless wedding gown and small white flowers placed throughout her hair. I can’t believe I am actually getting married, she thought. Nathan asked her to marry him after they both graduated college. She smiled as she looked at herself in the mirror, her thoughts filled with hopes for the future.

“Hi, Isabella!” Kristina said, walking into the dressing room.

“Hi, sis! How are ya?” she responded, giving her a hug.

“I’m great. Are you getting excited?”

“Yes, I am!”

“I bet. I can’t believe that in one hour you are going to be a married woman.”

“I know. It seems like just yesterday we were kids. Time goes by so fast.”

“True,” Kristina said, nodding her head. “I can’t believe Jayden is already 5 years old.”

“I’ve actually wanted to talk to you about him,” Isabella said as she gently grabbed her sister’s hands. “I want you to know how proud I am of you, Kristina. I know how hard it has been for you as a single mother to be raising Jayden on your own. You’ve handled it very well, considering his father doesn’t want to be in the picture. Jayden is a very loving boy. You have done such a great job with him.”

“Thank you, Isabella. That means so much to me! I have to admit, getting pregnant in high school was tough. It is definitely not what I had planned for my life, but once Jayden was born, all of that changed. Being a mother is the greatest love I have ever known, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. He is such a blessing to me.”

“So has Jayden’s father ever tried to contact you?” Isabella questioned.

“Well, I’m going after him for back child support so he is very upset with me right now. Even though he doesn’t want to be part of Jayden’s life, he still has a financial responsibility to him.”

“I agree,” Isabella said.

“Hi, Aunt Isabella!” Jayden shouted as he ran through the door to the dressing room, almost tackling her with a great big bear hug.

“Jayden, don’t be so rough,” Kristina instructed in her motherly tone.

“Oh, it’s okay. I’ll take a big bear hug from my favorite nephew anytime.”

Isabella had Michael Jackson’s concert Live in Bucharest playing on the TV in the dressing room. Michael was singing “Heal the World.” Jayden looked over at the TV and asked, “Who’s that?”

“That’s Michael Jackson,” Isabella replied.

“Who’s Michael Jackson?”

“Michael Jackson was an amazing singer and dancer. I think he is the greatest entertainer who ever lived, and my grandma thought so too. Unfortunately, he is no longer living, but he still touches millions of people around the world with his music.”

“Why are those kids on the stage with him?” Jayden inquired.

“Because he is singing about healing the world and making it a better place for kids like you!” she said, touching the tip of his nose playfully.

“So he wanted to make the world a better place for those kids?” Jayden asked, not really understanding.

“Not just for those kids; for all kids. He used his music to inspire people to heal the world, and he brought kids on stage with him to help him perform the song,” Isabella explained.

“How did he want to heal the world?”

“If you listen to the song, he gives you the answer: through love.”

“Oh!” Turning his attention to Michael’s Magic Box he said, “What’s this?”

“Jayden, put that down!” Kristina bellowed.

“No, it’s okay, Kristina. That’s Michael’s Magic Box, Jayden.”

“That Michael?” Jayden said, pointing to the TV.

“Yep. That Michael.” Isabella confirmed. “It’s actually a magic box. My grandma gave it to me when I was 7 years old.”

“It’s a magic box? What does it do?” Jayden said with wonder in his voice.

Just then the box started to shimmer. Jayden’s big brown eyes widened. He looked over at his mom as if he had done something wrong.

“That’s the magic,” Isabella explained. “When it shimmers, I have a message from Michael waiting for me. Open it!” she encouraged.

“Can I?” he asked excitedly.

“Sure!”

“Okaaay.” He lifted the lid with great anticipation of what was going to happen. This is what he heard:   


You and I must make a pact.
We must bring salvation back.
Where there is love, I’ll be there
.

Jayden looked at Isabella with a big smile and said, “Cooool!”

Then with a weird look on his face he said, “What does ‘make a pact’ mean?”

Thinking about how to explain it Isabella said, “Um, it’s kinda like making a promise.”

“What does salvation mean?”

Oh the beauty of a child’s inquisitive mind, she thought, giggling to herself. They definitely make you think.

“Let me try to explain it to you this way.” Pointing to his heart, she said, “Salvation means to restore the love in your heart so you can be God’s glow.”

