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Liz Stayed Home…

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…and who can blame her? She tweeted that she didn’t want to be part of “the whoopla” of Michael Jackson’s memorial, that her grief was a private thing between her and Michael, not to be shared with strangers.

I’ve lost enough people to know that I’d be the same in her position: I cannot imagine sharing my grief with millions of strangers. In this case, with the entire voyeuristic world–from which I don’t exclude myself: I’ve got my television on too.


When my friend Andrea died a few years ago, I said this in a post titled On Grief:

Grief is a deeply private emotion. To a certain extent it can be shared, but the most profound mourning is internal. Even writing about grief becomes a struggle to explain—not, as with other emotions, a re-living.

So, yes, I can understand why Liz stayed home, and I respect her for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a memorial, or that those who went to it harbor shady motives; it’s all perfectly fine. Some people need to be around
others, to attempt to share their grief, hoping it might hurt less. Notice, though, that it’s turning into “a celebration of Michael’s life,” rather than a “bum trip.” We wouldn’t want that, now, would we? It’s that subtle pressure to put a good face on things that makes me want to do my mourning alone. I believe in grief. I believe in feeling sad when someone dies–that is, if that’s the way you feel.

Some people seem to think the public outpouring for Michael Jackson, devoid of the ambivalence that arose from the molestation charges against him, is hypocritical, or in keeping with the happy face mentality. I don’t think it’s hypocrisy, though; here’s something else I think is true of grief:

From the moment I learned of my father’s death, all the fights we’d had—mostly political in nature—melted away. The negative aspects of my relationship with him—and there were plenty—slipped off like the skin of a snake, leaving only his love. A poet friend who’d experienced much early loss in life put it into precisely those words: “All that stuff falls away,” she said, “and what you’re left with is the love.”

That’s what’s happening in the immediate wake of Michael Jackson’s death–the stuff has fallen away, and people are feeling only his love.

The memorial service has just begun. “I’ll Be There,” a most appropriate choice for the opening number, is playing. I’m going to go watch the service. Alone.


3 responses »

  1. I agree with everything you have said. And, after this, I wish the media would remember Michael’s daughter’s closing words and stop the ponitificating over custody, finances and more…let him rest in peace. And let the children have a life

  2. Diana Ross, who was also close to Jackson, stayed away too. Perhaps, though. both Liz and Diana attended the private family service that was held the evening before the Staples event.

    In any case, I don’t know what to make of this mass public display of grief and memorium. But then, I grew up as a repressed Protestant, and the governing doctrine in our household was, “What would the neighbors think?” Public renting of garments and gnashing of teeth and streaming of tears make me shiver with embarrassment even in my hiding.

  3. Jewish tradition is very much into the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth–we even tear a piece of cloth and pin it to our clothes as a symbol; however, it’s usually kept all in the family.

    I am still of two minds about Jackson: a part of me is extremely curious to know everything I’ve missed knowing about him, while his music streams thru my mind day and night. Another part of me is repulsed by the excessiveness of it all. I suspect many people feel the same way, and the first part–the curiosity–is driving the story. The media had to go overboard, I really think it’s in response to a story that’s already happening. If we’d had as much media and technology when Elvis died, it would’ve been the same. That’s probably why they still won’t let Elvis die.

    Something else just occurred to me: The people who scoff at all the mourning, who trivialize the significance of MJ’s death, are of a different breed. Music and culture are really important to some of us. Culture matters just as much, if not more, than most of what we hear on the news. Some of us live our lives immersed in art: IMO that’s a much better place to be than involved in politics and other supposedly more “newsworthy” events.

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