Life and Death and Michael Jackson

My flight landed in Oklahoma City’s Airport. I looked around to orient myself. “Where is the baggage claim? The Hertz rental desk?”
The line of “Arrivals” hurriedly passed the rows of waiting “Departures.”

My husband Aaron was scheduled to arrive two hours after me. With this in mind I glanced around the airport keeping an eye out for power outlets, near tables and chairs. My laptop battery was almost dead, since I had used the entire flight to barf out 5 chapters of what will eventually be my autobiography.

On the flight, the guy in the seat next to me had brought a big, hardcover business book to read. When I popped open my laptop and started “barfing” onto a blank word doc., which was accompanied by sniffles and even tears sometimes… I noticed he reclined his chair, put away his book, and tilted his head in an ever so “I am NOT reading your computer screen… but I AM” sort of way. This went on for the remainder of the flight.

I am going to take it as a compliment. Perhaps the back cover of my book will say, “In a word- Engrossing!”


“1 out of 1 seat neighbors prefer Rachel Coleman’s autobiography over the business book they intended to read.”

On my way down to get my bag and the large hard-side Samsonite that a bigger than life Hopkins resides in… I checked my twitter and read a message to me from @symbolman
“Rachel, dunno your news situation, if you’re on a plane, but Michael Jackson is dead.. RIP”

My first thought was, “Is he joking?” But, I have met @symbolman and his wife and their son… and I didn’t get the sense he would… my thought was interrupted by an airport announcement “Attention travelers. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson has died.”

Clearly, he was not joking. I wasn’t home. I wasn’t in front of a TV, and wouldn’t be for days.

Aaron’s flight was delayed 2 hours, which gave me 4 hours to keep on doing what I was doing, before he arrived, and we would begin our 90 mile drive to Sulphur, Oklahoma. What was I doing? Oh yeah, I was thinking back over my entire life… pondering… wondering. How was this little life of mine all going to work out?

Death is a funny thing. Not funny-funny… but you know. Most of us live like we are going to keep on living and we are so shocked when people die! Do we forget that death is the only thing any of us can really count on? When people die, we say it was “untimely” but… in reality, it was timely, since death happened.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Byron Katie in her book “Loving What Is.”
“When I argue with reality, I lose – but only 100 percent of the time.”
(A great book to read, if you don’t happen to be sitting next to me on a plane while I am writing mine.)

You know, Aaron’s friend Jed died recently and it was terrible! It’s still pretty terrible. We opened our swimming pool a few weeks ago and I had to catch myself, stop myself from suggesting that Aaron call Jed for a BBQ. Yesterday, I was making breakfast and Aaron was standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the window. Quietly, he said, “I’d sure like to meet Jed for a cup of coffee today.”

It’s disrupting that Jed is gone. It is not what I expected and it has not been what I am used to or what I could count on. I thought I could count on our friend always being around.

A few weeks ago I was watching Rachael Ray interview Dr. G (medical examiner). Dr. G was talking about her patients, who, by the way are dead. Rachael Ray had asked if DR.G’s job was depressing. Dr. G said it is quite the opposite. She pointed out that her patients typically have no idea, the day before, that they are going to end up in a morgue. This perspective has caused her to really live and love every minute she’s got, because none of us know when our number is going to be up.

It was late at night and pitch dark as Aaron and I drove through Oklahoma. We found a radio station that was playing a Michael Jackson tribute. It was cool. What can you say? Jackson was an icon. We all grew up listening to his music. Mostly, I think it’s sad that he was so mocked and so strange in his last years. Let’s face it… it was weird! And sadder still that we celebrate lives in amazing ways, once those lives are over… when the people we celebrate are no longer alive and they aren’t standing there receiving that acknowledgment.

Isn’t that lame? Seriously? We should stop that! We should tell people when we think they are amazing. We should open our mouths and acknowledge the people we live with and work with and love. We should thank our parents, (Hey mom… dad if you are reading this, thanks for feeding me, educating me and helping me become a half-decent human being!)

We should squeeze our children.
We should apologize profusely.
Thank your neighbors.
Send flowers for no reason… whatever!

What are we waiting for? What are we afraid of? All we really have is right now.
Right Now is powerful.
Just imagine if we went about our lives, armed with Right Now and actually used it!

21 thoughts on “Life and Death and Michael Jackson

  1. Amen to that! So looking forward to one day buying a copy of the book you are working on 🙂
    We pay tribute daily to Signing Time DVDs and music and sing and sign your praises wherever we go. Can’t wait for our Buddy Walk this fall and being treated to your talents….Thank You! We send a virtual hug for all that you and Two Little Hands Productions have done to bring signing to us.
    I was recently asked at the pool when signing with our 3.5 year old daughter with Down syndrome, ‘Was it hard to learn sign language?’ My immediate response was, ‘No. There is an amazing woman, Rachel Coleman, who came to our house and taught us at the same time. It was fun and we picked it up easily!’


