top of page

From Encino to Forest Lawn... So close to Michael Jackson

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Michael Jackson, 12 years following your voice #11

The day after my visit to Westlake Studios was a spring break Sunday. My hotel was not far from Encino and I didn't even mean to. So we stopped symbolically in front of the mansion's gate. From the street, there was no way to see the property. Anyway, I'm not an intrusive person.

After a few minutes breathing the same air in which he had lived for so long and where his mother and children now resided, we walked to the Staples Centers.

There is something really unspeakable about being in these places where he was and where I had never thought I would be, as if, finally, these places belong to fiction... As I walked around the buildings, I kept seeing the images from This is it in my head. I told myself that he had been there a few months earlier, that his voice had resonated there. I would have liked to hear the reminiscences... That the walls speak to me... That the trees and the birds tell what they had perceived through the walls... Impossible to enter because a Lakers game was to take place that evening. I had to pay the entrance fee and attend the game to see the room. So I tried a few shots behind the door. Capturing a few rows of chairs and telling myself that they were there and had attended the rehearsals, it was already so huge...

(Click on the picture and scroll with the left and right arrows)

Then we went to the Holmby Hills mansion, where he had lived his last days. Where, let's say, he had fallen asleep and never woke up again...

I walked around the house for a long time, looking at the windows, the ones, supposedly, of his room, with the little balcony. I walked, paced under this balcony... I tried to imagine the film of this last night, of this last morning, to put myself in the place of these windows, to feel their memory... This kind of thing is devouring. It grabs you, it "takes your head", literally. It drives you crazy... I looked in the corners between the gate and the vegetation... The weed was starting to grow between the slabs. Its size, still small, still made its presence close, and at the same time, it signaled its absence so much... A car was still there, covered with a tarpaulin, under the balcony of his room. It seemed to have been forgotten, abandoned. I was filled with a feeling of reverence. I remember not wanting to speak anymore. I looked at the neighboring houses. How could one have been his neighbor... Was it possible? I realized how he had been living on another planet for me since I was a child... And then, all of a sudden, I was struck by a detail I didn't expect: his mailbox... So he had a mailbox? So we could write to him? Could I have written to him? Was it all really real? Strangely, this box, which I touched, scrutinized, was suddenly a paving stone in the pond, an inscription in reality, in possible links, in a form of tangible communication between humans. I thought of the letter I had sent her when I was 10 years old and which had remained unanswered. If, since that age when I still had some sense, I had grown up knowing that this man lived on earth, I would have written again. Writing is my preferred mode of communication, always has been. And even for him, obviously, since it all started with a letter and today, even if I sometimes write to him and throw those letters in the sea or send them to him, I write mostly to talk about him.

(Click on the picture and scroll with the left and right arrows)

At noon, we went to Universal Studios. First, we stopped at the "Off the Wall" store where he had a habit. He used to come there to buy lots of trinkets, little antiques. I didn't dare ask the owner anything. His picture was on the door. I wandered through the aisles, wondering which of these objects had been there last year and had crossed his face... It was all so surreal...

When I arrived at Universal, I was so out of touch that I didn't even imagine that I would be in some of the aisles where he shot "Moonwalker". What a dizzying experience.... We wasted so much time there though. I didn't care about eating, about finding a restaurant. What I wanted to do, to complete the circle, was to go to Forest Lawn. I was so sure that it was only a formality, that I had already met him everywhere I went... Yet the clock was ticking and, being accompanied, I was not free to go wherever I wanted. I was tired of waiting on those who were with me and I ended up going to meet a bus driver to ask him if it was possible to find a line to go there or if I could go on foot... He laughed. No bus. As for walking there, it was without counting on the fact that I had to cross the freeway and it would have taken me many hours to get there. I really didn't realize it... This city is a huge spider's web with the biggest avenues exceeding a hundred kilometers...

When we finally made our way there, we ended up in the wrong cemetery. I didn't know there were several Forest Lawns. We arrived in Hollywood Hills where we were finally indicated the good address, in Glendale. Result: another 40 minutes of car. What immensity... what anguish...

We arrived at 5:30 pm and the cemetery was closing around 6 pm. I first stopped at the store at the entrance. I wanted to bring him a candle, a present, something... I took some candles, two little white cherub brooches and two red rosaries (one for him and one for me). I had never driven through a cemetery before. His mausoleum was at the very top and there was something restful, soothing and almost joyful about driving through this place that looked more like a garden than anything else. Here and there, families were sitting on the grass, children were playing ball... It looked like a park. Not a cemetery. I had always had my doubts about this concept of a cemetery-garden, but now I was suddenly convinced. There didn't seem to be any room for sadness or self-pity. For prayer, yes. For connecting with life and the future, alive, yes. It was soothing.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

I rang the doorbell of a huge monument. But, of course, a voice on the intercom told me that I was on the wrong side. I had to walk the last few meters. What a way... It was 5:40 pm. I had traveled 9000 km, waited all day, and had 20 minutes to spare. I was leaving the next morning, and on the first plane to Florida. My heart was pounding.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

As I rounded the corner and walked along the church, I knew I had arrived. I saw some young people sitting in front of the glass door with a Coke in their hands, chatting as one would on a park bench, happily. I did not approach them immediately. Further on, on the floor, there were piles of photos. I recognized him. It was him, he was there. My heart leapt. I approached. I looked at each of the pictures. They were from fans, from families. There were pictures of children, babies, handwritten prayers asking him to heal this child, save that baby, take care of that family. I was overwhelmed. It was as if all those words, all those pictures, had split me open. I put down my candles. I had brought my memoir about his voice. I laid it down for her. As well as a letter, the little cherub and the rosary. I knew that on a regular basis, the objects, photos and messages were brought to her inside. That at some point, my items would be close to him. I began to tremble....

