Remembering the Man in the Mirror

I’d like to share one of the most haunting memories of my life. It took place on July 7th, 2009. It was the end of Michael Jackson’s public memorial service in Los Angeles in the Staples Arena, in the space he had been rehearsing for his upcoming shows in London.

0:00 – The video clip starts after members of the Jackson family addressed the audience with closing remarks. The most touching of these came from Michael’s daughter, Paris. “I just want to say that ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine . . . and I just want to say . . . that I love him so much.” It started off in a forced manner, almost. But I think you would be cold hearted to deny the integrity of the second half of her statement. It’s such a simple thing to say, but it is also the strongest thing to say at this time: “I just want to say,” is the weak introduction, but in the context of a memorial it acquires a remarkable strength; and ” . . . that I love him so much,” is raw emotion, void of rhetorical flourish. To see Paris embraced by the family afterward is only added strength to her statement. It is a love so manifest and so tangible. (Link)

0:06 – Members from the crowd begin to shout short messages of love to Michael. “We love you, Michael,” “We miss you, Michael.” It’s unrestrained affection for Michael. No one cares if they stand out from the crowd. In a sense, Michael made us comfortable enough to be uncomfortable with respect to society’s boundaries, and this is evident even in his death.

0:28 – Man, this part will always get me. Michael’s brothers approach his casket and escort their brother. I mean, unpack the symbolism in that act; it’s filled with imagery. As they begin, Michael’s band begins to play an instrumental version of Man in the Mirror. It’s haunting, heartfelt, and harrowing. The casket that sat at the front of the arena finally moves. It is Michael’s final move as protagonist. It is our final chance to bid adieu. It’s bittersweet. We don’t want Michael to leave, but this is his final curtain call, the inevitable and equalizing curtain. It is at this point that we must finally face the reality of our loss, but it is a loss we are prepared to meet. The service is a fitting memorial, honorable for such a man, and, in this, we are prepared to come to terms with our loss. This smashing of emotion is only intensified with the beautiful melody. I could literally sit at a piano and play those 10 notes for hours on end just to listen for Michael’s echo and to appreciate their simplicity and inherent beauty.

1:05 – The casket is gone. Michael is gone. All we are left with is the empty stage and photographs. The photograph and the stage function as our imagery, our remembrance of Michael through sight. The instrumental haunts and robs us with our auditory remembrance. The harmony is present, but Michael’s melody and voice is absent. It is at this point that we face reality without Michael. It is at this point that we first experience how we will experience Michael posthumously.

1:26 – The percussive clap wakes us from our sorrowful state and daze. It ushers in a more powerful image and mode of remembrance: The naked spotlight and the unhandled microphone. It is incomplete. Here is the spotlight; our attention is fixed. There is the microphone; we await the voice. Though fixed, our attention will never be satisfied. Though we wait, the voice will never come.

1:39 – The lights are dimmed, and the sensations are only intensified. I imagine that, at this point, everyone that was moving in the audience paused. It is a powerful beckoning for us to pay a final respect to this imagery of remembrance. There is the stage, the microphone, the spotlight. There is Michael, but there is not Michael. Photograph, song without vocal, and the symbolic stage: this is how we will keep Michael within our grasp.

2:42 – I always feel bad for Pastor Lucious Smith. I’m sure he didn’t want to ruin this intimate moment. Though nothing changes for nearly two minutes, it is not long enough. We want to continue to mourn, but we have mourned and remembered properly. It is time to move on.

This is one of the most haunting memories of my life. It is full of symbolism and meaningful imagery and sound. It is one of the most meaningful losses in my life. I feel so impolite and ignorant when I say that, but I would be remiss in myself to confess differently. I find so much meaning for myself and for Michael in Michael and Michael’s life. This short video clip attempts to signify the end of that era in my life. It attempts to symbolize the end of Michael Jackson, but it never will. Nothing will ever adequately present the end of Michael Jackson.

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