On Sunday 21 June 2009, I was one of several people to receive an email from a fan in Europe, who said she had contacted a trusted associate and friend of Michael’s that was involved in the tour over concerns for his health. The associate had responded confirming that Michael wasn’t well – she didn’t specify what was wrong with him – and assuring her that she was doing everything in her power to help him.
I replied to everyone on the e-mail list – all follower fans who Michael knew and recognized - suggesting that we all reach out to him together by writing letters expressing our concerns. I asked everyone to include a photograph of themselves so our words would be accompanied by familiar and loving faces.
Within the next few hours, I received letters from all over the world, all (at least those I read on the request of the sender) expressing deep love and concern for him, asking him not to be pressured into doing anything that he didn’t want to do and to put his health first.
A sense of dread
Michael was due to leave for London in a matter of days for the opening concert of the This Is It tour on 13 July. We knew we had to get our letters to him at the first opportunity. The fans in LA elected my friend Jill and I to be the ones to hand them to him.
We were nervous, of course. We still didn’t have very much to go on, just the word of someone we didn’t know personally that he wasn’t well. What if we were wrong and we came across as paranoid or intrusive? But the possible outcome if we did nothing was so much worse.
If we acted, the worst that could happen was that we would lose some of his trust and respect, which we valued so highly. If we didn’t act, the worst that could happen was that he would be pushed to the point of collapse and end up in hospital. We couldn’t risk that.
Maybe by reaching out now, we could prevent anything bad from happening by reassuring him that if he cancelled some or all of the concerts, he would NOT be letting down his most devoted fans because as much as we all love to see him perform, we care a million times more about his health, well-being and happiness than we do about any tour.
"I would die inside."
Our decision to take action was based not only on the information we had received and our own observations, but also on an intuitive feeling, a sense of dread that many of us shared.
Here is an extract from my last letter to Michael:
“Won’t you let us help you shoulder that burden now, like we have so many times in the past? Won’t you listen to our concerns and finally understand that we love YOU Michael and not merely the artist, the performer. We love your soul, your light, your heart and we would die if you left us. I know I would. I would die inside.”
It was weeks later when I read these words again and realized that deep inside, in a place beyond knowing, I must have had some sense what was coming. Maybe we all did.
The first chance Jill and I had to give Michael the letters came on Wednesday, 24 June 2009.