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Ryan White Tells About His Visits To Michael Jackson’s Neverland


As far as I understand Ryan White went to Neverland on two occasions – first for a one-day visit with his mother and sisters sometime in June 1988, and then for a five-day visit in December 1989–January 1990 when he travelled there alone.

There could be some other visits too, but at the moment of writing this post I have no information about them. But what we can be definite about is that Ryan and Michael kept up with each other on the phone and talked as often as twice a week – being isolated from the world Michael Jackson could speak on the phone for hours, especially when staying at hotels or being on the road.

Here are some excerpts from “My Own Story”, the book started by Ryan White and finished by Ann Marie Cunnigham.

Ryan White died on April 8, 1989.

[December 1988]

“I turned seventeen in December. In the spring John and I planned to go down to the Speedway in Indianapolis to watch the cars and drivers warm up for the Indy 500. Since that was a while off, we spent our time at electronics stores, looking at new stereos we wanted.

Then 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 stereos—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 soft-spoken. 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. But it was going to take us a while to get back to California.

 [June 1988]

MJ and Ryan White in June 1988

“While we were at Disneyland, we checked out the 3-D movie of Michael as Captain EO, which I had already seen before. I planned to talk to him about it.

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. We had to stop and let the security guards check us out again. They escorted us to the main house. Michael was busy, we were told; he’d be there in about a half hour.

So we had some sodas and Heather, Andrea, and I found a game room. The girls started on the video games. I climbed into an airplane that rocked around just as if it were really flying. All of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of Michael, playing along with the girls. I kept trying to look around at him and say hello, but I was trapped! I couldn’t figure out how to stop the plane. No one else could either, so finally Michael had to stop laughing and unplug it!

Michael was wearing black pants and a red and black jacket and a black hat. He always wears my favorite colors. 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 merry-go-round. Just like me, he collects things, especially dolls that are about three feet tall and look very lifelike. Mom loved them.

Besides the main house, the ranch has a pool, four bungalows for guests, and an old-time movie theater, with a popcorn machine and candy and a soda fountain. You use golf carts to get from one building to another, and to see the animals that are outdoors. There’s Michael’s giraffe, and cows that graze on his land but really belong to other ranchers.

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 colors. They have their own baby-sitters, and they go to school every day to learn manners. Their manners were pretty good! They hopped around and played with our shoelaces while we ate. Every now and again Michael fed them a treat. I never wanted to say good-bye 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 four-wheeler. “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 good-bye.

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. She’d gotten excited when we went to see Cats in New York and the actors dressed as cats came down into the audience. But not like this.

“I just can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it!” she cried. “We spent the day with Michael Jackson. I can’t believe we were with Michael Jackson.”

[August 1988]

“Back home Andrea was making a giant comeback in roller skating. In July she finished first at the regionals in Detroit. [ ] The nationals were going to be held in August in Fort Worth. [ ]

Andrea did great. She finished third. She was pleased, she said, because the girls who took first and second were better than she was. Finally, there was another White in the newspapers and magazines.

Right around then, a car salesman in Noblesville called me. “I have a red Mustang here for you,” he said. “It’s from Michael Jackson.”

Mom wasn’t overcome with shock. She had some idea what was coming. Michael’s office had called and asked her, “Now what was the car Ryan told Michael he liked?” Michael and I kept up with each other on the phone. Sometimes we talked twice a week, a lot of the time about cars. And when I thought back, I remembered that Michael had seen me by the pool at the ranch, leafing through Mustang Monthly.

Mom, Andrea, and I rode over together to pick up my new car. I started grinning like a Halloween pumpkin when I saw it. It was exactly what I wanted: red with a black and gray plaid interior and a sunroof. It even had oversized tires and deluxe wheels—really fancy for a Mustang. I put on my Oakleys and took off. I wanted to show it to everyone I knew. I had an appointment with Dr. Kleiman at the hospital in Indianapolis, so I whizzed down.

In the hospital parking lot, I had to back up in a hurry. I forgot to check my rear view. All of a sudden I felt a thud and heard a loud crunch. Uh-oh. I looked in the mirror—a little bit late. I could see a man with a beard pounding his fists on his steering wheel.

I got out and walked back to his car. “I’m real sorry, Dr. Kleiman,” I said. This wasn’t exactly how I’d planned to show off my car. Thank goodness there was no damage! Whew.

“I think Dr. Kleiman’s mad at me,” I told Mom that night. “You won’t believe what I did . . .”

Time to write to Michael. “Thanks a million for the Mustang,” I started out. “Gee, IT’S GREAT. It really brightened up my summer. It came just in time too. The local Mustang club is having a show with hundreds of old and new Mustangs.” Steve Ford and I had been looking forward to it. I told Michael, “Now I can enter mine and join the club.”

I STARTED my junior year, but that didn’t keep me off the road. I was in my car every spare minute. Everyone in town knew my car and how I’d gotten it. It was famous! Kids asked, “What’s Michael Jackson really like? How about Kareem?” Adults asked too. I said, “Oh, he’s nice.” Or I mumbled something I hoped wouldn’t attract much attention—I knew some kids were jealous, thinking I had such a great life knowing celebrities. I guess they forgot I was also sick.

One day Mom was in the school office borrowing a copy of USA Today. She wanted to see a photo they’d run of me. Someone had scrawled in the margin, “I hope you DIE!”

“I’d like to ask that kid if he’d swap places with you,” she said. “I bet the answer would be the longest silence.”

[Autumn 1989]

EVERY SUMMER I feel like I’m over AIDS, and in the fall, when it turns cold, I always feel chilled and I’m sick again. This fall I had a hernia, which meant that it hurt to sit, stand, or walk. My liver was acting up, and sometimes my stomach was so bloated I couldn’t see my feet. I looked like I was having a baby. I was having fevers again, and I felt like I’d been coughing my whole life. For a third of it, I had. I sounded like a weak car battery, turning over and over and over again.

By October I was too worn-out to go to school for more than a couple of days in a row. Just carrying my books from my locker to class was enough to drag me out. It didn’t help to think that I should have graduated by now.

To top off my troubles, Heather and I decided to go our separate ways. I missed her. I hoped we’d end up being best friends again. I knew she’d put up with some bad stuff on my account. She had had nasty notes left in her locker too. One time I called her at her baby-sitting job, and some other sitter answered. I tracked Heather down at home.

“How come you’re not working?” I asked.

“I lost the job,” she said.

“What’d you do?” I asked, just to be pesky.

“I’m your friend,” she reminded me. “The woman said she couldn’t take the chance.”

That was Heather’s second baby-sitting job gone for the same reason. I felt sad she’d had to pay for hanging out with me. And I felt almost eighteen and very lonely.

I had to go into the hospital so Dr. Kleiman could decide what to do about my hernia. I was lying around waiting for the next test when another doctor walked into my room.

“Well, Ryan,” she said in a super-cheerful way. “Any girlfriends?”

For a moment I looked at her blankly. I couldn’t figure out what she was driving at. Then something clicked in my head. I was going to get a lecture on safe sex.

I don’t get upset over IVs and all the stuff that happens to you in the hospital. But now I was fuming.

“Where’s Dr. Kleiman?” I yelled. I could hardly speak. “He’s my doctor!”

The woman doctor left in a hurry. When Dr. Kleiman showed up, I said, “I don’t ever want her coming near me again.”

“She won’t,” Dr. Kleiman promised.

After all the tests, Dr. Kleiman said the doctors couldn’t operate on my hernia because thanks to AIDS, my blood platelet count was too low. Even with Factor and transfusions of platelets, my blood wouldn’t clot enough. Surgery was too dangerous. There was nothing anyone could do.

I just had to live with the pain. Well, I would. I had bad days, when just taking a shower and getting dressed was enough to exhaust me. But I always got dressed. I never was bedridden. I knew I had good days too, and I wanted to be ready. Plus I was still waiting to meet the right girl.


[December 1989. Michael Jackson was busy working on the “Decade” album that would later turn into “Dangerous”]

When I turned eighteen in December, I was in poor shape. [ ] On bad days I had to rely on the phone for social life. Michael called to say he was busy working on an album. He was in the studio every day. In between he had to pose for pictures.

“Oh yeah!” I said. I knew what that was like. “You have to smile for so long! Then the photographer says something corny like, ‘Smile just like you smiled earlier!’ I always want to say, ‘Give me a mirror so I can check.”