“Be God’s glow?”

“Yeah. That’s how Michael said it in the song he is singing on the TV. To heal the world, we have to care for the living, we have to be kind to others and ourselves, and we have to make sure people feel loved. To be God’s glow means to live with love in your heart.”

“Really?” he said, raising his eyebrows.

“Through that message, Michael is asking you to join forces with him to put love back into the world.”

He walked over to Isabella, gently set the box down in her lap and said, “I’m making a pact with Michael.”

“You are!” Isabella said, clearly excited.

“Yes,” he stated confidently.

“To do what?” she asked with a smile.

“To help people choose love.”

“Aw, that’s nice,” Isabella said, touching her hand to her heart. “That’s a great way to put it.”

“It’s time!” Isabella’s mom announced, popping her head inside the dressing room. “Are you ready to get married?”

Taking a big breath, she nodded, “Yes, I am ready.”

Spending their honeymoon in Hawaii, the beauty of the islands visibly moved Isabella. She and Nathan walked on breathtaking crystal blue beaches, admired waterfalls with misty rainbows encased in them, and stopped to smell the colorful array of flowers in full bloom. At sunset, they sat on the beach and watched the golden sun descend from behind the clouds, creating a prism of light as it appeared to immerse itself into the sparkling water.

There was a slight breeze in the air gently blowing through her long brown hair, and the warm sand squished between her toes while the water washed up on shore stopping just short of where they were sitting. They sat there on the beach for a couple of hours talking about life and love, hopes and dreams, and Michael’s Magic Box.

“I’ve been thinking about that box your grandma gave you,” Nathan said.

“Michael’s Magic Box?” she questioned.

“Yes. That is quite an incredible gift.”

“I know!” she agreed.

Curious, he asked, “How has it influenced you?”

“Well, for one thing, it has made me feel so blessed. Because of those messages, I have learned more about love in these past several years than most people will learn in an entire lifetime. I was able to see the world differently from a young age because of the messages delivered to me through Michael’s Magic Box. It gave me an understanding that few people have about love, and I am so grateful for that.”

“Then why don’t you share it with the world?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“If the messages you’ve received have had that kind of an impact on you, then why don’t you share Michael’s Magic Box with the world so it can benefit other people too? It could change lives.”

“I know,” Isabella answered. “It needs to be shared with the world, particularly those whose hearts are open to it, and I want to do that, but the time has to be right.”

“How will you know when the time is right? Nathan questioned her.

“I’ll feel it.”

Welcome home, Nathan and Isabella!” read the huge banner hanging from the pavilion at the park. Both families had gotten together and planned a homecoming party for them. When they arrived, everyone began crowding around them, giving hugs and pleading to hear all the details about Hawaii.

“It was fabulous…simply magical,” Isabella told Kristina.

Nathan walked over to the two of them, put his arm around Isabella and joined in on the conversation. All of the sudden, they noticed a commotion.

Jayden was sitting in a circle with about eight other kids, laughing and playing, when another kid walked up to the group. He was a young boy, wearing plaid shorts and a solid blue shirt. His hair was disheveled and hanging in his eyes. The boy was very shy. Looking down at the ground, kicking his right leg while he spoke, he asked them, “Can I play with you guys?”

“No!” an older boy named Jack spoke up quickly. “We don’t like you. You’re
weird.”

Kristina started to walk over there to intervene when Nathan said, “Wait. Let’s see how they handle it. Sometimes it’s better to let them work it out themselves.”

Jack looked at the boy and shouted, “We don’t want you to play with us! Nobody likes you. Go away!”

Hanging his head low, the boy turned to walk away, but Jayden stood up and shouted, “No!”

Surprised, raising his voice and hands, Jack said, “What are you doing?”

Jayden looked at him, then looked over at the shy boy and declared, “I choose love.”

“What?” Jack said with a confused look on his face.

“I choose love,” Jayden repeated.

A girl across from him stood up and said, “Me too!”

Another boy in the group stood and proclaimed, “I choose love too.”

One by one, every child sitting in the circle followed Jayden’s lead and said, “I choose love.”

Jack shook his head in disbelief and stormed off saying, “You’re all weird!”

