I’ve probably written and erased this first line a few dozen times… I just can’t find the right words at this very moment. It’s been several hours since I found out… There it goes again. I can’t even say it, much less put it in writing. I am just in a numb state— somewhere between disbelief, sadness and shock. I guess you could say I was hoping and praying that you would get the miracle you so much deserved… And that you would be given many more years of life. In a nutshell, I just wasn’t ready to let go. None of us were. I never believed cancer would take you away. There was always that spark of hope that you would be the exception; that you would receive the miracle that we all prayed for.
I, however, believe there are signs, and I know you sent me today— though it was unbeknownst to me until a little bit later. This evening, a good friend of mine came over for a bit. We were having wine, goat cheese, crackers and fig (our favorite), while talking about life and how the decisions we make today shape our future. In the middle of the conversation, my mother called, but I did not answer. Shortly after (just a few seconds after mom called, to be exact), mid-sentence, I knocked over my wine glass on my kitchen counter, causing it to shatter and spill everywhere. In my 30 years of existence, I have never broken a single glass of wine, for the record.
Mom called again while I was getting the broom to clean up the tiny pieces that fell on the ground. She called again and I picked up and (in my usual tone of playful-sarcasm) said “Hello mother, what is your emergency?” And then she told me, in tears, that you has passed.
I stayed in silence for what felt like an eternity. I couldn’t fathom the thought of you being gone. It just didn’t make sense to me because I was so sure you’d live longer; I was so sure God would grant you the miracle that you wished for in your heart— more life. I was sure of it and I just was not ready to let you go. In silence, I weeped and I thought of you and I wondered what your last moments on earth were like. I wondered if you were surrounded by your children and loved ones. I wondered if you felt pain… And while I wondered, my heart shattered into tiny pieces— smaller than the glass that broke before me. And I have to admit, I haven’t stopped crying since. It comes and goes in waves— knowing I’ll never see you come in our door with your great big smile and your cowboy boots, and your Michigan hat and your ‘Hiyaaaaaaah’… You know, I have saved a few voicemails you’ve left me and all our group texts with Joey and the moms. I saved all the cards you gave us and every time you left a note for us with a bible verse. I will cherish every single one of those for the rest of my life.
Mike, today, I write to you in hopes that maybe, just maybe, you can hear my words as I say them out loud in my head. Though we’ve said it many times before, we hope you know how much we love you and will continue to love you. You are a part of our family and this is a BIG loss for not just us, but for the world. You were truly an angel sent to earth to love upon everyone you meet and give them your heart. Your light has always shined so bright— even in the darkest of days, your vibrant spirit and positivity was unbreakable. No matter how much pain you were in, you’d always try to disguise it with your smile. You showed the world that there is goodness in all of us and that through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we can do it all.
You helped anyone and everyone, even when you didn’t have to. Mike, you were not just good, you were extraordinary, and you were an honest, humble, kind and loving man. Joey and I have always said that you are the kind of person that comes around once in a lifetime; we are convinced we will probably never meet anyone like you in our lives. I am, again, in tears just thinking of you and having to force myself to accept that you are no longer physically here— though your spirit and kindness lives in our hearts forever.
I want to thank you for EVERYTHING you did for us. You were more than a friend, you were FAMILY. You showed us more love, kindness and respect in the short 5+ years we knew you, than some of our own blood relatives. I look around our home and I am reminded so much of you. I remember you taking the time to drive to Miami from Sarasota and spending countless hours with Joey working on the house and helping out with anything and everything— from electrical to tearing down wall bearings & everything else in between. You’ll never know just how much we appreciated that— though we never missed a chance to tell you how grateful we were for all the ways you have helped us. You were always there for us— and that, to me, has always been enough. We are so blessed to have known you, Mike. You touched our lives, you know that, right? We became better people because of you. You were something else! I hope you have found peace and happiness beside our Lord and that you watch over us. I hope you don’t feel sad because we’re all carrying so much sorrow in our hearts. I know you would be telling me, “please don’t cry. I am finally home now. I am at peace and I will always be with you guys.”I know you would say something to make us feel better, but the truth is that selfishly, I would much rather you be here with us. I remember the day we had our family picnic, you walked with me by the water and you said to me, “I’ll always be there for you, Oli. I’ll always be with you guys. Don’t you ever forget that.” I promise you, Mike, that I won’t.
I wish I would have gotten to see you again and tell you how much we love you one more time. I wish we could have done one more picnic and given you just one more big hug. I wish we could have cracked one more joke together or laughed at mom’s silliness. I wish heaven had visiting hours, Mike, I really do.
I’m sorry that I can’t stop crying. I know you wouldn’t want to see me this way. Your life deserves to be celebrated, Mike, because that’s what you did for all of us. You brought us joy, laughter and having you around was ALWAYS a party!
On March 24th, I opened the daily devotional that you gave me back in 2014. I opened it and it said these words:
“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.
You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes. I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (March 24th)
So you see, Mike, I believe these are all signs. Signs you sent me tonight to tell me that you are alright and that you are with us. I believe the wine glass breaking seconds before I got the call was a sign— our fondest memories involved you, a glass of wine and a bbq at Casa Bravo! And then there was the devotional, which I happened to have skipped this morning and read it later on this evening. I’ve read it a few more times just to try and let it sink in.
Anyway, bud, this is just about the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to make. Though I know it’s not forever and I know you are still with us. Now when I talk to God in my car in the mornings, you’ll just have to hear from me too. 🙂
Thank you, Michael, for teaching us a little more about life and how sweet it can truly be. Thank you for guiding us and bringing us closer to God. Thank you for your unconditional love, your support and your everlasting smile. We will ALWAYS miss you and think of you. Your picture will hang in our walls and our children will someday know of you. This precious gift we call life will be a little less brighter without you in it.
I hope and pray that we make an impact on someone else’s life the way that you did for us. We love you bud! …Until me meet again.
“Oli Oli OxanFree” (Gosh, I can still hear you say that so clearly in my head)
I leave you here with just a few of our many wonderful memories together, as well as his favorite verse from the bible.
I hope you find as much joy in them as I do.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn“ — Isaiah 61: 1-2