RYAN WHITE as one of Michael Jackson’s child friends
Everyone knows Michael Jackson’s song Gone too Soon which is dedicated to Ryan White. But I bet very few people know the story of friendship between Michael and Ryan.
Here it is, and I hope it will show to you, same as it did to me, what makes Michael Jackson really different from all of us around here – and not in the way the media implies it to be.
Imagine the 1980s. It was the time when everybody was panicky about AIDS as a new fatal and contagious disease and was highly on their guard with those who contracted it. People were afraid to sit next to AIDS victims and breathe the same air with them. And it was exactly at that time that Michael Jackson fearlessly invited the boy ill with AIDS to his home, dined with him and publicly embraced him inviting others not to be fearful of these people.
Is it possible for an ordinary person to understand why a mega-star like Michael would prefer the company of a gravely ill boy to numerous valuable things which make up a person’s life? An incredibly famous and busy young man would spend his precious spare time with ill children like Ryan White instead of going to parties or living a carefree life full of joy and self-indulgence? And would take the trouble of calling his small friend, arranging his trips, buying him presents and lavishing him with attention while all this time he could have taken care of himself or relaxed from his hard work?
Can any of us be really capable of anything like that? Not just once but on a regular basis and for a long time too? Can you? Seriously? And Michael Jackson could…
WHO WAS RYAN WHITE?
Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after being expelled from school because of his infection. A hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. Healthy for most of his childhood, he became extremely ill with pneumonia in December 1984. On December 17, 1984, during a partial-lung removal procedure, White was diagnosed with AIDS.
After the diagnosis, White was too ill to return to school, but by spring had begun to feel better. His mother asked if he could return to school, but was told by school officials that he should not. On June 30 1985, a formal request to permit re-admittance to school was denied by Western School Corporation superintendent James O. Smith, sparking a legal battle that lasted for eight months.
Though doctors said he posed no risk to other students, AIDS was poorly understood at the time, and when White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance. White’s school, Western Middle School in Russiaville, faced enormous pressure from many parents and faculty to bar him from the campus after his diagnosis became widely known. 117 parents (from a school of 360 total students) and 50 teachers signed a petition encouraging school leaders to ban White from school. Due to the widespread fear and ignorance about AIDS, the principal and later the school board assented.
The ways in which HIV spread were not fully understood in the 1980s. Scientists knew it spread via blood and was not transmittable by any sort of casual contact, but as recently as 1983, the American Medical Association had thought that “Evidence Suggests Household Contact May Transmit AIDS”, and the belief that the disease could spread easily persisted.
Many families in Kokomo believed Ryan’s presence posed an unacceptable risk. When he was permitted to return to school for one day in February 1986, 151 of 360 students stayed home. He also worked as a paperboy, and many of the people on his route canceled their subscriptions, believing that HIV could be transmitted through newsprint.
When White was finally readmitted in April, a group of families withdrew their children and started an alternative school. Threats of violence and lawsuits persisted. According to White’s mother, people on the street would often yell, “we know you’re queer” at Ryan.
White attended Western Middle School for eighth grade for the entire 1986-87 school year, but was deeply unhappy and had few friends. The school required him to eat with disposable utensils and use separate bathrooms. Threats continued. When a bullet was fired through the Whites’ living room window, the family decided to leave Kokomo. After finishing the school year, his family moved to Cicero, Indiana, where White enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School. On August 31, 1987, a “very nervous” White was greeted by school principal Tony Cook, school system superintendent Bob G. Carnal, and a handful of students who had been educated about AIDS and were unafraid to shake White’s hand.
Many celebrities appeared with White, starting during his trial and continuing for the rest of his life, to help publicly destigmatize socializing with people with AIDS – among them Elton John and Michael Jackson.
Doctors said White had only six months to live. Surprising his doctors, White lived five years longer than predicted and died in April 1990, shortly before he would have completed high school.
