Inner Michael » Remembering Cat: Rev. Dr. Catherine Gross

Remembering Cat: Rev. Dr. Catherine Gross

This is how I grieve– I spill the grief out with my fingers, onto paper or into key strokes. After I wrote this piece, I realized it’s not finished. Memories of things we spoke about and happenings we pondered are triggered by speaking to friends and acquaintances about this sudden loss of a friend. I will add things as they occur to me. You are invited to share your memories of Catherine in the comment section. I’ll save them for us.


Remembering Cat


“Don’t you make me come down there!”

Catherine Gross and I exchanged that admonishment once in awhile. The phrase came up in conversation when one of us was caught being naughty– naughty in the sense that we weren’t taking good care of ourselves.

I met Catherine Gross in a virtual conversation about Michael Jackson when I held open forum conference calls for fans and advocates of Jackson who were grieving the loss of their favorite muse- Michael Joseph Jackson. I was putting together a program on bullying dedicated to him and to Lady Diana– the two most visible champions of humanity on our planet in the 20th century and its turn to the 21st. You see, many of us hung on to Michael’s every word in lyrics because he was the most visible champion of humanity in our world…

Some of us grew up poor, some abused or abandoned, some misunderstood, some sensitive to the world, some in unforgivable circumstances, some trapped in situations they couldn’t escape. For us, for them, Michael Jackson was the only steadfast anchor in a stormy life. We grew up not understanding the world and the nature of people that was so counter to what we were born with– a vision of a better world, a better humanity. Michael Jackson put it into words for us.

Catherine Gross grew up with Michael too. Catherine knew children. Catherine knew hardship. Catherine knew grieving. And Catherine knew God. Catherine was someone people also turned to when they were hurting inside. Michael Jackson’s death made people hurt inside. In the blink of an eye Michael was gone and people were left reeling.

I remember my daughter texting me and as I read the words “Michael Jackson died” I remember going numb. The sadness included a feeling of the ending of an era. We never believe icons can die until they do. Catherine had her own unique reaction when she heard the news. She told me almost as a confession, she had railed and screamed at God. She was so angry! She lambasted the heavens wailing and shaking her fists and demanding– “No. Noooo. NO! You can’t have him, GIVE HIM BACK!” The anger died down after a time but that feeling never left her.

Catherine Gross called me one day and asked if we might chat. She told me that Liz Taylor had sent her to me. What? Liz Taylor knew of my work? That Liz Taylor? Catherine assured me she did and Liz had pointed her in my direction because Catherine was grieving so deeply and Liz found my work and my words about Michael consoling. Liz send Catherine to my website. They had become friends when Cat wrote to her about Michael and talked about how devastated she was and they commiserated and bonded over their loss. I found out Catherine was planning a radio show for Michael Jackson and his fans to help them cope with his loss and wanted to know if I would consider being a guest.

So began our work together and our long conversations. As Theologians we didn’t always agree because I came at it from Cosmology and Catherine arrived to her faith tradition as a fundamentalist. “Wait awhile,” I told her. I shared with her that I’ve had many gurus and teachers over the years and that Michael Jackson was the latest teacher to show up in my life. She had been a fan since the beginning. I consoled her in her grief and she consoled me in my anger. His loss cut her painfully as if she had lost a personal friend. I explained that everyone who contacted me, and there were thousands, felt that same personal pain. It was as if he was family. Even a nun said that to me. So I assured Catherine she was not crazy but in the company of others who identified with Michael’s archetype and his message. For many, he had been the sane one in their world. Ironic that the world saw him exactly the opposite. That too, is archetypal, I told Catherine.

She consoled me in my anger. I didn’t have enough heartache in my life, now the Universe sent me the most controversial figure in recent history! Now at this stage of my life when I should be writing books of fancy and sipping a cocktail with an umbrella on a beach under an umbrella– but no, God had to send me the Fool/Savior Archetype to play with. The Fool appears as the Joker archetype yet is a wise, wise and deep soul. It was the parallel archetype of Coyote from the Native American tradition– the Trickster. I had people coming to me asking for answers about the most famous and most controversial figure in the world! Oh great. I knew Michael and “We are the World” played over and over in our home when I tried to teach my children about oneness and the brotherhood of man. They continued the MJ tradition in their teens.