The adults watching were dumbfounded. “Wow,” Nathan said. “That was incredible!”

“Yeaaahhh,” Isabella and Kristina said in unison.

“Amazing,” Isabella added.

The next day, Isabella went shopping with Kristina and Jayden. She kissed Nathan goodbye when she heard a honk in the driveway.

“Let’s go in this store,” Kristina motioned to Isabella. “I want to get some jewelry.”

“You two go ahead. I’m going to go in this store real quick. I’ll meet you back out here in the middle of the mall, okay?”

“Okay,” Kristina responded, grabbing Jayden’s hand as they headed off.

Isabella sat on a bench while she waited for Kristina and Jayden to finish shopping. “Aunt Isabella! Aunt Isabella! Look, I bought you a gift!” Jayden shouted as he ran up to her.

Delighted, Isabella said, “You got me a gift?”

“Yes. Open it!” he responded excitedly while handing her the sack.

Isabella opened the bag and pulled out a gift wrapped in white tissue paper. As she unwrapped the paper, she looked at Jayden with a smile, wondering what the gift could be. Inside was a pretty bracelet that read “I Choose L.O.V.E.”

“Oh my gosh!” Isabella exclaimed.

“Do you like it? Do you like it?” Jayden said clapping his hands while jumping up and down.

“Yes, Jayden. I love it! You found that in the jewelry store?”

“Yeah! As soon as I saw it, I begged mom to buy it for you. That’s what Michael wanted for the world, right? For people to choose love?”

“Yes, he did,” Isabella said caressing his cheek. “I can’t believe you remembered that. How sweet. Thank you, honey,” she said as she gave him a hug.

“Let’s go get something to eat. I’m hungry,” Kristina said to both of them.

“Okay. Let’s go to the food court.”

“Isabella, will you take Jayden and go get us a table while I get our food?”

“Sure. “C’mon, Jayden,” she said, reaching for his hand.

As they sat at the table waiting, Isabella fiddled with the bracelet Jayden gave her. I can’t believe how much that day affected him, she thought.

“Who’s that by mommy?” Jayden asked Isabella.

She looked up to see a man talking to Kristina. He seemed to be really angry. He was yelling at her and pointing his finger in her face.

“I’m not sure,” Isabella answered, not taking her eyes off of the man.

“He looks like he’s mad,” Jayden said in a worried voice. “Is he going to hurt mommy?”

“No, honey,” Isabella responded trying to convince herself as well.

Who is that, she asked herself. As if in answer to her question, she got an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, so she quickly stood up and extended her hand out to his. “Let’s go, Jayden.”

“But I haven’t eaten yet,” he said, resisting her.

“We will eat later. C’mon.”

Isabella walked over to Kristina while holding Jayden’s hand. With her other hand, she grabbed Kristina’s arm lightly and commanded, “Let’s go.”

The man grabbed Kristina’s other arm and said, “She’s not going anywhere.”

“Leave me alone!” Kristina yelled, pulling away, releasing her arm from his grip.

The three of them turned around and started walking away from him. Then it was as if the world went into slow motion for a few moments.

The man took out a gun and started shooting at her. Bang! Bang! Bang! The crowd screamed in terror. It was absolute chaos. Some people started running for the door, while others got down on the floor under the tables.

Seconds later, Isabella heard chilling screams coming from her sister. She lifted her head trying to shift her eyes into focus. There she saw Jayden lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He had been hit by one of the bullets.

“NOOOO!” Kristina screamed loudly. “Jayden!” she cried moving over to him. Looking over at Isabella with terror in her eyes, she pleaded for her help. “Isabella!”
 
“Someone call 911!” Isabella shouted into the crowd. “My nephew has been shot!”

Kristina grabbed his hand and said in a panic, “Hang on baby. The paramedics are on their way. Hang on. Don’t leave me, Jayden.”

He opened up his eyes, coughed a little, then looked at Isabella with sadness.

“Aunt Isabella?”

“Yes, honey,” she responded while caressing his hand lightly, tears streaming down her face.

“That man didn’t choose love.”

She felt like someone had just reached into her heart and ripped it out. “No honey, he sure didn’t.”

He closed his eyes, took one last breath, and…he was gone.