“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.”

… I was waiting for Dr. Kleiman to declare me fit to travel. I wasn’t sure what he’d say. I had a big stomach that day.

“Carrie!” I said, pulling up my shirt. “I look like you did when you were pregnant!”

Now, Carrie’s seen it all, but for a split-second, she looked shocked. That’s just what I’d been hoping for.

Dr. Kleiman saw no reason why I couldn’t visit Michael. I love Christmas, but this year I couldn’t wait for December 28, when I was taking off.”


[December 28, 1989]

[When Ryan White arrived in Los Angeles Michael Jackson was staying in town and they picked him up at his Hideout apartment on the way to Neverland. At the ranch Ryan stayed in one of the guest units – Bungalow Three as he had to take a nap time and again]

Ryan White is on his way to Neverland, Dec.1989

“At last I left for L.A. in a new leather jacket that I thought looked pretty cool. Michael’s security people met me in a limo. I called Mom from the limo to let her know I had arrived okay. We picked up Michael at his apartment, and then headed south for the ranch. Michael said he thought I looked better than I had on my last visit in June. I hoped he was right. Maybe the jacket helped.

The drive took about three hours. The limo dropped me off at Bungalow Three for a 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, beef ribs, and baked potatoes. Then Michael and I went to his private theater and watched two and a half hours of Three Stooges reruns. We ate popcorn from the theater’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.

Michael had told me to call the house the next morning when I woke up.”


[December 29, 1989]

[At the time of Ryan White’s stay at the ranch he was attended to by Mark Quindoy, the housekeeper and his wife Faye. The Quindoys later made their allegations about ‘boys at Neverland’ during their short time there, at some point asking $500,000 for their memoirs but eventually getting nothing. During his interviews Mark Quindoy gave no indication that his memoirs included Ryan White ]

“Mark, the ranch manager, and his wife did all the cooking. They gave me a list of choices for breakfast and told me, “Anything you want, we’ll fix it.” I picked French toast and bacon. My room was a little chilly, even though I’d brought my heater with me. So they brought me another portable heater and an electric blanket.

“I like your jacket,” Michael told me, “but I want you to have a heavier one.”

Ryan on his way to visit Michael Jackson in California, where Michael bought Ryan a heavier jacket, December 1989.

So the two of us drove to a nearby town in Michael’s Bentley. I can’t name the town, because Michael likes the ranch to stay a private place. We couldn’t find the jacket Michael had in mind, but he did buy four or five dolls for other kids. 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 to 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, Andrea’s skating trophies and my collections. In the video, we took him on a guided tour, waving and clowning at the camera.

“When you come to visit now,” I told him, “you’ll know your way around our house.”

That 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.


[December 30]

[The nearby town where Michael and Ryan did some shopping is Solvang, a small town in the Santa Barbara county with a population of 5,300 people. Michael occasionally visited it, always in disguise, and this must be the reason why the shop assistant didn’t believe that the man giving him his credit card was really Michael Jackson.

During the boy’s stay in December Michael and Ryan seemed to have done their shopping twice. And while Michael had business meetings (on December 30th!) Mark Quindoy took Ryan to Solvang on a third visit to pick up a warmer jacket for him.

The above shopping episodes remind us of Mark Quindoy’s nasty story about Michael Jackson making his shopping ‘with a boy’ at Santa Barbara and the horrid scenes he had allegedly witnessed in the backseat of the car].

“The next day Michael had business meetings, so Mark took me to pick up a bomber jacket, the heavier one Michael wanted me to have. 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. Michael had a video crew come in, and we made a tape together about our friendship—kind of the flip side of the video we had made for him.”

MJ and Ryan White at Neverland, December 1989


[December 31]

“At dinner on New Year’s Eve Michael gave me a wonderful watch. It chimes every hour and has a built-in 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 good-bye, Michael said, “Never give up. Do it for me.”


[January 1, 1990].

[Michael Jackson had left as he was working even on the New Year’s day, but he remembered to leave Ryan a present at the ranch entrance – a whole new stereo system.]

“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!”


“AFTER NEW YEAR’S I had days when rinsing shampoo out of my hair in the shower left me weak and breathless. I’d have to lean against the tile for a few minutes before I had enough energy to dry myself off and get dressed. Between my swollen stomach and my hernia, I often walked half bent over.

