“That’s not my uncle Mikey! My uncle Mikey’s in Heaven with Jesus!” Abby reminded us.
Leave it to a four year old to remind all of the adults in the room that the body lying there on the bed was no longer really Mike. To many, that may seem unduly harsh this soon after his death, but as a Christian and a believer of the Word of God, it’s the absolute truth. Everything that was Mike left this Earth on March 3, 2003 when he took his last breath. His soul–his essence–was immediately delivered to Heaven.
As hard as it may be to believe, standing there just moments after his death, looking at his lifeless body, I was at peace! He was my baby brother, my best friend, the ONE person with whom I could share some of my deepest feelings, and he was gone–but I was at peace. In reality, Mike was only ten and half months younger than me–being born two and a half months premature–but by the time I graduated from high school, he was 3 years behind me. He started school just one year behind me, but he wasn’t quite ready for kindergarten when he started so mom held him back for another year. Then, at the age of 10, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and only attended 4th grade for 43 days that year. His grades were good, but the school, doctors and my parents felt that socially, he had fallen behind so they held him back again. And that’s why on March 3, 2003, I was at peace. My poor little brother had fought every day for his life and now his fight was over. All of the pain was gone. No more did he have to struggle. He no longer had to worry about the toll it took on mom–and the rest of us. His fight was over. He finished the race as it says in 1 Timothy.
That day was a wakeup call for me–my faith would have to sustain me! Mike wasn’t gone, he was living his eternal life in Heaven, no longer in pain, rejoicing for eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I would see him again and our reunion would be a blessed one! In the meantime though, I felt that I needed become the man that Mike said he was proud of. Three months prior, he told me he loved me and was proud of me and proud to call me his big brother. Those words nearly broke me because I knew from the previous 15 years that I had NOT been a good big brother to him. I didn’t really know what his last 2 years of elementary school were like because I was wrapped up in my own problems. By the time he got to middle school, I was in high school. By the time he got to high school, I was preparing to leave for college. When I was in college, I completely missed his 3rd bout of cancer–wasn’t even there. A couple of years later, I got my girlfriend pregnant, married her, divorced 2 years later and in 2003 felt like I was drowning as a single parent–and he was PROUD of me? HOW? WHY?
Those are the questions that have driven me to tell Mike’s Story–to go back into his life and tell people who he was. My little brother was an amazing man, and he’s been my role model throughout my adult life. He lived more life in his short 25 years than most of us do in a lifetime and I want to know him better–and tell the world about his amazing life.
To understand him, you have to know that he was born fighting for his life–he weighed around 2 lbs at birth. At 10, he became the youngest American ever to be diagnosed with colon cancer. That cancer came back 3 more times in 15 years–the last time as a tumor wrapped around his spine. Through it all, he always wore a smile and ALWAYS thought of others first. After he graduated from high school, he and his best friend just decided to take a road trip to wherever. They drove out to the east coast of the United States, then up into Canada and finally back home–just because they wanted to!
The only fear I ever saw in him was the fear of letting his family down. When he was told he was terminal, his “terminal date” was my 26th birthday. He told me he would NOT die on my birthday–because he didn’t want to ruin that day for me. Next, he told my dad he would not die on his birthday for the same reason (November 12). Then it was Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and mom’s birthday (February 4th). In February, we knew the time was short but he hung on. We spent that last month constantly by his side letting him know that it was ok to just let go. On March 3, his last words were uttered to mom only. He pulled himself up to her ear and whispered, “I’m sorry”. He knew that she would never recover–and that was his biggest fear–and he was sorry!
That is the Mike I want the world to know…