Heavy sobs from a grief stricken mother filled the entire room. “NO! Pleeeaase, God, don’t take my baby,” she screamed lying next to his body, holding him tightly, not wanting to let him go.

Isabella put her arm around Kristina in comfort. “Who was that man?” she asked.

Kristina slowly pulled herself away from Jayden’s lifeless body, looked directly into Isabella’s eyes and said, “That was Jayden’s father.”

Because of the nature of the circumstances, and the fact that it was a young boy who had been killed, the entire town was affected by it. News organizations everywhere were covering it, and thousands of people attended Jayden’s funeral.

Isabella stood at the podium to address the crowd of mourners.

“Thank you for the outpouring of love and support you have all shown my family. Jayden was a very special boy.” With a crackle in her voice, she continued, “Jayden’s last words were, ‘That man didn’t choose love.’ He said that because of a conversation we recently had about someone who wanted to heal the world: Michael Jackson.”

She went on to tell the story about what happened at the park. “My family was recently at a park with Jayden and witnessed something truly incredible. Jayden and a group of kids were playing. Another boy wanted to join them, but one of the kids didn’t want him to, saying means things to this other kid who simply wanted someone to play with.

“Jayden stood up and—with complete conviction in his voice—said, ‘I choose love.’ Then something amazing happened. Every other child in the group stood up and followed his lead, each one saying, ‘I choose love,’ allowing the boy to be included in the group.”

She walked over to a CD player sitting on a stand next to her and said, “It was Michael who inspired Jayden to choose love. I believe there were two things that influenced him to do that. One of them was the song I am about to play for you.” She put the CD into the player, looked up at the heavens and said, “Jayden, this is for you.”

You could hear sniffles all around the room while people listened to “Heal the World.” When the chorus came on, Isabella began to sing. The crowd joined her.

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me


When the song was over, Isabella said, “The second thing that I think influenced Jayden to choose love was this.”

She took out Michael’s Magic Box from her bag and placed it on the podium. “I shared this with Jayden the day I got married. While we were on our honeymoon, my husband suggested I should share this with the world. I told him I would do that when the time was right. Now is that time.”

As she held the box up for everyone to see, Isabella explained, “This is a magic box. It was given to me when I was 7 years old by my grandma while she was on her deathbed. It’s magic because it plays messages from Michael Jackson. Those messages are meant to help me live a life filled with love, and I want to use it to help others do the same. Jayden got to hear a special message that day from Michael. That message inspired him to make a pact to help people choose love.”

Just then, the box began to shimmer. Isabella began to cry. There was a soft murmur in the audience.

“The box is shimmering because Michael is sending us a message. The fact that it is shimmering at this moment confirms to me that now is the right time to share it with the world. So, like Jayden, you all get to experience it firsthand.”

She lifted the lid slowly and its message played:

Today, we stand together all around the world, joined in a common purpose, to remake the planet into a haven of joy and understanding and goodness. No one should have to suffer, especially our children.

She closed the box, wiped her tears and said, “I’ll leave you with Michael’s words. Let us all stand together and heal the world by saying, ‘I choose love,’ like Jayden did. Unfortunately, his father didn’t do that and Jayden paid for it with his life. That’s the kind of destruction that can happen when someone doesn’t choose love. We must do this…for ourselves, for our children, for the world.”

As they drove across town to the burial grounds in the funeral procession, all the streets were lined with people holding signs that read, “Jayden, I Choose Love.” Some people even had T-shirts on that read “I Choose Love.” Businesses had placed signs in their windows that read, “We Choose Love.”

“Wow, would you look at that!” Nathan said, pointing to all the people lining the streets with their signs.

“Yeah,” Isabella said quietly. “He really did help the world choose love.”

At the end of the day, Nathan and Isabella were sitting on the edge of their bed, emotionally exhausted from crying all day. Just then, Michael’s Magic Box began to shimmer.

Isabella walked over and grabbed it, then sat back down on the bed next to Nathan. She opened it and heard:
 

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.


“Good advice,” Nathan said, putting his arm around his wife.

“I know,” Isabella said, resting her head upon his shoulder.


“Maybe tomorrow…”

Linda Higgins
Director of Community Development

Linda@michaeljacksontributeportrait.com



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