So many people professed their love for Michael Jackson at his memorial service (including one of his children), so many people claimed to care about him, it's surprising he seemed so alone.  One of the most affecting tributes at the ceremony was from old friend Brooke Shields who, tearfully, gestured to the heavens where Jackson was undoubtedly looking down on this outpouring of love towards him. Afterwards, Shields told reporters she had last seen Jackson in 1991.  As for his daughter Paris' moving expression of love - it should have been the best antidote to Jackson's drug addiction.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, July 9, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Michael Jackson's Memorial: Love is for the living

ParisPeople were shocked (read the comments) when I said that many people - including those who claimed to be closest to him - found Michael Jackson's death a relief.  At Jackson's memorial, they could have the perfect relationship they wanted with him, but which they were denied by his actual presence on earth.  This is a standard reaction of people to the deaths of "loved ones" from whom they are alienated.  This feeling fuels the contacting-dead-people industry, for instance.  Such feelings are understandable, but nonetheless insubstantial.

To me, the love for Jackson on display at his memorial ceremony was disingenuous and self-referential, like when brother Jermaine reported that Michael called him his "backbone."  I wonder how often Jermaine saw Michael?  The most moving tribute by an adult came from Brooke Shields who described how they often got together and that Michael knew he could always count her.  Crying, she gestured to Michael in the heavens looking down on the scene.  Later, she told reporters that she had last seen Jackson in 1991.  Perhaps getting together every decade or so for a cup of coffee could have been helpful to him when Jackson was alive. 

Of course, there was no denying the grief and love of Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris, who unaffectedly spoke about her love for her father, and his for her.  This one tribute really offered a new vision of the person Michael Jackson was.  At the same time, we may wonder, why didn't this love enable Jackson to kick the drugs that killed him?

The take aways: love is for the living, so get it while you can, and love of a child offers the single best antidote for addiction, bar none - if it fails, there is little chance for recovery.