With tears in his eyes, Michael Jackson's older brother Jermaine described Thursday how he had learned of his brother's death on June 25.
After getting a tip from a friend, Jermaine spoke to his mother, Katherine, he told Today's Matt Lauer in an interview at his brother's Neverland ranch in Los Olivos, Calif. "She was crying, saying he was dead. And to hear my mother saying Michael is dead, to feel and hear the tone of her voice to say her child is dead ... It's nothing that anyone can ever imagine."
Jermaine said he rushed to the hospital and, after consoling his mother, went to his deceased brother's side. "I wanted to see Michael, and I wanted to see my brother, and seeing him lifeless and breathless was very emotional for me," he says.
"I held myself together, because I know he is very much alive, his spirit is," says Jermaine. "I kissed him on his forehead and I hugged him and I touched him and I said, 'Michael, I'll never leave you, you'll never leave me."
Cause of DeathJermaine says the family has been deeply hurt by speculation that an overdose of prescription drugs may have caused Jackson's death in the absence of hard evidence from an autopsy. "For people to come forward to say things they don't have the facts [to back up] is very damaging for the family, to me, to us. Because we don't know."
Jermaine, who pointed out that his brother had recently had a physical, said the family would be "hurt" if an autopsy pointed to drugs in the end "because Michael has always been a person who was against anything like that. I really don't know."
With emotion choking his voice, Jermaine revealed that the singer's three children – Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Blanket, 7 – were led to a hospital room in Los Angeles for a last look at their deceased father. "[The family] thought it was important for them to see," said Jermaine, who admitted he was initially against the idea. "Now they are fine. I think it was the best thing to do ... if you don't show them, what do [they] see?"
Family StrengthAsked whether the family's 79-year-old matriarch, Katherine Jackson, would make a suitable guardian for the star's three children, as stipulated in Jackson's will, Jermaine was adamant.
"She's capable, she's up for it," Jermaine said of his mother, who raised the eight Jackson siblings. "She's with the grandchildren all the time ... She'd have someone with her to make sure she's doing the right things," he said. "My mother is the perfect person to be with them."
As the Today show cameras panned across the green landscape of Jackson's 2800-acre property near Santa Barbara, Jermaine said it was the family's hope that he would be buried there. "This is his home, i feel his presence here," Jermaine told Lauer. "He built this place with love, you can see it and feel it. Look at it here, it's peaceful here."
Lauer reported that the main house, emptied of furniture after Jackson's 2005 acquital on child abuse charges, will once again be filled with the star's belongings. "This meant wonderment, the ultimate happiness," said Jermaine, describing what Michael thought of Neverland.
Asked what his brother's legacy would be, and the criticism that surrounded him during his life, Jermaine said, "The world wasn't ready for Michael. Michael was a gift... He was a person who would give his last to make someone happy."