Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson's Untimely Death

Like millions of people, I was affected by the death of Michael Jackson. But the thing that bothered me most was something that might not have bothered others.

It sickens me to hear all of the amazing post-death tributes to Michael in light of the way he was treated when he was alive. Salacious accusations and inappropriate labels were steadfastly maintained, even though he was legally exonerated. In addition, he was a continual butt of horrific jokes, even though what many considered to be “strange behavior” did not affect anyone but himself. This was especially true of his decisions and actions involving his physical appearance.

For example, I was stunned when my nine-year-old granddaughter responded to my sadness over Michael’s death by telling me, as though it was the gospel truth, “He was very weird. Did you know that his plastic surgery nose fell off during a performance and all that was left was a big hole in the middle of his face?” (Apparently this novel bit of information surfaced after a recent performance during which she danced to Michael’s song and recording of Thriller.)

When asked what advice I would give to children in the wake of Michael’s death, I said, “I’d tell them that the most positive funeral speech about a dead person can never wipe out the negative things that were said or done to the person when he or she was alive. Kind words and deeds better serve the living than the dead.”

Michael’s sudden and unexpected death provides the perfect opportunity to remind us all, including children, to treat every person as though he or she were going to be gone tomorrow and there will be no further opportunity to make things right with the person. Kind words, as well as apologies, need to be shared now instead of a time when it will be too late.

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