(Click on the picture and scroll with the left and right arrows )

I approached the door of the mausoleum. It was already impossible to enter. A few months before, some fans had tagged the interior and since then, access was forbidden. I grabbed the bars of the door, stuck my face to the glass. I could see his chapel in the background, straight ahead, and the shadow of his grave against the light. The young people continued to discuss, to joke, right next to me... They kept me alive. For a moment, I thought I was going to pass out there. Everything was too strong, like a cyclone, a fall from a plane, a break to the heart of the Earth. I forced myself to listen to them laugh and tell myself that they were right. They kept him company and made him, in a way, attend their conversations. They kept life going around him, like visiting a friend. His legs began to dance before my eyes, while I had been vomiting the ineptitude of their morbid immobility when I thought of them. And I remember saying, "The last time I was this close to you was 22 years ago. What a chasm...

I went back to the platform where the pictures were. A woman was adjusting some flowers. I wanted to throw myself on top of her, to throw myself in her arms so much that a sob lifted my heart, like a wave that was going to drown me. I staggered. I saw my mother a little further away, my husband. I told myself that I couldn't fall down there, nor show anything, because I wouldn't get up again. And then, who would have understood? This wave will remain engraved in me because it was so strong. I had never felt that before.

I took a few steps and looked at the back of the cemetery. Below me was the children's area. I thought about what he had said: he wanted to be buried near children, it would make him feel better. At least that, they had respected that. It calmed me down.

There was a big magnolia tree there. A flower fell at my feet. I picked it up. I wanted to see a sign. It is still in my copy of "Dancing the Dream".

I went back down the other side. A young African-American woman was lying on the grass. She was reading a book about him. I realized that she was facing the chapel where he lay. He was right there, right above our heads. We exchanged a few words with her. I didn't understand everything she was saying, but she said that she came there every Sunday to lie down in the grass next to him and read. She kept him company. As a child, she'd found herself not far from him as he got out of a car in Los Angeles, but she'd been so intimidated that she'd refused to approach him. She regretted it. She was making up for the missed appointment like that. Then I regretted not asking for her email. I would have liked her to send me a picture, every Sunday. I would have liked so much to be with her, to be like her... I often went there by proxy. In my mind. In visualization. But... how to say... You understand... Once you've been there "for real" and felt those tsunamis, no visualization gets you that close...

And then, while we were talking, all of a sudden, I heard a voice in my head: "It's easy what you're doing. You bought things, you put them there, but where is the sacrifice, where is the part of yourself? You have to put a piece of yourself down. Something that matters, that you care about." I heard this voice in my head as if someone was talking to me. I instinctively looked up at her chapel. This idea came out of nowhere, it didn't exist 10 seconds before. It was a shock.

So I went back to the door, to the platform where the messages and memories were placed. I had two bracelets on my wrist that had been with me all year. And this year, since his disappearance, had been so difficult, including on the family level... These bracelets were the same as hers. I had bought them from the woman who had given them to him in 2004, and whom he wore and who had founded MJJInnocenceBracelets. The money went to the works and each bracelet represented a theme or a moment in his life. To have a copy of his bracelets on my wrist was to have pieces of him, to see his wrist instead of mine. I couldn't imagine my wrist without it. I couldn't separate myself from them. They had captured all my emotions, all my turpitude, all my moments of joy too, during all those months. But I did it. It tore my heart out, I assure you, and it may sound ridiculous, but I felt that it was right. That I was answering a call. I don't know why something had told me to leave those bracelets there with him, but responding to it was a necessity stronger than anything. I don't know, with hindsight, what meaning to give to this gesture and, even if at the time it seemed to me that this voice, in my head, came from the chapel just above my head, I don't see why it would be him who would have spoken or asked such a thing. But at the time and for a long time afterwards, it seemed obvious to me, a miracle even.

When we left, I thought I would die. I cried silently during the 45 minutes that separated us from Venice Beach, where we went for a walk. What was the point of going there, to a tourist beach, when I wanted so much to stay with him? All evening, I was torn to be so close to him without being able to see him, knowing that I could not go back, that we had to leave a few hours later. What a painful heartbreak....

I still suffer from it today. All this has such a taste of unfinished business. Over the years, nothing has calmed down. I dream of going back and, above all, of going alone this time. To be free to spend as much time as I want. To be free to go back the next day, then the day after that... That it's not a timed and unique visit. I want to have time to talk to him. To tell him all that he represents.

When I think that this is the last place I expected to find him... He had been so alive, by my side, all these months, since his departure, that I could not imagine "finding" him in this cemetery. Even if his soul and his spirit live, for me, on a daily basis and not only "in the memory", as we say, being so close to his body created such a whirlwind, such a dizziness, such an emotional, physical and psychological shock that I remain marked by it. All this resonates today like a call. A necessity to return. Far from closing a page, this visit opened a book, created a need, inoculated me with a magnet, a thread attached to my wrists, my ankles, my heart. The only thing I have been able to do since then is to write to her there, many times. I sent her letters that may have been brought to her, I sent her flowers. That's a first comfort.

I hope that one day soon, I will be able to go back there and if, at that time, it is possible to enter his chapel again, it will be even more violent, even more vital.

I only know one thing. I have an appointment with him and this appointment has been waiting for 11 years now. It was on August 7, 2011. Like today, I'm sharing with you this story that is dear to me, because it's an intimate one that I rarely reveal. Funny sign...

Michael, I think we have a lot to talk about... I will come back... May Heaven allow me to come back... With love... L.O.V.E.

37 views0 comments


bottom of page