“You never know the last time you’ll see a place or a person.” It’s such a sad but true statement. One we know all too well. Saturday we said goodbye to one of the greatest men I have had the joy of knowing and loving. Perfect, not a chance but legendary, you can bet the farm on it. He was a man of true grit, a transplanted Philadelphian who called Texas home in the last years of his life. He loved his Phillies, Eagles and of course the Fliers. He supported Breast Cancer and Autism Awareness among so many other causes. Our dear friend was a man of real character, tender hearted though he could be tough at the same time. He was generous, loyal and simply real. A man who worked very hard to live the kind of life he was proud of. This man, our friend not only touched my life but was also a big part of it. He was family even if it wasn’t through blood. Sadly not even 60 years old yet Mike was here and gone way too soon.
Mike just had a way of putting you at ease and welcoming you into his home as if you were his family. He was certainly rough around the edges but those edges were what made Mike who he was. Larger than life and yet as real and down to earth as anyone could be. Yes he had wealth but you would never know it unless he wanted you to. The way he lived his life was down to earth. He was a simple man with complex reasoning. Mike was funny, very funny. He could tell you off and leave you in awe of him at the same time. He was a very disarming kind of guy who loved his family, his parents, his wife, his girls, his son –in- laws and his grand-babies. Just as William Penn once said, I know it is true of Mike, “They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.” And Mike will never die, for he lives not only in our hearts but in the legacy he leaves behind in his children and their children.
Now if am going to be true to Mike and what I knew of him it would be this: Mike was a man who encouraged the underdog; he inspired those with raw talent to rise. He didn’t know the meaning of the word quit and he didn’t accept it from you either. I remember Mike sitting me down when life went sideways, looking me in the eyes with compassion and told me straight up to get myself together for my kids’ sake. He wasn’t scolding me, but challenging me, encouraging me to rise up in spite of what was happening around me. He was good like that. Now I don’t remember exactly when I told Mike he was like a dad to me. And you have to understand, Mike was only about 14 years older than I am so you can imagine how this must have sounded. I remember we were sitting out on the back porch one afternoon when I told him this. He looked at me with those eyes only Mike could make, smiled, laughed and said, “Oh Christina I love you” and then told me he was in no way old enough to be my father. He was right, he was nowhere near old enough to be my dad but I loved him as a second father just the same. I respected him and appreciated the place he gave my family in his life. As Joshua said at Mike’s memorial service, he was fiercely loyal and protective. I can never forget how he made us feel at home. Mike, as he loved so many, loved my boys in a way that made them feel like one of his own. But you see that’s what made Mike the man he was. When he opened his heart and arms to you, you were family, period.
“It’s crazy to think that someone who had such a huge part of your life can be gone in a second.” And that’s exactly how I feel about losing Mike. I can only convey the gravity of his loss through my own personal memories of his life as it interacted with my own. And so in this Life Lesson # 78 ~ gone too soon I want to take the time to say thank you Mike. Thank you for believing in us and for accepting us flaws and all. The reality is because of Mike’s encouragement and continual prodding my sons found their talents and soared. It was Mike who encouraged Joshua and his music. He prided himself in recognizing talent and he saw it in Joshua. Right away Mike put Joshua on the spot on a cajon, an instrument he’d never played before and had him playing in front of scores of people with some of Houston’s rising talent. Again it was Mike who both called and texted Joshua not only influencing but persuading him to pick up a hockey stick and play. It was Mike again and again who praised Micah, pulling him out of his shell and promptly hanging his drawings no matter what they were on his office walls. The truth is there are those people you fear influencing your children but Mike on the other hand was the kind of man you prayed would influence them.
Mike was simply a giant in my eyes, and a teddy bear in my heart. It’s hard to imagine not popping over to his home anymore and finding him sitting on his back porch out by the pool eager to visit. Mike could always make me laugh, especially when he told me to overcook my eggplant for him. Whatever his reasons were Mike really loved our family eggplant and asked for it often. It’s just a simple recipe my grandmother passed down but still he’d text me out of nowhere asking if I could slip one into the freezer for him. Mike always made Johnny and I smile asking us to mislabel it. Whether it was Mike’s liver and kidneys or some other not so appetizing kind of thing he was happy to think no one else would get a hold of it before he did. But what I most remember about Mike were his stories, the way he loved entertaining us with his tall tales. They were liquid gold and the reason we held on to every word waiting to hear how he managed through each caper. The thing about it is most of his wild tales were real. And that’s what made listening so grand. His stories gave us a small glimpse a little at a time into the man he was and what made him tick.
I really miss Mike. I miss knowing he’s sitting there waiting on us. I miss his random text messages but most of all I miss him. There’s a light gone from our world we can’t get back. But we can remember. We can keep his memory alive in our hearts. We can love his family, retell his whopper of all tales and honor him through continuing his legacy of encouraging the underdog. Mike’s life was indeed a life well spent. See he knew the secret just as Thomas Campbell did, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” I could go on and on but I will simply leave you with this, “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
We love you Mike. We miss you. But our hope is in knowing we will see you again. And we will someday.