My shingles had cleared up, but now I had open sores on my legs. Mom had to change the bandages every few hours. My throat was very sore and I could hardly breathe in the cold. Because of my hemophilia, I’d get blood clots in my nose, and then I sniffed so much people thought I was making faces at them. Michael had invited me back in the spring. Now that my legs looked so bad, I’d never be able to go out on the public beach in Florida over spring break.

I was having trouble with my liver, so Dr. Kleiman put me on a protein drink. Otherwise, he said, I’d have to have nutrition through an IV. I’d have to stay hooked up for hours every day. I was supposed to mix the protein drink with juice or Sprite. Even so, it tasted sickening. Dr. Kleiman wanted me to have it seven times a day, but I’d only managed to get up to four.

Between coughing and struggling to breathe, I was also having trouble sleeping. When I lay awake, I worried about school. I didn’t know when I’d be going back. When I did, I’d be way behind. But I didn’t have the strength to keep up with assignments at home. I watched TV and buried myself in my car magazines. Sometimes I read car-parts catalogs until three or four in the morning, when I could finally sleep a little.

I had big plans. I spent hours polishing the Mustang Michael had given me. I flew off the handle if the cat walked over it and left dusty prints on the roof. I had gotten tinted windows, but I wanted to customize the whole thing. I spent hours talking to Steve, John, Michael—anyone I knew who cared about cars.

[ ] Lately I didn’t want to talk about much except cars. They weren’t Mom’s favorite subject.

“Ryan,” she said, “what’s happening to you? All you ever talk about is things. You have a terrific car. You have a great stereo. You’ve been given so much, but you just go on and on about how much more you want.”

I stayed quiet for a while. “Mom,” I said finally, “you don’t understand. I don’t have much time. I don’t want to miss out. There are still so many things I want.”

Mom didn’t say anything. She knew wanting things kept me going. But she knew there was more to it. She was right.

“I’m scared,” I said.


[February 1989]

“In February Dr. Kleiman said I could go back to school, and we had another trip coming—to California and Florida. Two weeks of warmth! First, Athletes and Entertainers for Kids wanted me to give an award to former President Reagan at a special party on the night of the Academy Awards in L.A. He’d made a public service announcement about AIDS, and he’d sent me a couple of nice letters from the White House, so I wanted to meet him.”

[March, 1989]

“The first thing I did in L.A. was go on The Home Show with Howie Long to tell everyone about the party Athletes and Entertainers was having. In L.A., Oscar night starts very early—like about two in the afternoon. You see people eating in restaurants and driving around in evening dress, even though it’s broad daylight.

But I felt bad, very bad. I had a fever. My throat was the worst I could remember. I had coughing spells that lasted hours. Thanks to my hernia, I could hardly walk.

As we set out to meet President and Mrs. Reagan, Mom said, “I know you don’t feel good. Are you okay? You’re being so pleasant.”

She knows how irritable I can be when I’m sick. I said, “Mom, my chest feels really, really tight. My body just doesn’t feel right.”

I had my picture taken with the Reagans. The President said I was brave and gave me a yo-yo with his signature and a picture of the White House on it. I went back to our hotel and rested for a while. Then Mom, Andrea, and I went to the Oscar party.

Ryan’s last public appearance, March 1990, with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the Athletes and Entertainers for Kids Academy Award night party.

I had to get up on stage with Kareem and Howie Long. My job was to thank all the volunteers. I hoped they could hear me. I hardly had any voice left, even with the mike.

Then I turned to Howie. “Get me out of here,” I said.

Howie gathered Andrea, Mom, and me up and cleared our way out to a limo. I spent the whole next day asleep.

Mom called some hospitals in L.A., but she had no luck. In a way, I was glad.

“I want to go home and see Dr. Kleiman,” I said.

Mom looked at me. She was scared. I never want to see Dr. Kleiman.

“But first—Mom, could you call Elton again?” I had been trying to reach him and Michael. “I want to talk to him real bad.”

“Why?” Mom asked. “Why do you need to talk to him?”

I didn’t say anything.

We caught the first plane we could—an overnight flight that got into Indianapolis at dawn. There were hardly any passengers. The plane was dark and quiet. I could lie flat across the seats, and no one stared at me when I started coughing.