The book “MY OWN STORY”, written by Ryan White and Ann Marie Cunningham, was published in August 1992 by the Signet publishing company. Ryan began to write about his life quite early. When the impact of his disease was too heavy though, Ann Marie Cuningham took over the task. The book speaks about Ryan’s close relationship with Michael Jackson and Elton John and how Ryan got along with his illness:
Here are some excerpts from the book:
When we went to restaurants, people would get up and leave, so they wouldn’t have to sit anywhere near me. Even in church, no one would shake my hand.
Panic spread all over town. Lots of times kids flattened themselves against walls when I walked by. I heard kids telling Ryan White jokes. And grown people passed along lies about how they’d seen me biting people, or spitting on vegetables at the grocery store. I never did and I never would.
When I finally did get back into class, after a judge said the school was wrong, an awful lot of people still wanted me gone.
….AIDS can destroy a family if you let it but luckily for my sister and me, Mom taught us to keep going. She said, ‘Don’t give up, be proud of who you are and never feel sorry for yourself.’
…The one day Michael Jackson called me. Wow! I didn’t know why he had, except maybe because he’s from Indiana too. He was in his car, he said.
“If I lose you, man, I’ll call you back,” he told me.
So I told him what I was doing, what movies I’d seen, what school was like, how John and I had been window-shopping for stereo – stuff I’d talk about to anyone. I said I was playing his albums.
I liked “Man In The Mirror” the best. Michael’s not flaky or weird, like you read in those newspapers you can buy in the supermarket. He’s real quiet and softspoken. Sometimes he takes a while to say things. He’s just kind of gentle and peaceful. He was a nice new friend for me to have. “Next time you’re in L.A., we’ll get together and have some good old fun,” he told me. Well, I couldn’t wait.
…On the day we were going to spend with Michael, a limo picked up Mom, Andrea, Heather, and me very early at our hotel. After we climbed in, we were told that we couldn’t take any cameras with us because we weren’t allowed to take pictures. About three hours later, about ten in the morning, we drove up to the entrance of Neverland, Michael’s ranch.
Michael was wearing black pants and a red and black jacket and a black hat. He always wears my favourite colours. He showed us around the main house. Just like me, his dream is to have kids, so the house had a bedroom for a little boy and one for a little girl, plus a playroom with all kinds of toys and arts and crafts – even a miniature merrygo-round.
At lunch – chicken, corn on the cob, and pumpkin pie – we met Michael’s monkeys. His famous one, Bubbles, wasn’t there, but the others made up for him. They all wore diapers and T-shirts in different colours. They have their own babysitters, and they go to school every day to learn manners. Their manners were pretty good! They hoped around and played with our shoelaces while we ate. Every now and again Michael fed them a treat. I never wanted to say goodbye to them.
I felt very comfortable around Michael because I could see he was just as shy as I am. He seemed like a regular person to me. I certainly could relax with him.
….At lunch there was juice and Pepsi. Mom asked if there was any Coke. Then she remembered Michael’s Pepsi commercial. She really thought she’d blown it.
Michael smiled. He knew what she was thinking. He said that Mom was just like his mother. So Mom got up the nerve to ask a mom-type question. “Michael,” she said, “is it true that you sleep in an oxygen tank?” That’s something the tabloids have said about him.
Michael laughed. “Now Jeanne,” he said, “You know all the stuff that’s been written about you and Ryan.”
“Oh gosh,” Mom said. “I understand!”
…After lunch Michael asked me if I’d like to ride around part of the ranch in his fourwheeler. “Yeah!” I said. Andrea was going to try his trampoline, and Heather and Mom were checking out his outdoor hot tub that had a video screen on one side.
Michael and I set out over the ranch’s dirt roads. I was at the wheel and he rode in the back. I took off and Michael yelled, “Slow down, Ryan!” After we’d gone a few miles he asked me if I could find my way back to the house.
“Sure,” I said. I listed a few landmarks.
“Good for you!” Michael said. “But now let me drive!”
…When we caught up with Mom and the girls it was getting late. We had homemade pizza for supper, and then it was time for us to drive back to L.A. I told Michael that I really, really wanted a photo of us together. So he sent someone out for a Polaroid camera, and drove down with us to the ranch’s entrance. Mom got some good shots, and then we said goodbye.
…As the limo headed for the highway, Heather covered her face with her hands, shook her hair back and forth, and started laughing and laughing and laughing. “I just can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it!” she cried. “We spend the day with Michael Jackson. I can’t believe we were with Michael Jackson.”
On bad days I had to rely on the phone for social life. Michael called to say he was busy working on an album. “We’ve got to get together and goof off again,” Michael said. He wanted to know if I could come back out to the ranch after Christmas.
Well, when Michael invites you, you don’t say maybe. Dr. Kleiman knew I wanted to keep going, and that trips to California kept me going. I could count on him to get me on that plane. So I told Michael, “You can bet on it.”
…The drive took about three hours. The limo dropped me off at Bungalow Three for the rest. Michael said, “See you at seven.” That was suppertime. I was worried. My stomach ached and I was having cramps. I called Mom.
“I shouldn’t have come,” I told her. “I don’t want to be sick here with Michael.”
“Well, you haven’t eaten in a while,” Mom pointed out. I usually needed at least a snack every couple of hours or so. She said, “Why don’t you see how you feel after supper?”
I took a nap and went up to the main house for supper – chicken, beer ribs, and baked potatoes. Then Michael and I went to his private theatre and watched two and a half hours of Three Stooges reruns. We ate popcorn from the theatre’s own machine, and had pizza delivered from the house. I felt a lot better and had a great time. Now I was glad I had come.
…”I like your jacket,” Michael told me, “but I want you to have a heavier one.” So the two of us drove to a nearby town in Michael’s Bentley… The best part was, the man in the shop didn’t believe that Michael and his credit card were for real! Michael gave him the ranch’s security number, and he called to clear the card and the doublecheck that Michael was who he said he was.
…I was very happy that dinner turned out to be tacos. Afterward I showed Michael a video that Mom, Andrea, and I had made for him of our whole house – every room, every poster and decoration we have on the walls.. “When you come to visit now,” I told him, “you’ll know your way around our house.”
…The night we watched the new Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade. How lucky can you get, I thought. The lines were too long to get in at home, but I was getting a private screening.
…The next day Michael had business meetings. When Michael was free, we went back to town to pick out some presents for Mom and Andrea. I got Mom a great big Santa, and magic stuff for Andrea.
..At dinner on New Year’s Eve, Michael gave me a wonderful watch. It chimes every hour and has a builtin alarm. It tells you the day of the week, the date, the month, and the year.
“Thanks!” I said.
“I have to leave early tomorrow – before you go,” Michael said. “I’m sorry I won’t be around. And I’m sorry I don’t have the autographed photo you wanted. But I’ll mail it to you.”
When we hugged goodbye, Michael said, “Never give up. Do it for me.”
… New Year’s Day: my last day at the ranch. I played with Max, one of Michael’s pet monkeys. I was glad to see him again, and he was glad to see my shoelaces. I puckered up for a kiss, and Max gave me a big one.
I called Mom to tell her I was on my way home.
“There’s a big box at the ranch entrance for me to take home,” I told her. “It’s driving me crazy. What do you think it is?”
It was a whole new stereo system and disc changer. A few days later I got a photo of Michael signed, “To Ryan.” He was wearing red, black, and white. Thanks, Michael!
…For the next week Ryan remained unconscious, in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Riley Hospital. Dr. Kleiman told Jeanne he was sure Ryan was not in pain. But Ryan’s chances of pulling through, he said, were only ten percent. (…)
When Michael Jackson called, he would have two minutes to speak. “Ryan,” Elton John said, “you can’t turn down a superstar like this. I’m grade B compared to Michael.” He held the phone to Ryan’s ear so Michael could encourage him. (…)
At about one o’clock Sunday morning, Michael Jackson called again from Atlantic City. When Jeanne told him Ryan was not expected to live, Michael declared he was flying to Indianapolis right away.
… Ryan is dying. “I feel terrible,” he says. About 1 A.M. on Sunday, Jeanne takes a call at Ryan’s bedside from longtime family friend Michael Jackson. Michael bought Ryan a red Mustang about a year ago, and the Whites have been frequent guests at his California ranch.
Michael wants to come that minute. He is in Atlantic City.
“How long will it take you, Michael?,” she asks. Jeanne looks at a nurse wearing goggles. “Two hours?” she asks the nurse.
The nurse shakes her head.
“Michael, don’t come, honey. Ryan isn’t expected to last two hours. We know how much you love him.” Jackson says he’ll be there in-the morning, and he is.
As soon as Michael Jackson arrived, he went straight to the Whites’ home in Cicero. He was very upset that he hadn’t gotten there before Ryan died. He went up to Ryan’s room, which was full of his collections, posters, and souvenirs, including his director’s chair from the movie set. In the closet was the heavy new leather jacket Michael had wanted him to wear.
Michael sat quietly looking at everything for a long time. Jeanne offered him anything he liked there as a keepsake, but he asked her to leave Ryan’s room just as it was.
In the Whites’ front yard sat the red Mustang Michael had given Ryan. Now it was covered with flowers and Easter eggs, gifts from children. Andrea took Michael out to show him the car and they sat in together. When Michael turned on the CD player, Ryan’s favourite song, Michael’s “Man In The Mirror,” began to play. Michael smiled proudly. He knew it must have been the last song Ryan had played.
… Ryan died at 7:11 A.M. on April 8, 1990. It was Palm Sunday.
RYAN’S MOTHER SPEAKS OF THEIR FRIENDSHIP
Below is the video with Jeanne talking about Michael Jackson and her son. Some excerpts from it:
..”Michael was amazed that Ryan never talked about his illness. And he said he never wanted anybody to feel sorry for him. So I think they really had this good communication of respect for each other”.
Q. You never had any hesitation about Ryan spending time with Michael Jackson? A. No!
… Michael was always interested in what Ryan was doing. He loved kids, and he didn’t care what race you were, what color you were, what was your handicap, what was your disease – Michael just loved all children.
Q. He did something incredibly special when he learned what Ryan’s favorite car was? A. We had a call from a car dealer who said they had a car for Ryan. [Michael did it] just to see the joy in the kid’s face.
[During the funeral] the car was sitting outside in the yard.. Michael started the car and “Man in the Mirror” was playing. The little things made Michael so happy. You could see in his eyes and he was smiling from ear to ear and said, “I was the last person that Ryan was listening to…?” and I said, “Yes”. Ryan just listened to it over and over again.
Three days after the funeral Michael called me and asked me how I was doing. I said, “What made you and Ryan so close?” Michael said, “…Nobody ever acts normal round me. Ryan knew how I wanted to be treated because that’s how he wanted to be treated. I can’t trust anyone because everyone wants something from me”. Then he said, “I promised Ryan he could be in my next video, but now that he is gone I can’t put him in my video. But could I do a video for him? I was like, “That’s unbelievable”. And he did a video called Gone too soon… that’s the memory that’ll stay forever”.
Here is the video:
Are you also impressed by Michael’s question and the gentle and considerate way he made his offer to Jeanne: “Could I do a video for him?” Does it tell you as much as it tells me of Michael’s shyness, generosity and care for other people and their feelings?
And did you notice another question – the one that was asked by Maggie Rodriguez of CBS news? She wondered if Ryan’s mother ever had any hesitation about Ryan spending time with Michael Jackson? What an incredible question to ask about the relationship with an AIDS-infected boy!
Am I right in thinking that the journalist was hinting at the danger of “molestation” of the ill boy by someone who was not infected by the disease? At a time when people were afraid to shake hands with AIDS victims and everyone around Ryan was hysterical with fear? And only a few people including Elton John and Michael Jackson were brave enough to overcome their natural apprehension of the unknown disease and take the unfortunate boy under their wing? So who should have had ‘reservations’ about whom in this case? Or are these people so brainwashed with stereotypes about Michael that they do not realize the absurdity of what they are saying?
In the cover story the absurdity is repeated:
FRIENDS WITH MICHAEL JACKSON July 3, 2009
In 1984, White was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 13 after he received a tainted blood treatment for hemophilia. Befriended by Jackson, Ryan and his mother Jeanne White-Ginder both stayed at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in its heyday, and Jeanne told CBS News the home was “a place between heaven and Earth.”
Her son visited Neverland Ranch at times on his own, and loved the movie theater, Bubbles — Jackson’s chimp, and ordering anything he wanted at Jackson’s home. The times spent at Neverland are “precious memories.” She showed Maggie Rodriguez of CBS news an album of Ryan’s mementos from Jackson’s ranch. They even got photos with the pop star, she said, who didn’t allow cameras on the property.
She said she had no reservations about letting her son stay with Jackson in 1989. Ryan called her and said he and Jackson watched three hours of “The Three Stooges.” White seemed “more mature” around Jackson, who she said loved kids.
Jackson gave Ryan his favorite car, a red Mustang, as a gift a year before he died.
Ryan White died at age 18 in 1990. Jeanne said Jackson sat with her and Ryan’s sister at the funeral. At his funeral the car was on display, and Jackson started it and “Man in the Mirror” was playing.
“The little things made Michael so happy,” she said. “You could see it in his eyes. He was smiling from ear to ear, and he said, ‘I was the last person that Ryan listened to.’ And I said ‘yes.’ Because Ryan played ‘Man in the Mirror’ over and over and over again.”
But Jeanne said a special memory is the “GONE TOO SOON” song and video.
Three days after White’s funeral, Jackson called her and said he’d promised Ryan he could be in his next video, and now that he’s gone, he couldn’t do that. But Jackson found a way. The “Gone Too Soon” video featured footage of Ryan, including his media attention as the face of the AIDS epidemic, his life growing up with the disease, and his funeral. Jeanne White-Ginder said, “That’s a memory we’ll share forever.”
Another video and again RYAN’S MOTHER TALKS ABOUT MICHAEL:
Some excerpts again:
...Jeanne was stunned when the King of Pop contacted her son Ryan. She said Jackson felt sorry for the teen who was shunned after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion.
In 1990 in was Jackson who accompanied the Whites’ family to Ryan’s funeral.
Mrs. White-Ginder agreed to testify on Jackson’s behalf but was never called to the stand. “It hurts when I hear the things that’s been said but I have to go with my heart and what I know from my heart that I believe is true”.
Ginder admits however she always chaperoned Ryan during his many visits to the Neverland ranch (again these idiotic innuendoes!).
Even after Ryan’s death she says she spent several vacations with Jackson. “A couple of years ago he called me and said, “I just thought I’d call you and tell you Happy Mother’s Day”. People don’t know those kind of moments from Michael.”
MOM TALKS ABOUT DYING SON’S FRIENDSHIP WITH MICHAEL: June 26, 2009
A Leesburg woman shared intimate memories with Eyewitness News about Michael Jackson’s friendship with her son. White got AIDS through a blood transfusion and Michael reached out and befriended the boy.
After White’s death at the age of 18 in 1990, his mother moved to Leesburg and that’s where WFTV reporter Greg Warmoth spoke with her. It was a day flooded with emotions and tears for Jeanne White-Ginder, who has fond memories of Michael Jackson’s friendship with her dying son, Ryan White.
“I’m just hoping that Ryan had his hand out, grabbing Michael’s like Michael grabbed his,” Jeanne said. “Michael and Ryan were true friends”. He visited Neverland Ranch several times, went to concerts and the two talked on the phone regularly.
She recorded one of those calls, in 1989, where Ryan invited Michael to see the premier of Batman. Once Ryan died, less than a year after that call, Jeanne apologized to Michael, who called to wish her a happy Mother’s Day as late as two years ago.
“I said to Michael, ‘I gotta tell you something.’ I feel guilty about it. And he said, ‘Why didn’t you record all of them?’ He said, ‘Those phone calls were so precious to me,’” Jeanne said.
The most special gift came two years after Ryan died of AIDS, when Michael recorded a song called “Gone Too Soon.” Now, she feels the song fits the King of Pop’s passing.
Along with the scrapbooks and other memories, there’s also a 1989 Mustang. Michael gave it to Ryan and it still sits in the family’s barn. “I think everybody kinda knows he’s different, but at the same time he was the most generous person you could imagine,” Jeanne said.
