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A year ago, on June 25, 2009, I was at my local pool watching my two daughters swim when a friend called to tell me that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. I instinctively knew that he was going to die, and an hour later, my prediction was proven true. I gathered with my neighbors, shocked at his untimely death.
The short ride home was difficult for me -- when one of my favorite MJ songs, "Rock with You," came on the car radio, I began to cry. Once home, with the news of Jackson's death on every channel, I called my sister and we cried together. She reminded me of our copy of his "Off the Wall" record, then shared with me -- for the first time -- that she would sleep with the album cover (so that's where it was!), pretending that the teen idol was her boyfriend.
With most radio stations and music television channels playing Jackson's body of work nonstop for the month following his death, something wonderful happened -- my youngest daughter, Jillian, who was 8 at the time, was heavily exposed to his great talent. Mesmerized, she fell in love with Michael Jackson, the artist.
Together Jillian and I watched a young Michael perform with his brothers in the Jackson 5, and reunite as an adult with his siblings in concert. We studied his videos, the storylines, choreography and the guest stars featured, including Macaulay Culkin, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy, Naomi Campbell and even Marlon Brando. My daughter was in heaven when we went to see This is It!, the movie featuring footage of the preparation for Jackson's 2010 tour that never came to be. Observing Jillian taking it all in was very moving -- her eyes lit up as she perched on the edge of her seat absorbing the King of Pop's raw performance footage. We left the theatre exhilarated, but sad that he wasn't alive to tour and perform the show featured in the documentary. Even sadder was the fact that we'd never see him perform in person.
Jillian is now the proud owner of two oversized MJ t-shirts that she rotates on a regular basis, so I, of course, must make sure a spare is always clean. She used her birthday iTunes gift cards not to buy current pop music, but instead to purchase only Michael Jackson songs. She loves to dance and sing along and when I watch her, I see such joy and happiness -- the same emotions my sister and I experienced listening to Michael.
Now 9, Jillian is still fascinated by Michael Jackson, but she knows little about his personal life, trials and tribulations. She isn't aware of the scandals surrounding Michael Jackson, and I have no plans of telling her any time soon. I prefer that her love of MJ remain what it is -- pure, unadulterated adoration of an the entertainer who has contributed so heavily to music worldwide .
On this first anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, my sister plans on joining thousands of others at New York City's Apollo Theater tribute. Jillian and I will be happy to pop some corn, stay at home and watch the tributes, videos and movies all over again. After all, he created the music for us to share, enjoy and be entertained.
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