Friday was a mournful day in every sense of the word. There I was, seated with my head bowed; silent and reflective, as is often the case when someone is confronted with a death. I looked around, and I could see a similar emotion in the eyes of those around me. When Death rears his bony head, he doesn't just take the life of the victim, he sucks a little bit out from those around as well.
Apparently it had been a heart attack, but I was hazy on the details. The doctors had worked for an hour but had been unsuccessful, and just like that the world lost a father, a husband, a human being. One minute alive and well; the next - gone.
Perhaps you think this is yet another Michael Jackson post, but that's not entirely true. Michael Jackson comes a distant second in this post.
The man I was talking about in the first paragraph was the father of one of our youth group musicians. He was just 55 years old, and yet without warning he was taken from this world, leaving behind a wife and two children, 22 and 19. Of course, I doubt that anyone would be writing about his untimely demise in the papers, nor will there be much fanfare with regards to his life. The house I was seated in on Friday afternoon was small and dilapidated, situated in some interior lane beyond Kandy. Not exactly Hollywood, if you know what I mean.
The initial reaction to the news that Michael Jackson had died was so severe that apparently it almost 'broke' Google. The international media has been a relentless onslaught of MJ madness, discussing his life and death in agonising detail, interspersed with his many music videos. Kottu was a veritable online shrine to the 'king', with a few senseless anti-MJ posts thrown in as well. Facebook is no different either; apparently they have designed a quiz to determine which Michael Jackson song best represents your life. I can't wait for someone to get "Dirty Diana".
However, what struck me the most was the depth of emotion behind MJ's death. A man that was ridiculed for the better part of the last 15 years, that hadn't released new material in 6 years, that by no stretch of the imagination was hideously disfigured after an unknown number of nose jobs, and whose music was generally considered 'so yesterday' by the masses was mourned by nearly the entire world with people breaking down in tears on television, radio and public transport. Countless parodies in the media from music videos to movies, dangling babies from balconies, and topped by the ever present child molestation charges, Michael Jackson was a superstar with issues. He made great music, I'll give him that. After listening to Chris Cornell's version of Billie Jean, I realised what amazing lyrics were behind the song. The man was blessed, and it is a shame that such talent ended up wasting away like it did.
And then I dressed up and went to the funeral of a 'real' person. A father, a husband, a hard working man that worked 7 days a week from 7am to 8pm. A man who probably sacrificed his family life just so that he could earn enough to support them. And strangely, I saw no tears. I saw no sobbing, no weeping, no children laying wreaths all over the place. His children were naturally upset, but they were not crushed. His son was in a corner laughing with his friends, discussing who was going to remove the banner that was tied across their street. There were two little girls who were running around serving tea and biscuits, giggling and laughing like it was a social event.
Makes you wonder, what is this life for? When a man that you don't know beyond posters and news articles can generate such sorrow, such unmitigated depression in some cases, despite living a lifestyle that many (until Friday) considered shameful and embarrassing, and a man that slaved for his wife and children is buried with only some "onlookers" in attendance, leaving behind a family that hardly saw the man in the last so many years.
Makes you wonder.