On Death and Dying



“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

My best friend thinks she has my number.  She believes that I have profound issues with death and that it is something that I fear or cannot handle.  The truth of the matter is that I’ve seen death up close several times because I’ve worked in nursing homes and hospitals.  I’ve held the hands of the sick and dying, washed down their lifeless bodies, and prayed for their souls to be welcomed into the embrace of the Father. I posses a healthy respect for death’s inevitable finality.  We all walk this earth in the knowledge that today could be the last day of our lives.  However, the longer we live, the longer we expect to live and we go through the motions of life forgetting to actually live for today.

What I can confess to is a vulnerability to anything that reminds me of my favorite Uncle who was taken from us a few days before his 52nd birthday.   His wisdom and guidance helped compensate for the absent father that has thankfully re-entered my life.  He shared so much of himself with me. It’s humbling to look back on it now.  His hulking presence gave me a healthy respect for authority and kept me on the straight and narrow.  In the last days of his life, before pancreatic cancer manifested itself, he drew me closer and imparted all of the wisdom of a rich but unfinished life. There was so much living yet to do

As the realization of death’s approaching advance came crashing down on him, he spent almost all of the service connected benefits he fought 30 years to obtain as if it would give him more time.  When he finally told me his terminal diagnosis, I cried for weeks.

Part of me believes that Michael Jackson was trapped in that cycle because of the way he lived cocooned in the protective amber of secrecy and wealth.  His physical pain, whether real or imagined, was one distraction in a long list of distractions that rendered him helpless in dealing with the cause of his emotional pain.   His profligate spending, which was the conscious manifestation of a burning desire to help others, almost seems like my Uncle Jim’s subconscious bargaining with God for more time.

Michael’s death brings all of that back for me and it is a painful reminder that I need to deal with my own bullshit so that I can be free to live whatever life God has planned for me in all of its fullness.  I refuse to be a prisoner of other people’s expectations or of my own insecurities because tomorrow is not promised.

Michael Jackson 1958-2009



The King of Pop is dead. What an incredibly tragic ending to an epic life.

When TMZ announced Michael’s death I just sat there slack jawed.  I knew it was true because they’re always right, but I didn’t want to believe it.   I had been surfing the web madly for several minutes when I saw it.  From the initial reports I could tell that the end was near.  Now that it is over I am just numb.

The world’s most legendary living entertainer has died at the young age of 50. We admired the showman, the incredible dancer, writer, singer, and composer, but we never really knew him. Behind the entourage, security, screaming fans, and the outlandish and palatial estates, was a tragic and reclusive figure that never seemed to thrive despite his fame and success.  That Michael, the fragile tentative soul that millions never got to know, is gone forever. I mourn for him. Many judged him by the farcical dysfunction and the over-the-top-lifestyle.  Some judged him by the salacious allegations of abuse. Others took his measure by looking at his entire life.  What I saw was a tremendous amount of pain and a hole in his spirit that could never be filled. We never got to see what caused his pain, but we could all see that it was there.   The sweet, shy little boy whose music defined my generation is gone and I will miss him deeply.

While Oprah Winfrey got credit early and often for the more than $300 million she has donated to various charities, Michael Jackson, who was a celebrity before Oprah was in High School, equaled her in his donations to charity making the pair the biggest black philanthropists in U.S. History.   The chief patron of the Heal the World Foundation, which he started, also made the 2000 Guinness Book of Records for being the pop star with the most charitable commitments.  All told, Jackson was a patron to more than 39 organizations:

AIDS Project L.A.
American Cancer Society
Angel Food
Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles
BMI Foundation, Inc.
Brotherhood Crusade
Brothman Burn Center
Camp Ronald McDonald
Childhelp U.S.A.
Children’s Institute International
Cities and Schools Scholarship Fund
Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
Dakar Foundation
Dreamstreet Kids
Dreams Come True Charity
Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Love Match
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Minority Aids Project
Motown Museum
National Rainbow Coalition
Rotary Club of Australia
Society of Singers
Starlight Foundation
The Carter Center’s Atlanta Project
The Sickle Cell Research Foundation
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
United Negro College Fund Ladder’s of Hope
Volunteers of America
Watts Summer Festival
Wish Granting
YMCA – 28th Street/Crenshaw

Katie McKoy of Examiner.com has compiled an impressive list of Michael’s philanthropic accomplishments. Go on over to her page and show that young lady some love.  Try and keep your mouth closed while you read the list.  I bet you can’t, I couldn’t.  It is amazing how one of the most lonely celebrities in the world was able to give back to the less fortunate some of the love and adulation of his fans gave him.  His compassion seemed boundless.  It is all the more amazing to realize that had Michael not given away this massive fortune, he would have been financially secure.  Rather than focus solely on himself, he lavished attention and love on others.

The tragedy of Michael’s life is that his career, family and philanthropy weren’t able to help him heal the deep emotional scars of a lost childhood.   Michael is free now, free from the burdens of celebrity and free from the pain of scandal and loss of innocence.  Mourn his passing but remember the richness of his legacy.   Lift up Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, Janet,  Mr. Joe, Miss Katherine, and little Michael Joseph, Paris Michael and Prince Michael in your prayers.