“He was not of an age, but for all time!” (Michael and Me)

“Celebrate Michael’s life by creating futures not funerals… To make Michael happy… don’t accept the struggle, don’t give up and surrender… That’s the right thing to do. Just live together… and not die apart. Through all of this, keep hope alive.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson

“Thou art a monument without a tomb, And art alive still while thy book doth live And we have wits to read, and praise to give” – Ben Jonson

Dear world,

My name is Eliza and I am a Moonwalker*.

You probably don’t quite understand what that means. Unless you’re one of us. Being a Moonwalker isn’t like being a fan of Beyonce or Justin, or Miley Cyrus. It’s a relationship that starts as early as you can remember and goes on until you die. Period.

Michael, through his music, becomes your mentor, through his videos, your friend, and through his works, your inspiration. He is more than another singer, he’s family. That’s just it. You’re done. You will hand him down to your own kids, siblings and relatives as a point-of-necessity and from him you learn humility, altruism and infinite greatness.

For most Michael Jackson fans the last five years have been a weird limbo of grief and confusion. Personally, up until 2014 I couldn’t even listen to a single MJ song without feeling a surge of grief. So you can imagine I couldn’t bear to listen to any album all the way through, not even Off The Wall, not Invincible. And those albums raised me. They are me.

One of my earliest memories in life was Michael Jackson.

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Moonwalker was my ultimate favourite film for years (and still is). I watched it so many times my mother ended up throwing it out in frustration. At the age of thirteen I listened to all of Michael’s grown-up solo albums on repeat for almost two years.

People called me weird. People told me all the reasons they thought I (and MJ) were strange. Mouths were moving but I wasn’t listening. Instead, I was listening to Dangerous… again. I was wrapped safe by Songs like You Are Not Alone, Keep The Faith and HIStory throughout my tumultuous teenage years.

Somewhere between Invincible and This is It, I discovered John Mayer and Jason Mraz but at my core… MJ was still the ONE. A significant part of my identity and the way I see the world.

I loved Michael then. I still do. I always will. Everything about him: the way he sings, the way he moves, the way he speaks. Though I was never fortunate to physically meet him, I, like so many felt like I knew him. I suppose I did in a way because of the music. You know the saying, how artists are their art. I’m pretty certain that anyone who’s read my books hundreds of times knows me pretty well, whether we’ve met or not.

It’s that knowing which made June 2009 so hard to bear. For us, MJ was never just another star. He was more than that. He was a parent, a philanthropist, a father, a person. He felt the cruel attacks made on him, he gave as if money was going out of style, he moved like magic.

I still feel a pang of sadness when people talk about their favourite artists, to have to say who mine is. There’s always a commiserating pause. Then a launch into speculation and hearsay, a morality tale or other such nonsense.

I hate the fact that my true inspiration is no more. I never expected that to happen. I thought my Michael would live forever, or at least till I was middle-aged and emotionally better-equipped to face a future without his music in my life.

But I’ve had five years to think about it and have come to the conclusion that in the true sense of the word, Michael lives. For anyone who misses and loves him and his music. Now, all these years later, he’s more alive than he’s ever been. I can hear his music in a dozen places in one day. He lives in that music he made, music people will return to for all time.

Like Shakespeare, the words he committed to paper will gain new significance for new generations. And I will feel incredibly blessed to have been alive in a world where he lived too.

Michael lives on in the millions of fans who have yet to experience him for the first time, a discovery in a parent or relative’s MP3/CD/LP/Vinyl collection. He lives as the inspiration he gives to people like me who are artists, creators, visionaries and academics.

In the words of Jonson, “He was not of an age, but for all time!”

He achieved true immortality. The only way a person truly can in this world. That immortality consists of his everlasting presence in our world. When I think of this it makes me smile. What a legacy to leave us! How lucky are we? See, still giving. That’s him alright.

On this day which should have been, could have been your 56th birthday, Michael I love you! And thank-you.

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*Moonwalker: die-hard Michael Jackson fan, part of the MJ Family. May or may not be able to do the moonwalk.

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