The day Michael Jackson died, I was driving home from work talking to a friend who was explaining to me how she was sobbing so intensely when she broke the news to her husband that he initially thought a member of the family had passed.
In a way, one had.
Trying to explain the personal connection that so many Jackson fans feels to the pop icon can be dicey because there is so much that muddies the water. So many controversies, so much odd behavior and countless unanswered questions.
But as I watched people stand in line waiting to sign a wall of remembrance to the star outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, I was reminded of the many wakes and funerals I have attended for friends and family members.
People stood reverently in the beating sun and shared the good times: the concerts they had attended, the charity work they knew he did and, of course, the music they loved.
Their conversation was as intimate as any family gathering I have ever attended – and like family – they were ready to forgive and wanted only to speak good of the dead.
"I had to come for my brother," said Delores Polite of Brunswick, Georgia who stood with her friend Vida Trusty who is from Jamaica. "He made history in this world and we need to represent for him."
Trusty said she cried when she learned of Jackson's death, not just for him, but also for his family. "I pray for Katherine, because to lose a child," Polite chimed in, her voice trailing off at the thought.
The pair said they were willing to stand in the line as long as it took so they could share their thoughts with the family of Michael Jackson fans.
"We loved him," Polite said. "To us, he was a jewel."
–Lisa Respers France, CNN.com writer
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