A year ago tonight, Michael Jackson was laid to rest inside the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale. A caravan of his family and friends exited the park at 10 p.m. after his funeral. I was in the media pool set up on Glendale Blvd. outside the cemetery gates. It wasn't my first media pool experience but I would say it was the most surreal.
Today I reflected on the past year. I intended to do that reflecting by going to Forest Lawn, as I have done so many times, to cover activity outside Holly Terrace. I readied myself, packing my notebook, camera and bottled water in anticipation of the hot temps outside.
But for some reason, I couldn't will myself out the door.
There was a voice inside of me asking "what will you find there today that you haven't found already?"
To be sure there would be Michael Jackson fan activity. Devoted people who would be bringing flowers, cards, drawings and gifts to their idol, which I find to be genuinely newsworthy. But something else was gnawing at me today, the sense of something less tangible.
So I decided not to force myself go to Forest Lawn out of a sense of obligation because of the date, and instead stayed home and kept busy with other writing projects.
All the while, in the back of my mind, I was getting flashes of the many people I've met because of Michael Jackson and how many of them told me the same thing: how his life, and death, inspired them to recognize their own callings, talents and gifts and not to waste them or the time they have left on this planet.
As the day rolled on it was clear to me that this was the message I was supposed to hear today.
Photo Courtesy Dispatch.com
When people die, certain dates (like the day someone is buried) hold significance to those left behind in grief, especially during the first year. They mark the passing of time, a reminder of what was, what is and would could have been. Tonight I'd like to add to that list: what can be.
Human beings are forever changed when someone we love, care about and/or admire is gone, as I've seen his fan base experience this past year. Part of anyone's legacy is what others do with their own lives in their absence, how do you fill the hole they left behind? What do you have to contribute to the world that's good and beneficial to others when there's one less person offering their own positive contributions?
What are you good at, what gives your life meaning, and how will you use those energies and gifts, if at all?
It's a personal, unique journey of discovery, decisions and choices for each individual.
I choose to continue to pursue my love of writing and of cemeteries, exploring history from the ground up and the social and emotional impact of death and grief on the living. I will continue to cover Michael Jackson and Forest Lawn as part of my beat. But for today, I didn't need to be at the cemetery to find a story to share with you. Like so many other times, the story found me.
Rest in peace, Michael. Like so many in the world, senselessly gone too soon. Your legacy continues. Thank you for continuing to inspire so many, many people in ways a lot of us never imagined you would.
Video courtesy of RobLives4Love YT Channel: