Sunday, April 4, 2010


Mom and Dad asked me to write down what I said at the memorial. Though not word-for-word, here is more or less what I said:

Mike’s best friend Chas was supposed to be here to speak today, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it up from Bluefield due to bad weather down there.  There was a large group of Mike’s friends who wanted to be here and are here in spirit.  Chas was then going to email something for us to read today, but unfortunately the Internet was down this morning.  He did send this text message:  “Please tell everyone that Mike touched the heart and minds of many, especially me, and he will be missed.”

As we were preparing for the memorial over the past couple of days, it seemed like everything was going wrong:  Mike’s friends from Bluefield couldn’t make it to the memorial, others couldn’t get off of work, and I had major computer problems that affected the slideshow.  Last night I was very upset about these things.  Then I realized and was reminded that we are not the ones in control, and things will happen for reasons we do not understand.  So we must rely on our faith in God to get us through this.

My brother Mike grappled with depression all of his life.  He fought really hard throughout his life, trying to control it.  But in the end, it was bigger than he was, and outside of his control.  For those of us who watched him struggle, we also felt that loss of control.  No matter how much we loved him, no matter how much we wanted to help, and no matter what we said to him or did for him, we could not prevent what happened.  So the only thing we can rely on during this time is our faith.  For reasons we cannot understand, it was Mike’s time.  God wanted Mike to be with Him.  And although this does not always bring me comfort, the best I can hope for is some day to find acceptance.

A couple of days before Mike died, he called me and left a couple of voicemail messages. I didn’t get a chance to call him back because I was too busy at work that day.  I never got a chance to talk to him before he died.  And so I will try now.

Dear Mike,

I hope you know that I love you very much, and am very proud of everything you accomplished in your life.  I know you have been fighting your whole life, and finally you have some peace.  We all wish we could have shouldered some of that burden, some of that pain for you.

Along with your struggles, you had many gifts.  Your sensitivity made you a great artist—in photography, in drawing, and in cooking.  It also made you sensitive to the feelings of others and able to care for them, whether organizing a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, cooking for the homeless, or helping your friend Jeff get through school.  You were also incredibly smart.  You had a sharp sense of humor, got straight As in school, and were able to understand things more deeply than other people.

It seemed like you were happier in Virginia Beach.  We have watched you take charge of your life over the past few years—leaving Parkersburg to go back to school, graduating at the top of your class, finding a job you loved, and showing special care to your patients.  I have especially enjoyed talking to you over the past year and a half.  We both wanted a closer relationship with each other, and it seemed like we were finally getting it.  I thought we would grow old together and you would be here to help me take care of Mom and Dad when they got older.  Don’t worry, of course I will take care of them.  But I thought you would be here with me, and I miss the adult relationship we were only starting to have.

Although your life was cut short, you touched so many people’s lives and were loved by many people.  That has become especially clear to us since you have been gone and we’ve seen how many people have reached out to tell us they are missing you along with us.  Our hearts are broken that you had to leave.  As you look down upon us now, know that you were and are a part of us, and we miss you like someone would miss an eye or a limb.  Yet, you will always be here with us.  We love you.