It was the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year 2009, four days after the summer solstice and the day that Michael Jackson died. What a very sad day it was for the world. A legend, a King, and a person I’d hoped to one day really get to know had slipped into Eternity. We never had the chance to meet in person but both times we’d spoken over the phone he had said to me that he looked forward to visiting our spiritual community, the Agape International Spiritual Center. And now, the youngest genius on the Detroit Motown label’s roster of geniuses during my teenage years, who had brilliantly inspired the world, was gone.
Ironically, my husband and I were set to travel to Detroit that same evening. I’d never been to Detroit but, like a magnet, soulful musicians from the Detroit area seemed to find a way to me. It’s no wonder that folks love the chants of Agape… they all have a great Motown beat, and are very often being played by musicians from Detroit! So I was already happy to be going to Detroit, and with the untimely passing of Michael Jackson, the trip had gained even more significance. Michael and I discussed the startling events of the day, while we packed our clothes, computers, vitamins and what seemed like a thousand additional things for a two-day trip.
Deeply engrossed in the conversation, we soon discovered that we’d lost track of time. The funniest show on earth takes place at our house just a few minutes before it’s time to leave for the airport. Bedlam! Dashing out the door to the limousine (whose driver had been waiting patiently for us) we set out for the airport. We arrived at the airport 50 minutes before our scheduled departure, but by the time we got to the ticket counter the time had dwindled to 44 minutes. A very kind ticket agent delivered the disappointing news, “Sorry folks. Baggage must be checked 45 minutes before your scheduled departure.” Michael and I looked at each other in disbelief. There was no way we could accept what she was saying to us. She continued, “Your reservations are gone. This flight is overbooked. I can place one of you in the number one position on the standby list for the next flight out at 12:30 am…”
All things are working together for our good
As the ticket agent tried to make sense out of the nonsensical way that airlines overbook flights, I found a little writing tablet in my purse and began to scribble, “All things are working together for our good.” Our seats were gone and it didn’t seem to matter that they were first class seats. Sure enough, Michael was able to get on the next flight, but it was clear, and only fair, that the fifteen names preceding mine on the standby list would take priority. I wouldn’t be able to fly until morning but I was thankful that I could return home and not have to sleep in the airport.
Around 1:30 am, a car arrived to take me home. The driver seemed to feel sorry for me and really made me feel better by listening to my story and adding his own two cents about how crazy it can get these days if you’re late for a plane. I began to think of the benefits in having missed the plane as he drove through the quiet streets of Los Angeles. “Well, I won’t have to sleep through the night on a plane, I reasoned. I can sleep in my own bed.” I wasn’t fond of red eye flights anyway and knowing that I would definitely make the 10:00 am flight, put my mind at ease. I said goodbye to the driver and entered my house alone.
As tired as I was, I never made it to bed because the sofa in the living room was so inviting. Without even undressing, I just stretched out on the sofa, which accepted me like an old friend. I covered myself with a near-by blanket and immediately drifted off to sleep. About five hours later, I opened my eyes to a quiet room, lit by the morning sun. After sitting in prayer for a while I went to my piano, across from the sofa. A succession of Motown-like chords played through my fingers while I remembered how Michael and I were rushing the night before to get to the airport.
We gotta go!
Those thoughts then brought to mind an incident that took place six years before, at a little boutique in Silver Lake, an artsy section of Los Angeles. It was my daughter’s 21st birthday and I wanted to do something special for her but didn’t quite know where to begin. Her 20th year had within it events that had been hard for us all. I just wanted her to feel my deep and abiding love but I felt awkward in knowing what to do. Parents of adult children know what I’m talking about. So there we were in the boutique when I realized that time had slipped away from us and it was so much later than I thought. I said to Georgia, “We gotta go!” and then attempted to charge out the door. But it wasn’t a door. It was a glass window that fortunately did not break upon impact. However, my head felt broken as I dropped to the floor screaming from the pain.
All these memories converged inside me as I played the first four chords. I began to sing in a tender Mary Wells kind of way, with the thought of Michael Jackson in my heart.
Wandering around, wondering why
I hit the glass with so much speed
What was I doing that I didn’t see the glass?
I was moving way too fast. I was moving way too fast
Felt like I was standing still. So I tried to gain some speed
With my mind and with my will
Wanted to feel something moving in me
Moving like the fishes in the sea.
My heart felt light as I confessed my feelings. “Rushing to get it done…” But oddly, there were no tears or remorse for this was not a sad song. It was a triumphant flash back on a time when I was five years into marriage with a wonderful man, but still getting used to the changes and expansion that marriage can bring. My teenagers were growing into young adulthood while Agape also grew in leaps and bounds. In the middle of it all was a woman and artist, struggling to find a way to keep it real. The day I hit the glass, everything stopped and I began to slow down because I had to. In fact, for the next two years I couldn’t handle any overload of any kind. I learned to take my time and to ask for help when I needed it and, of course, help was all around me. I just needed to slow down a little, take some time for myself and connect with the greatness in my soul.
Rushing to get it done
I actually finished the second verse before the chorus. The second verse speaks of a woman who married quickly but discovered, “…her dream of love was sweeter than the truth that came to pass.” The final elements of the chorus and bridge came together later, with Michael by my side at the piano. As we sat together for, “Rushing to get it done,” Michael suggested, “Needing to be one with the One.” The truth of those words hung in the air and we both felt the power like magic in the room. I would hate to think that the Universe set me up to hit a glass, witness the passing of a legend, or even miss a plane in order to write a song. I don’t think it works that way. But an artist will take the elements of living, be they happy or sad elements, and allow meaning to emerge from them in the expressions of art. Michael and I were able to do just that with this song. Michael so beautifully delivered the words, “Fear is the villain, planting lies of what we need. Real satisfaction comes in who we came to be.”
And together, we concluded this story with,
“Like the air and sun and the ground we walk upon, Love is freely given and life becomes worth living
When we’re one with the One…”
An exerpt from “Let My Soul Surrender: Grace Notes of a Journey“, the beautfully illustrated book & music CD Combo by Rickie Byars Beckwith