For Michael Jackson, the crucial choice of who should care for his children - Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7 - was an easy one: he chose the two women he trusted most throughout his life - his mother, Katherine, and Diana Ross, who was almost a second mother to him.
On what surely must have been one of the most difficult days of her life, Katherine Jackson - Michael's mother and the matriarch of the Jackson family - did what she has always done: she led them all with strength, grace and quiet dignity.
Those qualities are some of the reasons why Michael named his 79-year-old mother to be guardian of his children. And the children are already showing some of their grandmother's strengths, says Jackson biographer and CBS News consultant J. Randy Taraborrelli.
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"Those kids are really intelligent. They're very conversational. They're very funny. They loved their dad. You know, they didn't think of Michael Jackson as being strange or unusual. To them, he was just their dad."
"Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you
could ever imagine," Paris said, sobbing on stage at the end of her father's memorial at the Staples Center. "And I just wanted to say I love him so much."
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Even after losing their dad, the children have shown remarkable maturity.
British actor Mark Lester, godfather to all three children, said Paris has been consoling him, saying, "Don't worry. Daddy has gone to live with the angels now."
"They were so good and so kind of spiritual. That actually helped me a great deal by just speaking to them," Lester said.
And remember, the Jackson kids had no mother in their lives.
"It wasn't as if that was an issue with them," said Taraborrelli. "You know, it was all they knew, all they had was Michael. And that's all they needed. And that's all they really wanted."
Like any father, Michael enjoyed teaching his kids how to play games like chess. But their lives were anything but normal.
"They lived rather, a rather nomadic existence, especially in recent years after the trial," Taraborrelli explained. "They were in Bahrain, you know. They were in Las Vegas; they were on the East Coast. When Michael died, they were living in Holmby Hills, here in Los Angeles."
No matter where they were living, the Jackson children were isolated from the rest of the world. They were cared for by nannies and home-schooled by tutors.
"Michael was very serious about their education. They read a lot. A lot of time was spent during the course of their days reading, studying. You know, Michael understood what that was like, because when he was a kid, he didn't - for the most part - he didn't go to a normal school with normal kids."
During Michael's childhood, Katherine was the glue that held the family together. And she became just as important to Michael's children.
"You know, Michael made sure that the kids had a relationship with Katherine. 'Cause the relationship with Katherine was the most important relationship in his life," said Taraborrelli.
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After all, Katherine had always been there for Michael. She stood by her son during his biggest triumphs and through some of his darkest hours.
"Being a mother, I just said 'I'll do it. I'll get out there and I'll do it.' I have to let people know that he didn't do this terrible thing," Katherine Jackson said.
In 1993, she never wavered when her son was accused of sexually molesting children - a case that was settled for a reported $20 million.
While Katherine was Michael's rock, she is also nearly 80, which was why he named singer Diana Ross, 65, to be guardian, should something happen to his mother. It is a choice that made total sense to anyone who saw the special bond between Michael and Diana.
Diana was in her heyday with The Supremes when she helped introduce 10-year-old Michael and his brothers to the world.
Their performing paths continued to cross over the decades. In 1978, they starred together in "The Wiz."
The pair had an easy playfulness that was on display at public events over the years.
But Michael also knew that Diana raised her own five children completely out of the spotlight and made sure they came ahead of her career.
"For her to be able to make sure that she's present to tuck her kids in, to make sure that they get breakfast in the morning and then she takes off to do a show and comes back, he thought that was great," Taraborrelli explained. "So, Michael had an opportunity to see Diana Ross from two different vantage points. He got the opportunity to be raised by Diana Ross, and then he got the opportunity to watch her raise her own children."
For Michael and Diana, the fit seemed as comfortable as hand in sequined glove, something on which Michael knew he could rely.
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"I do dearly care about him and I always wanted to be there for him as I've had people there for me. You know, somebody who can really be honest with you, someone who can be really truthful with you," Ross said.
The importance of that kind of trust is a lesson Michael was determined to pass on to his children.
"One thing that Michael thought was really important was that the three kids really rely on each other to get them through the tough times," said Taraborrelli.
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