That’s why Jeanne, who travels the country trying to help AIDS patients receive medicine under the Ryan White Care Act, wanted to speak out. “There are all these reports that are not true. Whether they’re tabloidish or whoever they’re coming from, these stories are not true or at least in my eyes I’ve never seen them,” Jeanne said. “Maybe we get let go of negative publicity that surrounds him and remember the good things.”
Video and Jeanne’s scrapbook with photos at:
Phone conversation between Michael Jackson and Ryan in 1989:
GOING IN THE JACUZZI TOGETHER WITH RYAN WHITE
What will you say if someone tells you that Michael went in the Jacuzzi with children? Feel a little on the defensive (as all Michael’s advocates are expected to be) and search for an answer, won’t you?
And what will you say if someone tells you that Michael went in the Jacuzzi with Ryan White at a time when people flattened themselves against walls as the ill boy was passing them by? You will be awestruck by Michael’s boldness and the extent of his care for the boy, won’t you?
We know about this striking fact from Larry King’s interview with Dr. Klein on July 11, 2009
KING: “You wanted to tell me something about Michael and Ryan White, the young boy dying of AIDS.
KLEIN: That’s very important, yes. Michael wanted to bring Ryan White to Neverland. And his plastic surgeon, a brilliant surgeon, said you can’t bring him in the Jacuzzi because you may catch AIDS.
KING: You’re kidding?
KLEIN: No, he said that. Honestly, honest to God. So Michael called me, and he said, “Will I catch AIDS if I go in the Jacuzzi with Ryan White?” I said, no way. And he was very good friends with Ryan White until he died. And that’s what people don’t know.
KING: Did he go in the Jacuzzi with him?
KLEIN: Absolutely, because, you know what? He really cared. I want to tell you, this is a person who really cared about other people. He’s unlike anyone I ever met.”
If Dr. Klein is telling the truth (and in this particular case I don’t doubt his word) it means that Michael went to great pains to put Ryan at ease and make him feel at least once in his now terrible life no different from the other people.
It is absolutely clear that Michael could take a Jacuzzi together with Ryan solely for the reason of boosting the boy’s confidence at a time when no one wanted to simply shake hands with him, which made him suffer greatly from the stigma of his disease.
One of Michael’s fans is writing about it in her blog:
“On Larry King Live Dr. Arnie Klein, spoke to Larry about the love and respect Michael demonstrated towards Ryan White by publicly embracing him and inviting the nation to do the same despite the sense of dread, fear and bewilderment they felt about his disease.
The community put Ryan and his family through hell when they learned he had contracted AIDS, yet the Whites confronted this injustice with uncommon valor, earning the respect of the King of Pop. Michael nobly offered himself in the service of Ryan White, sharing life’s joys and sorrows with him, and setting himself up as a shining example for others of love, understanding and acceptance, so that people would set aside their fears and prejudices and no longer ostracize the teen. Michael Jackson took Ryan White under his wing and brought him to Neverland for some well deserved fun.
Dr. Klein told Larry King that Michael wanted to take Ryan with him into his hot tub, but one of the pop superstar’s doctors advised him against it, warning the King of Pop he might contract AIDS himself if he did. After receiving assurances from Dr. Klein that this was not the case, Michael and Ryan did some hot tubing together at Neverland.
This bold step by Michael must have given Ryan a serious confidence boost when he needed it most, since an open display of fearlessness by a high profile person was essential in helping the public overcome the stigma of AIDS. Michael risked his own health by taking to the hot tub with Ryan at a time of great uncertainty about the disease and high public anxiety.
Michael’s powerful show of solidarity with Ryan White and his family, his graciousness and compassion was a generous gift that brought Ryan some much deserved happiness in the face of great sorrow. It helped change the public’s perception and understanding of AIDS and brought about greater acceptance of those suffering with it”.
And you know what? It wasn’t only Michael who helped Ryan – Ryan is helping him now too! When reading excerpts from Ryan’s book “My own life” I was greatly surprised to find an answer to our first question about that “Jacuzzi issue” and why Michael took anyone into his Jacuzzi at all. Not knowing we were asking, Ryan is answering the question – he says his mother went to have a look at the bathtub which had a big video screen by its side.
