By: Debra Opri –
As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking alot about Michael Jackson’s mother, Katharine Jackson, and what this Mother’s Day will be like for her. This Mother’s Day, Katharine will be preparing for yet another court appearance involving her son Michael, in what will probably be the very last trial in which she will ever have to listen to the good and bad about her son, Michael, a legend who died too young and probably in a way that never should have happened. I find myself wondering about what this very special woman may be thinking about all of this, her life, and how it came to be that she should still be struggling for the peace of old age, instead of her struggles of still having to raise young children and still to be suffering as she is with the loss of her son, Michael, and when if ever, her grief will finally leave her.
I am not saying that Katharine Jackson has not had happiness. Of course she has. But with the events that have stricken her since the public child molestation trial, and then her son’s obvious suffering, and sudden death, and now the final flagrant attacks on her son and his memory, all of her life is, in a way, also tragic. As a wife, mother, and grandmother, her moments of joy should not have to be overshadowed by such sadness.
During the time I represented Katharine Jackson, I came to know a good woman. She was to me, everything a mother should be. She loved all of her children equally, and yet made each one feel loved individually and specially. During the times I had the great privilege of being in her company either in her home, in a restaurant where we spent many an evening at Benihana’s in the Valley, or while at the courthouse or in a car, my memories of Katharine are graced with a special feeling that I was in the presence of a greatness of soul that I might never again know. Katharine was to me then, and now, an angel walking this earth but with burdens she should not have had to carry. To me, she didn’t deserve it. For me, it was more than any one person should have to carry.
In the time I knew her, I saw firsthand how absolutely lovingly Katharine handled each and every one of her family members and how she cradled their wants and fears, and of how she reached deep within herself on many occasions when she needed that extra strength to push herself just a little bit more. She seemed never to need anyone to help her though, and when she would reach within herself, she would go quiet and become serene and I knew that she was ‘recharging’ herself as only she could do.
I smile as I stir up all those memories I have, still sharp and vivid. They include alot: being with her in her home; the numerous television interviews we would watch together, or of those she would watch of me, only to then immediately call to tell me how she just ‘couldn’t stop laughing at how I handled those people attacking Michael;’ that ‘he really thought it was good; that he appreciated my help.’ I smile at the way she listened intently and closely to me as I suggested to her some specific ‘comments’ she must be ‘sure to mention’ as she prepared for her first interview during Michael Jackson’s criminal trial. I marveled at how she transformed herself from an elegant matriarch celebrity legend in her own right to sitting at her kitchen table eating alongside her daughter, Rebi, while chicken and collards and potatoes and chips were being devoured by her grandchildren as she and her daughter Rebi looked on smiling at the young while whispering grownup issues. I remember very well as I sat between her and her daughters, LaToya and Janet, in the courtroom during the criminal trial, and attempted to explain the legal ‘mumbo jumbo’ to them, with Katharine at one point telling LaToya and Janet, to ‘stop talking at Debra with all those questions.’
Mostly, I remember a mother and her family. I remember her love. I remember her hurt; her pain. I remember her greatness of spirit. Her intent to protect her children, and to get through whatever it was at the time she needed to get through. I will remember Katharine Jackson always, and I will honor her always as my once west coast ‘mother.’ Katharine Jackson will always be special and in my heart because of the love and kindness she showed me. I wasn’t her daughter, but she made me feel like one at times, and that is her special gift. Katharine Jackson is and will always be the grandest and greatest example of a mother to us all. It is my sincere hope that by next Mother’s Day, Katharine will have moved beyond this final media circus, the doors of her private life finally closed and she and her family left to the simple joys of life: that of a mother, grandmother, and courageous woman, whose only preparation for the next day will be what meal to prepare for her family and loved ones surrounding her.
Happy Mother’s Day Katharine. With love & admiration …always, Debra Opri