Thinking of Michael Jackson: for My Sister Aleah

This evening I remember Michael Jackson. I am saturated with Michael Jackson, his life, his death, his purpose. I remember that day as if it were today. Right now.

My sister phoned me, and said, softly and sadly, as if she were telling me a secret that should not be sanctioned, “did you hear Michael Jackson died?” I had not, but I heard it at that moment in her voice; I called on language, what some call that “systematic means of communicating” to talk about what I felt. What irony: death does not come systematically; it comes randomly—without order.

Somehow, I snatched language from the left side of my brain. I pleaded with it to show me how I am to manage a response to the dying of Michael Jackson. For me, his death is not the death of an icon; it is the death of a boy who sang and danced his way into the jugular of his dream. I am Christian; therefore, I am wishing I could walk into Michael Jackson’s death-room and call him back to life. I want to say as I think Jesus would, Michael, “my child get up.” And he would. Then, he and I would clasp hands and moonwalk across a room covered with wooden floors and hopeful dreams.

My sister’s voice on the other end of the phone; my sister’s tears that I imagine flowing onto the phone, down the side of her mouth, tells me that there is no calling Michael Jackson back to life. He is going and gone. And I would like to think, after all that he gave and will give, that he has gone Home– Is resting in the arms of Jesus, like James Weldon Johnson’s Sister Caroline.

. . . because, because, BECAUSE, like Sister Caroline, Michael Jackson labored long, so long in the vineyard of American culture, or American life. And he shared so many gifts.
Michael Jackson ushered me into my preteen years. He gave me and my friends the courage to sing. We put on our red, white, and blue hot pants suits; our pony-tails; our sandals and lifted out voices because Michael Jackson said we could. We danced with Michael. We lived within the context of his Jackson Five dream, his Motown story, and we grew up with him as he became the baptismal water that bathed us in the sweetness of youth.

This evening of January 20, 2016, I am missing Michael Jackson, not the images of him I hold in my mind. I am missing the way in which he peered into the public with the enigmatic innocence he carried in his eyes. I am hoping that when I close my eyes on the days I miss him most, I will see him through my memory, and, hopefully, language will help me call in prayer the humanity I am sure he loved. Talk about finding purpose in the hum of a Michael Jackson song!

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