“I love this,” I told Mom. “From now on, we fly at night all the time.”

Dr. Kleiman admitted me to Riley right away.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again so soon, Ryan,” he said….

[end of March 1989]

“There was no phone in Ryan’s room, but when Michael Jackson called, Elton and Jeanne asked the hospital for a special hookup. Michael would have two minutes to speak. “Ryan,” Elton 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. [ ] 

The following Saturday evening, when Ryan had been unconscious for a week, Elton left the hospital briefly to join Mellencamp and Jesse Jackson at the fourth annual Farm Aid concert. On stage he announced, “This one’s for Ryan,” and began singing “Candle in the Wind.” Andrea and Heather were watching in the wings. As the song ended and the crowd applauded, they waited for Elton, but he rushed past them without saying a word. They knew he had been calling the hospital every fifteen minutes, so Ryan must have gotten worse. They raced back to Riley.

By the time Andrea, Heather, and Elton got back from the concert, Dr. Kleiman was convinced that Ryan would not last much longer. His blood pressure had dropped to dangerously low levels, and was still falling.

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.

[April 8, 1990]

RYAN DIED at 7:11 A.M. on April 8, 1990. It was Palm Sunday. Jeanne gave him one last kiss and then turned off his guardian angel night-light. Andrea hugged him for a long time; she did not want to leave him by himself. So Laura told her, “I’ll stay with him until he’s ready to go to the funeral home.” In a room near Ryan’s, Reverend Probasco gathered Jeanne, Andrea, Ryan’s grandparents, his uncles, aunts, cousins, Elton, Heather, and some other friends in a circle. They clasped hands to pray and say good-bye to Ryan.

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 it sat a giant toy gorilla that Ryan had spotted in New Orleans and that the National Education Association sent him. On the walls were Alyssa Milano’s friendship bracelet, Max Headroom posters, and the hearts needlepointed by Kris, Ryan’s old girlfriend in Kokomo. Hanging from the ceiling was a real parachute, a present from Aunt Janet, and a thousand paper cranes—Japanese symbols of long life that an Indiana school had folded for Ryan from colored papers. In the closet was the heavy new leather jacket Michael had wanted him to wear.

Michael, a fellow G.I. Joe collector, sat quietly looking at everything for a long time. He told Jeanne he felt close to Ryan in his room. 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 it together. When Michael turned on the CD player, Ryan’s favorite 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.

Jeanne told Michael she had recorded a phone conversation he’d had with Ryan. She was afraid Michael might be offended, but he said he wished she’d recorded all their talks.

The morning of the funeral, April 11, was cold, windy, and drizzly. Outside the largest church in Indianapolis, long lines of people in their best clothes waited to view Ryan’s body. Since Ryan never took his fame seriously, Jeanne thought he’d be astonished. She said, “I bet he was looking down and laughing. He must have been saying, ‘I can’t believe all you silly people are getting wet to see me.’ ”

Fifteen hundred squeezed inside the church for the funeral service. Elton played the piano, led the congregation in a hymn, and sang “Skyline Pigeon,” his song about a bird soaring toward freedom. The First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, Howie Long, and Phil Donahue—who with his wife Marlo Thomas became close friends with the Whites after Ryan answered kids’ questions about AIDS on his talk show—sat up front with Andrea, Jeanne, her parents, her brother and sister, Steve Ford, Ryan’s cousins, and Wayne White.

Reverend Probasco gave the eulogy. He told how Ryan and his family had hoped for a miracle—that Ryan would be cured. That hadn’t happened. But the minister went on, “I believe God gave us that miracle in Ryan. He healed a wounded spirit and made it whole.

“Many of you who are here are very successful,” he continued. “Your lives are filled with glamour and fame. Yet you brought Ryan and his cause into your lives and aided him in his mission and showed us how to do the same.

“Now I challenge all of us to accept his faith. For you see, Ryan was successful too, in getting all of us involved. He helped us to care and to believe that with God’s help, nothing is impossible—even for a kid.”

Ryan White gravestone with tributes from E.John and MJ [from ‘A Quiet Hero – a life of Ryan White’]


by Michael Jackson

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 play.

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 cloud burst of joy.

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