  2. Each day, no matter how mundane it may seem to be, has the potential to be amazing. That is, once we can get out of our own way and learn to acknowledge the things we have that really matter. Like family, friends, and the memories of those we’ve loved but have gone from this life.

    Can’t wait to read your autobiography.


  3. Thanks for the reminder!
    And thank you & your family for giving my daughter a way to communicate.
    We’ve been signing with her for years, but it’s through your DVD’s that the signs are coming now. She’s 7 and it’s finally all clicking.

    So thank you & thank Leah too!


  4. I absolutely love this blog post!

    My daughter is doing physical therapy right now and we are at a point where she is doing so well that we are going to go every 3 weeks between visits.

    I bought a thank you card to give her therapist. But I didn’t know if it was weird to thank somebody just for doing their job. But he has been so great with her and has helped me to help her learn her body.

    I think I might just give him that thank you card at our next appointment. He should know that the work he does is something that I have appreciated. It’s made a difference in my life and in my daughters life. Nothing wrong with sending a little thanks for doing such a great job.

    🙂 And thank you for doing such an awesome job. I know her therapist has a little boy that is 2. I had wanted to bring up signing time at one of our appointments. Maybe now I will… and in my own way that will be thanking you and showing you how much I appreciate you. But spreading the word about something that has made a huge difference in my life.


  5. I got rid of my someday’s and maybe’s and I started telling my children “yes I will drop everyday mundane things and play with you” of course my house is sufferinr but the laundry will always be there.
    Thank you for yet another confirmation that this is the right thing to do 🙂
    By the way I took up a new hobby yesterday Kayaking. It ROCKS!!!


  6. Thnak you for this beautidul and inspiring message, Rachel. I needed this today, for sure. Thank you, too, for the message of hope and possibility that you bring to so many families in so many places.


  7. I’ve had a couple of those experiences and it really has brought home that reality. That message of living each day to the fullest and remembering what’s important in life. We are spontaneous to the point we’re kind of crazy, cramming as much as we can in to every day and spending every possible moment with the people who are important to us. Sometimes I just think we’re really odd, spending too much time having fun and not enough time being ‘normal adults’ who mow the lawn on time, wash the car before it gets to the stage you can write in its dirt and clean the entire house every Saturday, but I think we’re actually doing things right! Thanks Rachel, for the reminder. And right NOW I will tell you that I appreciate you and thank you so much for teaching my children, allowing them to communicate with me from babyhood, helping me give them the best start, and for helping my little boy learn to read so early, enriching his life. You have affected our lives in such an amazing way. Thanks for all that you’ve done and all that you do.


  8. I’d say you’re about 87% decent and amazing. Really, you’re my freaking hero—all speed-reading, Natalie Merchant crooning, notebook mailing, monster butt sporting, Bashaw showing 100% of you! Love you and love your stream-of-conscience session here. Just plain good writing.
    And King Michael has blessed us all. Glove’s off to an amazing talent and career shared.


  9. Dear Rachel,

    I’m baaack! Yeah, I kinda took a hiatus from writing on your blog, but I just wanted to thank you for the impact you’ve made on my life. Ever since you blogged about me and wrote the letter back in ’07, you have had a special place in my heart. You’re one of my heroes, right up there with Oprah. We should make an effort to correspond with each other more and get to know each other better.

    I wasn’t born in MJ’S generation, but sometimes I wish I had been. A couple of years ago, for a pep rally, we were able to sign “Thriller” and do the dance, complete with ripped shirts, pants and green-tinted hair. It was really cool. It’s amazing how his music has been passed down from generation to generation.

    Is it true you’re writing a book? I can’t wait to read it!



  10. It really IS strange how we handle the whole life/death situation. And, I know exactly how you are feeling about your friend. We just recently lost a good friend of ours.

    So, just so you know, we love you & Signing Time!! 🙂

    It was awesome to meet you & Aaron when you were here in Oklahoma! Thank you for all that you do! I can’t wait to read your autobiography.

    (whew-at first I thought you were going to mention your whole OK experience. ;D)


  11. Thanks for the reminder Rachel!
    We try to remember to step back and enjoy life and appreciate what we have but sometimes grocery shopping and bill paying get in the way. It was great to see you guys, we appreciate you making time to come and visit! Thanks for your friendship, I appreciate it!