So it was a kind of a movie theater for them? So they watched videos while relaxing in a big Jacuzzi which was installed in an open-air space with glass walls all around them! A great way to relax after a hard and busy day, I must say…
MICHAEL JACKSON ABOUT RYAN WHITE
This is what Michael said about Ryan White and other children:
I am not trying to be philosophical but I really think it’s my job to help them. I think it is my calling. I don’t care if people laugh or what they say.
[Children] don’t have a mouth to society and I think it is now their time. From here on out it is their time. They need the world’s awareness and they need issues to deal with, and this is for them. And if I can be that light, that pedestal just to shine some light on who they are, and the importance of who children are, that’s what I want to do. I don’t know how God chooses people, or plays chess with people, and he does put you in position and sets you up. Sometimes I feel like that, like this is my place.
Ryan White. The hardest for me is. . . I don’t understand when a child dies. I really don’t. I think there should be a window where there is a chance of dying but not in this window of time. When a child dies, or if the child is sick, I really don’t understand it.
But I listen to Ryan White, twelve years old at my dining room table at Neverland telling his mother how to bury him. He said, “Mom when I die, don’t put me in a suit and tie. I don’t want to be in a suit and tie. Put me in OshKosh jeans and a T-shirt.”
I said: ‘I have to use the bathroom,” and I ran to the bathroom and I cried my eyes out. Hearing this little boy telling his mother how to bury him. That hurt me. It was as if he was prepared for it and when he died he was in OshKosh jeans and a T-shirt and a watch that I gave him. How could your heart not go out to someone like that?
And I am sitting alone in this room with him and he is lying there and I felt so bad I just wanted to hold him and kiss him and say that I love him, which I did all those things when he was alive. I took care of him and he stayed at my house. But to see him just lying there … I spoke to him and I said, “Ryan, I promised you that I would do something in your honor on my next album. I will create a song for you. I will sing it. I want the world to know who you are.” I did Gone Too Soon . That was for him.
Michael’s tribute to the boy did not only include a beautiful song but also a poignant poem:
Ryan White, symbol of justice
Or child of innocence, messenger of love
Where are you now, where have you gone?
Ryan White, I miss your sunny days
We carelessly frolicked in extended plays
I miss you, Ryan White
I miss your smile, innocent and bright
I miss your glory, I miss your light
Ryan White, symbol of contradiction
Child of irony, or child of fiction?
I think of your shattered life
Of your struggle, of your strife
While ladies dance in the moonlit night
Champagne parties on chartered cruises
I see your wasted form, your ghostly sight
I feel your festering wounds, your battered bruises
Ryan White, symbol of agony and pain
Of ignorant fear gone insane
In a hysterical society
With free-floating anxiety
And feigned piety
I miss you, Ryan White
You showed us how to stand and fight
In the rain you were a cloudburst of joy
The sparkle of hope in every girl and boy
In the depths of your anguished sorrow
Was the dream of another tomorrow.
Questions to the reader:
1) Can anyone in his right mind ever doubt that Michael Jackson was spending his time with Ryan in an absolutely innocent way even if they went together in a Jacuzzi? or a bathtub? or whatever?
2) Shouldn’t we reflect instead on the incredible amount of time and attention Michael Jackson gave to the Whites – both before and after Ryan’s death? Let me remind you that Ryan’s mother spent her vacations at Neverland even after her son’s death and that Michael was still calling her to say Happy Mother’s day seventeen years afterwards (in 2007) – which is something seldom found even between close relatives, let alone a superstar remembering the mother of a dead boy who was just his friend…
3) Was Michael doing it for any kind of profit for himself? What kind of benefit could he gain from socializing with a boy who was shunned by all the others? What advantages could he derive from showering him with attention or giving him a car as a present a year before he died?
4) Wasn’t it done with the sole purpose of boosting the spirits of the dying boy and keeping him going in spite of all doctors’ predictions?
5) How many of us are capable of behaving in a similar awesome and selfless way?
6) Why don’t we shut up then about ‘this and that’ in Michael’s behavior which is not to our liking? Is it us who should have the right to pass judgment on a man like that?