The first public words Paris Jackson ever uttered were at the end of her father’s funeral.
“I just wanted to say…”
Paris paused, her left hand trembling on the microphone that one of her aunts had lowered to child height. Her right hand was clutching the stand. The huge Staples Center in Los Angeles arena had gone so quiet that her aunt could be heard speaking to her at just above a whisper.
“Speak up, sweetheart, speak up,” Janet Jackson said.
Paris was just 11 that day in 2009, and she had spent her whole life avoiding the public eye. But she had stepped onto center stage before thousands of spectators and many millions more watching on television because she had something she felt had to be said about what was at the very core of Michael Jackson.
“...ever since I was born...”
Her face contorted and her left hand retreated from the microphone to the back of her neck. She continued on in a display of courage and devotion that immediately flashed back to me when I heard reports on Wednesday that she had been rushed to a hospital after what was termed a possible suicide attempt.
“ ...Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine.”
She paused again, bowing her head, breathing in deeply. She was doing all any grief struck young daughter could do not to cry as her father lay in a coffin directly below where she stood.
“And I just wanted to say I love him so much,” she said.
All the firsts that come with a teenager’s life were shadowed by the unending reminders that she had seen the last of the one she called Daddy.
Only then did she wheel about from all those watching eyes and seek refuge in her aunt’s arms. I watched from a press seat and wrote about it in detail for the New York Daily News. It had seemed that the very truth of her words had been what propelled her to speak them. And I had to hope that this remarkable strength would solidify in her and remain a constant.
As Paris entered her teens, her father’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, was tried and convicted of manslaughter for recklessly administering the drugs that killed him. Then came the lawsuit the Jackson family filed against AEG Live, accusing the production company of being negligent when it retained Murray. The damages were put in terms of lost earnings, which only could have made Paris feel more keenly the true loss.
And to have her father’s death replayed in public over and over must have made her feel as if she were back on that stage over and over, only alone, the arena empty, the coffin long since gone and buried. She is said to have sought a deeper connection with her mother in recent months, but even that could not bring her father back. All the firsts that come with a teenager’s life were shadowed by the unending reminders that she had seen the last of the one she called Daddy.
The shadows may have sought to envelop Paris altogether early Wednesday. This 15-year-old who had once proved herself the bravest of daughters was rushed to a hospital after having reached a limit of some kind. A family lawyer, Perry Sanders, issued a statement that did not characterize the medical nature of the immediate emergency but was clear about the ultimate cause.
“Being a sensitive 15-year-old is difficult no matter who you are,” the statement said. “It is especially difficult when you lose the person closest to you.”