  12. Ok…so let’s live in the moment! I love all y’all…you’re awesome women, and miscellaneous dad types, and you’ve helped me get through some rough days, and celebrated my big days.
    That’s all.
    This book oughta be awesome….I can’t wait for her to talk about her stalkers…. You know, Leanna?! 😉
    Love ya!


  13. Great blogging, Rachel. Want you to know you are a 100% decent human being…and I’m sure your Dad will say so, too! “Ain’t life grand?” It unfolds in such a daily way, and yet when it is contemplated on a continuum from where we are now, looking back to where we’ve been….wow, what a view! What you and your sister, Emilie, have begun years ago to benefit one little person, Leah, and your circle of family and friends, has multipled to include all these wonderful people who have commented ahead of me on this blog and so many others. There are witnesses of your power and goodness all over the globe, from Oklahoma to Ghana and back. Can’t wait to read your book! And I take my glove off to dear Michael Jackson, as well….all I can say is, an interesting life from beginning to end. Loving you….Mom


  14. Rachel-
    You are an amazing person! I am so glad I am getting the chance to know you, your awesome husband, and your beautiful kids. Everytime I read your blog I laugh and cry. Thank you for being you. I know that Jed is smiling because we are all connected now.


  15. So True! I was just talking to my husband about this the other day, why do we wait till people are dead to say great things about them? It’s sad really! I try to seize each day and do something fun and memorable, if anything just be a good mom, wife, sister, daughter or friend!
    Can’t wait to read your autobiography Rachel!!


  16. Anita Phares: Thanks Anita, yes the Buddy Walk this fall will be fun.

    Kei: “Once we can get out of our own way”
    SO true! I am always in my way. Especially when I am thinking it’s someone else.. Surprise! It’s ME!

    Euknowme: Good things come to those who wait. Way to be persistent.

    Pam: Thanks! It has been nerve-wracking and completely confronting writing it. I am sure I will have night sweats when it actually reaches readers hands.

    Sally: I really do have to remind myself to acknowledge others, even my husband. Do we/I naturally take for granted those that are closest to us?

    Kristi: Good grief! LOL, no pressure huh?

    Ronai: There you go~
    Step 1. Make your “somedays” a reality
    Step 2. Become a fountain of gratitude
    Step 3. Love & Kindness

    Niksmom: You are welcome. Glad it was timely:)

    Jackile: I just pretend my house is clean. It works great, until we have company.

    Jessica: “87% decent”? I’ll take that! Especially from you, who has seen my darkest-darks and my brightest-brights… wait is that a Tide commercial???

    Ashley L: glad you are back and I hope all is well!

    Leanna_mom23: No, no, we shall not speak of THAT!
    We loved meeting you too… until next time:)

    Brooke: Bill paying DOES get in the way and NOT paying bills is even worse. Thanks for the invite, we had a great time.

    Heather: No throwing Leanna under the bus. I am almost 87% convinced she is not a stalker.

    Linda Jan: Mom, it always cracks me up when you comment. I don’t know why!
    Let’s be honest, we both know that “100% decent” is pushing it.

    Emily Hoerner: How dumb that he had to die for us to meet? There are much easier was to introduce your family and friends to each other.
    We still giggle about “He called me a Tookey!”

    Googsmom: and I will sign yours, “Rachel was here!”

    Andrew: LOL

    Donelle Anderson: Or do something silly! Last summer Leah and I were swimming and she asked if I could do a flip off the diving board. I told her I wasn’t sure, hadn’t done one in 10+ years. But I thought why not try? She and I ended up flipping for an hour and laughing hysterically. I imagined a neighbor peeking over the wall to see what the laughter was about… and I only laughed harder.


  17. Something you wrote hit a chord with me. We live in Logan and two houses away from the mudslide that buried a house and the three people in it on Saturday. It was just a typical Saturday. I was running errands with my granddaughter. We came back home and we could not get into our street. Muddy water was pouring down the streets and dozens of emergency vehicles were at the site. We got to our house the back way and tried to figure out what was going on. Suddenly the whole neighborhood smelled of natural gas and the police man was at our door saying “Manditory evacuation. Everybody get out now!” I got my 88 year old mother into the front seat, my 4 grandchildren I was tending into the back seat and took off. That weekend over 1,000 volunteers worked to clear all the mud out of the neighborhood and hundreds of police, fire and rescue personnel worked furiously to find the family that was missing. Some are still out of their homes but yesterday they were able to find the bodies. Everyone is wondering how things could go bad so quickly. How could a mother and her two children be gone in a second? Does it make any sense?
    We do live as if it could last forever. Some have time to think about their own mortality and some do not before they leave us. I take comfort in the idea that what I am and what I have tried to be will go on forever. I may not ever do anything the world would notice, but if I taught a child to read, I loved someone or I discovered my own purpose, my life has made a difference.


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