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Reflecting on the death of Michael Jackson

Our mass media has worked overtime covering the story of Michael’s death

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

by Rich Docekal

Michael Jackson’s death has touched millions. His music and to a lesser degree, his notoriety as a celebrity who never quite seemed at ease with himself, brought attention to this “song & dance man” across the globe. As I see the media’s response to Michael’s death, I think how we so easily create “legends.”

As a people, we seek to connect to that which is so far removed from our everyday life. We want to be a piece of it all. Our hearts—sometimes solitary hearts—yearn to be part of a larger, more personal affection. If we, who were yet barely touched by this man’s music, can claim a place in this shared experience, we are more than we were.

I see hurt in the eyes of so many who stand grieving. I watch video of mourners and friends, both pained and in some cases overcome with a sorrow that renders them without ability. I hear of record album sales as many thousands seek to grab at the hem of his garment.

I’m probably as far from Jackson Five and Michael Jackson fandom as one could be. I remember, as a teen, hearing the music of this young man and his family. We enjoyed it. We loved and mimed the energy, the style, and hoped it might somehow make us better.

During the 1980s, Michael Jackson brought in his rapid fire way, new expressions in music, dance, and interpretation which grabbed eyeballs, and yes, guided lives. People searched and found importance in Michael’s music. His words became their theme in life, as well as, for some, their eulogies in death.

Our mass media has worked overtime covering the story of Michael’s death; the aftermath and cause; the memories and preparations of a public memorial—the service of tribute, and interment. People will ask for days of remembrance. CBC commentators noted during the recent Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill, that many attendees saw the Maple Leaf at half-mast and figured it was because of Michael. People, rightly, or wrongly will make that which was certainly popular, into something other-worldly. We must make this important as we seek to make our own life meaningful.

It’s easy from a place so far removed from Los Angeles and the hearts of devoted men and women who are grieved to their core at this death, for me to push aside this public display as silly, unnecessary, and certainly out of proportion to its importance considering all that is happening in our troubled world. I hope I can avoid those temptations to dismiss another’s hurt.

Michael Jackson was not my friend. He was neither my son, father, mentor, nor my student. I hope he was, is, and by God’s choice forevermore—my brother. I don’t know if Michael has also stood at the foot of the cross with me in our sinful and broken conditions, to receive forgiveness through the Blood of Jesus. We both—we all—have lived lives filled with all manner of sin and deceitful behaviour. I hope he found love in Jesus. We have all found fellowship, I pray.

How is our life changed though the death of Michael Jackson? I honestly don’t think that my direction in life is going to alter significantly because of it. I do know it has caused me to pause and reflect on my own sinfulness. I sometimes feel the need to be unkind and caustic to feel as though I am somehow “above it all.” I minimize the feelings of others when I feel they are committing too much time and energy into something I think has little value. This death has allowed me to see the opportunity to express and reflect God’s Love, rather than hide behind self-righteous indignation.

Tomorrow, the memorial services will be over, the casket buried, and over the coming years, decades, and centuries, this death will meld with all deaths and be seen as nothing extraordinary. But it is right that we mark this death as we would our closest family member or dearest friend.

Rev. Rich Docekal serves All Saints Lutheran Church in Edmonton

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