Catherine saw Michael circling back into my life as a writer and viewed it as my calling as well as her own. She established “A Place in Your Heart” radio and off she went to use her gift of gab to bring healing to Michael’s minions while I used my gift of words with the Inner Michael website. I learned so much! Michael is ever the trickster! Hiding spiritual epiphanies in plain sight! Add Magician to the archetype list.

As fate would have it, I met Catherine in person in Los Angeles near Hollywood at Gardner Elementary School in the Michael Jackson auditorium. I began talking to Thomas Mesereau, Jackson’s defense attorney, whom I met while there and he indicated an open chair at his table and invited me to join. I had written to him about the “Words and Violence” program I had founded that examined bullying in all its incarnations and was dedicated to Michael and Lady Diana Spencer. I handed him some cards I had made about the program and we were discussing how “Words and Violence” was hosted by Voices Education Project and was the first educational program posthumously featuring Michael and suddenly I heard a familiar voice across the table asking if she might have one too. I knew that voice! It was Catherine Gross! We hugged and laughed and explained to Tom that we knew each other from our work and from radio but we had to go all the way across the country to L.A. to meet in person! We all chucked at that.

There have been two women in my life with such a presence that nobody ever said no to them. One was Sr. Virginia who founded a retreat center where I have a  piece of adjoining property– and the other was Catherine Gross. I suspect Catherine used that formidable nature to get what she wanted for her students. I watched her employ that in action with Tom Mesereau and others at Gardner School. She helped with a group getting Michael Jackson Auditorium reinstated to its original glory. Catherine was in her element in a school. With a Masters and her Doctorate in Education, Catherine was CEO of a Christian Girls School, a school principal and the perpetual educator. We shared an interest in propaganda and yellow journalism and she was a supporter and proprietor of “Words and Violence” and its articles about tabloid journalism and how words influence minds.

We talked hours about Black Music and civil rights and how African American musicians were treated so badly by record companies. She taught me about tap dance and the history of African experience in America. She became my muse and go-to editor about racial justice and racism in “Words and Violence.” I leaned on her to tell me when my White Privilege was getting in the way. We collaborated on projects where as the White girl I could say things she wouldn’t dare and she took me places I’ve never been with her stories about growing up Black and as a highly educated Black woman. She made me walk in her shoes and for that I will be forever grateful.

She told one story of driving her high end new car in the latest model, worthy of the her station in life, when it ran out of gas in an all White suburb. Of course the police thought it was stolen– she was after all, a Black woman with a shiny new expensive car. She told of how she had to strike just the right pose, keep her eyes cast downward and be solicitous of the residents in order to get her needs met. I was angry FOR her! How dare people treat a highly educated respectable woman in such a way! That was just the tip of the iceberg of what she experienced which is why, I think, she so identified with Michael.

I remember too, Cat telling me also about sitting in a room after she had finished an interview for a job and hearing the very White man casually talk about her to another White man in the next room while standing over her and beside her– already a very awkward, patriarchal and condescending act. But it was what he said that was unforgivable but (in those days) a common tactless vulgarity. He commented to his colleague that she was a “yellow gal” meaning that she was a light skinned African American. The closest I’ve ever come to that kind of insult is being subjected to comments about my body while I was definitely in the room, as if my anatomy was on display solely to invite commentary. All women have been disrespected in that way at one time or another. But when you’re White they certainly don’t comment on your shade of Whiteness as if pallor were a badge of honor.

We talked about how, as women acculturated to value beauty and to emphasize our “looks” to be considered beautiful for the male species of course, we understood our looks however, were a badge of honor. We’d both used it effectively as younger women. Apparently Catherine was quite the femme fatale in her day. While I can’t tell you the secrets shared between two women who used their femininity to their advantage, I can tell you that Cat was apparently quite the prize in her stilettos. While I was accustomed to turning heads and I knew it, Catherine snapped them around. Taraji P. Henson as “Cookie Lyon” of the TV show “Empire” comes to mind.

Cat told me stories about 47th street in Chicago, a kind of line of demarcation or demilitarized zone where the White and Black population bumped up against each other in the Windy City. If you were Black you stayed south of that artificial Mason-Dixon line and if you were White you never crossed its northern border.

Chicago’s 47th street was home to clubs where real Black Music could be heard long into the night by masters like

Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn, Louis Armstrong and others. The Regal and Savoy Theaters saw their heyday as 47th Street began to grow and become home to upscale shops and elite businesses catering to Black culture and the African American vibe. The Cotton Club on Michigan Street was as lively as its namesake in Harlem and hosted the likes of Cab Calloway, R. Kelly and Bernie Mac and other R & B and jazz greats. Cosette Nazon Yisrael was the owner’s daughter serving drinks before she was old enough to drink them herself. Since the Cotton Club closed, Cosette has become a lifeline and mentor to girls in the same hood.

Cat told me stories of 47th Street and I told her about the North Side of Milwaukee where I often was the only White girl in the place. I went where the music called me and where people knew how to dance. I had no fear in those days while Catherine carried enough for both of us. Most of the residents on the south side of Chicago had migrated from the South to escape the lynchings and plantation slavery mentality of the South clinging long after the Civil War.

I encouraged her to write about 47th street and asked her numerous times to submit something for “Words and Violence.” She never got around to writing about 47th Street but she did begin to write for the Examiner and I was glad to see she was taking on subjects considered taboo by some. But 47th Street memoirs never saw print; I leaned later from Catherine that it was just too painful to write about. I’d written about Black Music at Inner Michael but my experience was nothing compared to Catherine’s.

Catherine was devoted to Michael Jackson and her “lovlies,” the devotees and fans who followed her. “I love you and there is nothing you can do about it,” she used to say. And at her “A Place in Your Heart Radio,” she loved all the people who loved Michael. Her guests were often Michael’s acquaintances and collaborators– people who actually knew him, not the tabloid hacks who disemboweled him with fake stories and innuendo. They told the truth of who he was and Cat gave them the forum.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/a-place-in-your-heart

Catherine championed a girl’s academy school in Gary Indiana near Michael Jackson’s childhood home with Cadeflaw and M.J Brookins, advocates for truth and law in legacies and she solicited donations for her “girls.” Catherine loved the arts and she especially loved Michael Jackson fan art. Her most recent project in Gary was to set up an art exhibition of Michael Jackson art by fans. Again, she was in her element– education and the arts.

Catherine kept up her ministry until the last with a Facebook Page as well as her other Facebook identities.

A few years ago Catherine went “off the grid” and I hunted her down through her daughters. She was in the hospital. She had an accident in her home and they didn’t find her immediately. I told her to never do that again and that’s where the ‘Don’t make me come down there!’ came from. Just lately I noticed she was posting on line lots of religious texts and late into the night. I was worried about her. I made a mental note to reach out to her.

I was too late.

She was an unforgettable character and Reverend Doctor Catherine Gross will be remembered by many who crossed paths with her as a school principal, minister, evangelist, writer, talk show host, and champion of art and the poor.

The world is a little dimmer today without her. I will miss her. What I will cherish, remember and take with me is that in her last years, Catherine began wearing a blonde wig. I loved her daring. Being blonde– it just suited her.

(c) B. Kaufmann 2017

 

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Diana said . . .

    Thank you so much for this lovely “appreciation” of Rev. Catherine. Any woman with both “Rev” and “Dr” titles is a force to be reckoned with, and she certainly filled the bill and then some!
    For me, it was such a helpful validation of my beliefs to have both you and her standing up to say of Michael, here was a highly evolved spiritual being who was bringing the world not only a message, but an example of divinity. My world is now more empty without her, but I will remember her always spreading the love.

    Thanks again; sending you love and blessings.
    ~ Diana

    Posted May 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  2. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    We are all examples of divinity. Cat recognized that. Some of us do that better than others because we forget who we are. We would do well to remember. There will always be those who can’t bear to gaze upon or greatness for it shames their own shadow. That is what jealousy is and it seeks to tear down that which reminds us of our own darkness. We have seen people in Michael’s life who demonstrated exactly that. Many of them did not personally know him and their projection is what they believed of Michael.

    There’s a beautiful principle in Sikhism: “Chardi Kala” which means that everything is holy and to look into the face of another is to gaze upon the face of God. It seems that is what Michael believed and attempted to practice. It’s the people who didn’t personally know him who criticized and condemned him which is really the projection of their own shadow. And others just followed along like sheep until a mythology was born that had no relationship to the truth.

    Michael represented the exiled “other.” It seems we always need to find an “other” to exile for our own comfort– right now it is “Muslims.” And it’s also evident in social media whose anonymity gives permission to the shadow to reveal itself. We need to keep a watchful eye on self. Historically it’s been “the Irish,” “the Negro,” “the intellectuals,” and now is creeping toward disdain of “the sick” and “the poor” in America especially by those who are vital and wealthy. It’s designed to assuage guilt. We can’t bear our own shortcomings so we project them onto others.

    The world is a mirror. Michael preferred to look at the world in wonder and the world judged him harshly for it– mistaking that childlike wonder for naivete. It’s the archetype of the “Fool.” People mock the fool unaware that it is a wise and cunning being. Gandhi too carried that archetype. People thought him foolish too while he went about setting people free. Michael’s music art was the language of freedom. The collective never understands or appreciates great teachers until they’re gone.

    Thanks and Blessings and Love to you too Diana.

    Posted May 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Jan Carlson said . . .

    Thank you, Barb, for sharing your memories of Catherine. She was, indeed, a force to be reckoned with, a bridge that spanned our differences in time, space, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. For me, Catherine Gross always saw enormous potential in everyone she met long before they saw potential themselves. Rather than saying I will miss her, I will just offer her my gratitude for her faith in me, in us, and in God.

    She talked to me often about emigrating to Canada. Well, she has emigrated to a much higher plane, God bless her.
    Jan

    Posted May 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  4. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Thanks Jan. Yes a higher plane indeed. Trying to visualize her standing between Michael and Liz. I remember her telling me when Michael passed, she railed, screamed, shook her fists and lambasted God wailing at the top of her voice: “No. Nooo. NO! GIVE HIM BACK.” I feel the same way about her.

    Posted May 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  5. CARMEN TARIN DOMINGU said . . .

    Cate my sister of the soul, my heart is breaking and my pain is enough. I’ll miss you so much. I have learned so much from you. I’ll never forget you.

    Posted May 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  6. MJ Brookins said . . .

    Rev. Kaufman: Thank you for this beautiful memorial tribute to “Rev. Dr. Catherine Gross”. She was a champion for many fan projects in the MJ Community, even those she was ridiculed for. She deposited her heart and soul into the memory of Michael Jackson and his community of fans. I will forever be grateful for the support she gave to the Adllaw/Cadeflaw Initiative and the “Cadeflaw Gary IN Butterfly Project”. I am also happy that, after a long time, we had a chance to reconnect these last few weeks. She was always excited to fellowship when the word of God was being discussed and the connection with God and Michael was what kept our friendship intact, even though we had not had much fellowship for almost two years. I will miss Catherine but I believe all is well and that she now sleeps in “God’s Eternal Rest”. God bless the memory of “Catherine Gross”.

    Posted May 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  7. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Thank you MJ. I know Cat valued and respected your work. She fiercely agreed with Cadeflaw and the principle of not slandering or smearing someone who is deceased and cannot defend themselves. When it comes to Michael Jackson, it seems that all civility and nobility breaks down. It may be that the future will know who he was but those living now during his lifetime have slandered him and felt comfortable doing so because of the standard set by tabloid journalism. Over time he was completely de-humanized making it easier to dismember him with words. He was a cash cow for them and the money increased exponentially the more scandalous the story. The printed word has always had a kind of sanctity because we’ve historically assigned it a measure of gravitas. Now we are seeing “fake news” and propaganda for what it is– falsehoods. So people now may hold out a measure of skepticism not possible in Michael’s lifetime. But those who piled on are not likely to change their hardened opinions because human nature dictates that people do not like to be wrong. I doubt the culpable could withstand being faced with the truth of their treachery. So that is why it becomes necessary to keep beating up someone who is already dead especially if you maligned him his whole life. It’ hard for any of us to face the darkness in our mirror. Humans will do almost anything to avoid it.

    We are all responsible for the success of tabloid journalism. It’s on us because we have not integrated our shadow nature. The tabloid industry capitalized on that; they fed us shadow for decades. Michael and Lady Diana were targets because they were the two most famous people in the world and when their imperfections are revealed, it make the rest of us feel less inferior. The day will come when humankind will be more enlightened and ethical. That’s also on us and that’s why Cadeflaw is so important. It at the very least, makes us aware of how the deceased and legacies are treated in our culture, and begs us look at the ethics of smearing someone who is not here to respond. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, something inside shudders when the dead are beaten over and over.

    Theoretically speaking, one wonders: In the case of Michael Jackson, how many times do you have to kick the body to make sure he is dead? As many times as it takes to deny your part in killing him?

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:35 am | Permalink
  8. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Thanks Carmen. (You don’t have to shout hon, she’s only a whisper away.) If you want to make her smile, do a few things nice to pay it forward in her name, in her memory. Buy the person behind you in line at Starbucks a coffee and tell them it’s in honor of Rev. Dr. Gross. You get the idea. Blessings dear one. Breathe.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:50 am | Permalink
  9. Kimberly A Bonk said . . .

    Thank you Barbara for a beautiful and very appropriate tribute to Catherine who was a bright light in a world full of darkness. I also met her the same time you did and identified her through hearing her voice behind me. 🙂 I was very happy to meet Catherine; one being that she was also from Chicago and also because she was an advocate for Michael. Her determination to get the truth out about Michael and other topics was appreciated by so many people. I can never imagine the experiences that Catherine endured. They say that your life experiences is how your character is developed. I truly believe that.
    Catherine’s character was exemplified by her actions and how she treated people. When I heard she passed, I felt that we lost another bright light that is so needed right now. Perhaps when someone fights so hard, there comes a point where they can fight no more. When does one know when it’s time to stop? I suppose we all will know.

    Thank you Catherine for all that you have done to bring truth and light into this world. You will be missed greatly! RIP Catherine. I can just imagine you talking with Michael and Liz right now and telling them all that went on with the fans. Barbara, thank you for all that you have done for Michael and everything else. You are also a bright light that this world needs. I’m glad to know you and be part of this journey. God Bless!

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  10. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Thank you. To recognize someone by their voice… That itself is amazing. Keep shining Kim. LYM ~B.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  11. Mado said . . .

    Oh Dear God….this saddens me so much…Rest in peace dear Catherine..

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  12. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Hi Mado,
    Sorry for your loss and that this saddens you. It’s meant as a tribute to honor someone who was an acquaintance and became a dear friend. And to reinforce the message that we think we may know someone from a superficial attachment in a group and make judgements from that place of unknowing that are certain to be inadequate and can be wrong. Wrong can be dangerous as we have learned and words can kill as “Words and Violence” Program illustrates.

    Cat and I could have just as easily become snarky-attitude competitives, petty, or opponents battling in a turf war as some in the fan community have elected to do. When the heart remains open and vulnerable on both ends of an encounter, the reward is deep, rich and lasting relationships.

    Nobody would be more pleased with that lesson than Cat herself. We too,had to work at that lesson every day and hold the benefit of the doubt, be at the ready with forgiveness and to acknowledge the possibility of misunderstandings, as well as hope for understanding from the “other” if we hit a snag. It’s not easy when the ego gets in the way. The answer is to see humanity in the “other” as well as self and to reflect on when the ego needs to be put on a leash. Every day it’s import to check in with yourself to ask: ‘is today an off leash day?’

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  13. Cecile Duteil said . . .

    Thank you Rev. Kaufmann for your beautiful tribute to our dear Catherine. It is nice and interesting to get to know her a little more through your own perspective. Catherine and I also got to know each other because of our common love for Michael – and also for arts.

    On several occasions, she has promoted my art and that of other friends who draw and paint Michael Jackson – through podcasts, online articles and finally, at an exhibition in August 2016. We have been talking on the phone when she interviewed me for an article about my fan-art. And also for one of her podcast talk-shows (A Place In Your Heart) which was a very interesting conversation with other artists painting Michael, about their inspiration and practice.

    As early as 2014 (or perhaps before), Catherine wanted to create a Fan-Art Museum in Gary. She wanted it to be ready by August 2015, for Michael’s birthday. I knew about this project of hers, as she thought of me and of other MJ-artists to show our artwork. Because of health issues she could not make this happen. But last year, as she was back on her feet, she did set up the beautiful exhibition in Gary. She also collected donations in order to purchase lots of books that she then offered to Gary schoolchildren – among which, books I illustrated.

    “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote of Carl Buehner, which was paraphrased by Maya Angelou and often dedicated to Michael Jackson, would also apply to our dear Catherine. When she was among us, Michael very probably smiled upon her. Now I trust he has welcome her with a big smile and wide open arms.

    PS : one of my Facebook friends, who was also friends with Catherine, wanted to read this page and maybe eventually leave a message too. She let me know she was not able to because she was redirected to another page. So in case this is an issue with your website, I just wanted to let you know, so that you can fix it.

    Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  14. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Hi Cecile,
    Good to meet you. Thanks for sharing about Catherine. I’m aware of the fan art museum plan. We are editing and upgrading the video of the art and Catherine so that it can be posted here. Send me a message with a sample of your art. You can pm me on Facebook.

    Please tell your friend to not use a link but go to innermichael.com and try clicking on the article.

    Thanks, Cecile.

    Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

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