Saints alive! And those not so Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Jul. 16, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

I was never a Michael Jackson fan. I think my generation caught glimpses of him here and there when our kids watched him on TV. After we marveled at the Jackson Five with this adorable little boy with the big voice, we gradually lost interest in his "Modern Pop" music.

Then his constantly evolving face and color left us shaking our heads. When he built his Neverland, it made us wonder if he was trying to find the childhood he had been deprived of in this fantasy setting.

And then there was the scandalous case brought against him by the parents of a little boy he had befriended. If we had to describe Michael Jackson in one word, it would probably be "bizarre." He faded from the limelight for a few years.

Then, just on the eve of his big "comeback tour" came his untimely death last week at the age of 50. Of course, as a mother of a big brood myself, I could not help but identify with Catherine Jackson and her six other sons and two daughters, and so I watched every minute of the two-hour memorial service. (Or was it three? Time stood still.)

I had expected tributes from all of the great entertainers, world leaders, and persons of renown who had been touched by him and I was not disappointed. Little by little, however, a new picture emerged of Michael Jackson in my mind.

Different side

Humanitarian? Who knew? Yet a U.S. member of the House of Representatives displayed a framed tribute to Michael Jackson, acknowledging him for supporting the most charities. The most commonly used words from those who knew him personally were "loving" and "gentle" to describe Michael. Those were usually followed by "gifted" and "hard working." The biggest stars sang some of Jackson's songs I have loved, not knowing that he had composed them.

Saint or sinner? I don't know, but when you mix in the pressure asserted by, first of all, his father, Joe, then those record companies, managers, and producers who found in Michael a great source of wealth, and the hungry pack of paparazzi pursuing him, and the immediacy of the internet, what saint could survive without a blemish?

Saint or sinner

St. Augustine was a rowdy, ne'er-do-well in his youth, who drove his mother, St. Monica, to pray day and night for his conversion. He would never have had to write his Confessions in today's world. The bloodthirsty press would have done it for him.

St. Francis? There was a story for you: rich kid, spoiled rotten, led a wild life of partying, and then suddenly gave it all up. Legend has it he tore off his garments and jumped naked into a rose bush (for Christ). Then he began wandering around talking to the birds and the animals. St. Francis even received the stigmata of Christ. And his only drug of choice was the Eucharist. Think what today's media could do with that one. (He managed to have a great number of followers without their help, however. Think Franciscans.)

Fortunately, we don't get to decide who is a saint or who is a sinner. The only thing we need to worry about is achieving sainthood ourselves. I've always thought sainthood would seem more attainable if we would be aware of the saints' sinning side as well as their good works. But then, there were no tabloids in those days. So I guess we'll have to settle for the Michael Jacksons and the Mother Tereses in our lives.

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