As I made my way to Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park, I wondered what in the world I would write about Michael Jackson, that I haven’t written before. On a sunny Los Angeles day, the traffic kept me from getting there too easily and I listened to Michael singing early 70’s songs in my car.
Up the winding road to the Holly Terrace Grand Mausoleum, I came upon a sea of hand-made cards, flowers, balloons, a stand up figure of Michael and there I saw my friend Andrea from Dusseldorf, Germany who flew in the celebrate Michael. With her, she carried boxes of cupcakes decorated with sunflowers, Michael’s favorite flower. She ordered them early to hand out to the fans that showed up today. I felt myself getting emotional and even though I wasn’t going to try to get a blog out today, I decided I would for the fans around the world as I always do. For me, it’s easy to get to Glendale to honor Michael. But the cards always move me and I figured fans would want to see the love.
I met two fans who were sitting on the grass near Holly Terrace and we could feel a lovely breeze. We had a short talk about Michael. How he would be 64 years old today and wondered what we would think about our world today.
I saw cards from friends around the world and some from others I do not know. But what I could feel, no matter who made the card, was the love that is still felt for Michael Jackson, 14 years after he has left this planet. Heal The World, Michael sang. We are the World Michael sang. And, his grand opus, Earth Song. If you don’t know who Michael was, just listen to the music and everything he was is revealed in his songs. For all the fans who made the cards and flew to Los Angeles to honor Michael and to the fans who couldn’t be here today, and the ones that keep advocating for him on Twitter, like Andjustice4 some, this is for you. Michael would be moved to tears to see the outpouring of love for him, just as I have.
The truth is I wasn’t going to blog on the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s 62nd birthday this year. Not only have we been in a heat wave in Los Angeles but I have been trying to manage with my mother locked down in a nursing facility, left brain damaged from her second husband’s abuse. For the past six months, she has not been allowed visitors but I have been given permission to see her from a gate for 25 minutes, in the sun, with traffic whizzing by, two times a week. The isolation is getting to her as she does not understand why she has no visitors coming inside even though I have tried to explain the situation to her. She asks me to “come inside”, “let’s go” “vamanos” and “open the gate.” Finding a perfectly ripe avocado made me happy, because it’s the only food they allow me to bring her.
The medical director of the facility told me “We need your voice, don’t back down” so I haven’t but it’s exhausting. Then, to make matters worse, I was told that the facility working with the Dept. of Health would open up a safe, social distanced arrangement where family can visit without endangering the residents, staff or visitors at the end of August. There were 5 new cases in a building in the same campus two weeks ago, so the residents have been locked down once again.
In place of boredom, I offer my mother spontaneity. In place of loneliness, I offer companionship. Instead of feeling helpless, being able to visit with my mother gave me the opportunity to take care of another human being. I look forward to the day that will we set them free from this tyranny.
As I pulled into Forest Lawn Glendale, I was wondering if Michael would be remembered this year as more people tend to visit on the anniversary of his death, rather than his birthday. As I saw the intricate, creative cards and the stunning arrangement of flowers, I knew I had to share these photographs with his fans so here I am again.
Helena Ong – Malaysia
My heart is filled with sorrow because of my mother’s isolation and if I can bring a smile to someone in the world, sharing the love I am witness to at Forest Lawn, then I have accomplished something meaningful today. No one understood this better than Michael Jackson, whose genuine love and caring for humanity was part of why he touched so many hearts around the globe. Michael Jackson was the embodiment of love, kindness, caring and the most creative soul to ever walk this planet.
Finally, last but not least, the love between Gloria and her fiancé, is so heart affirming.
Michael Jackson would have been fifty-seven years old today. The now familiar black wrought iron gates signal the entrance to Forest Lawn Glendale. As I wind up the entrance I see Aleppo pines, a single rose here and there, flower arrangements, pinwheels of red, orange and blue spinning softly in the wind as the birds sing their songs.
Amidst the roses, handmade cards, balloons, and stuffed animals is the feeling of love that Michael Jackson spread around the world with his music and his heart.
Eleanor Roosevelt said “to do what you feel in your heart for you’ll be criticized anyway.” Michael embodied this throughout his life. Watching television as a young boy with his mother, he was moved to tears when he saw images of starving children in Africa. “Mother”, he vowed, “I’m going to do something about this someday.” And, true to his word, he did.
My hope is these photos show how Michael was loved and even though he was subjected to immense injustice, the fans know the truth even though the media was trying to tarnish his reputation throughout his career.
I love the simplicity of this tiny bear with the note “Happy birthday to you in heavens.”
Divina Baham organized “The Messenger of Love” Foundation back in 2011. They celebrate Michael’s birthday, his passing and bring bags of love out reach visiting homeless shelters, Shriner’s Hospital for Children and dedicated a tree to Michael at Lake Balboa. This year they brought a cake to Forest Lawn in honor of Michael.
Hitomi came from Japan for only 3 days. I was told by Hitomi’s friend that many Japanese visitors stay for such a short amount of days because they have to get back to work.
Rieko from Japan on the other hand, came for 3 weeks to study English at a small school for her university back home. “My main purpose is Michael Jackson’s birthday” she told me. It was her first time in LA and in her own words, “a dream come true”. I thought it was so cute how she carried her MJ doll in the tiny bag with “I am King of Pop” on it.
I met Gloria Lopez. She told me she was 13 years old when her grandfather died. He was her father figure and her best friend, who took care of her since she was 3 months old. After he died, she became depressed and suicidal, as it was her first experience of death. She didn’t want to go to school, was getting “F” grades and was sent to a psychiatrist. She said “I heard “You Rock My World” in 2001 and it was the first time I smiled since my grandfather died. I started devoting myself to MJ research. I became an honor student and received a Masters In Art Education doing my thesis on Michael.” She told me she teaches art to children because of Michael’s influence on her.
I met Marguerite, who flew all the way from France. Her first time to the states was in 2012 for the Immortal World Tour. She saw the Immortal World Tour 2 times in France that same year. She returned to Forest Lawn in August, 2014 and saw the One show two times that year. This year she told me that she came to Los Angeles for Michael’s spiritual message.
Michael’s commitment to his art, no matter what was happening in his life, is a testament to the artist he was; always bearing his soul in his music. His ability to connect with his fans all around the globe is evident even six years after he has left his physical body. Even in the fierce California heat, people come from France, from Japan, from all around the world, to pay their respects to the Man in the Mirror, who built an army of love.
One of Michael’s greatest gifts was how he cared for humanity and spread love. His Army of Love is still going strong, carrying the message that Michael was sharing with us his entire life: Love one another, take care of each other and continue to give, share and breathe love every step of our journey here. Michael was a spiritual messenger who walked his walk. He held up a mirror to humanity and in the end, Michael’s message continues to light the way.