Remembering . . .

Michael & Wiley

Last Tuesday was the first anniversary of my brother’s death and Saturday was his birthday. His wife (I still have trouble with “widow”) threw a party at the last restaurant he managed – Monty’s in the Grove. It was a lovely party with family and friends. Last year, right after Michael’s death, his best friend Shawn threw a birthday party for him at the Coral Reef Yacht club – it was a time for stories about Michael. Some were funny, some were sad, and some were in poor taste. But that’s what we needed. We all wanted something to hold on to.

Some things aren’t meant to be moved on from. This year there were fewer Michael-stories, but more discussions about how everyone was dealing – how our own lives had changed. Michael’s family moved to a new house where life will be hopefully easier – with more children running around and more support. Others have also taken action to spend more time with family as the central part of their lifestyle.

That’s certainly been part of Caroline and my story since Michael’s death. After the funeral, we went back up to Silver Spring, where we were living. But then in dealing with our day-to-day and plans for the future, we realized we could not go on as if nothing had happened. My own plans for a new house, for example, just felt so self-indulgent all of a sudden. After ensuring that it would actually be helpful to Michael’s wife Melissa, we came down to be more of a part of her life and the kids’ lives. And we decided to work together.

Although the impetus for these changes is almost unbearably sad, we have enjoyed the results immensely. I love getting to know Melissa and her family better; I love playing with my niece and nephew so often; and I love spending more time with my own wife and children. When dealing with this kind of pain there can be only one cure – that’s more love.

Eulogy for Michael

For those who are interested, I am including my eulogy for Michael:

Michael truly was a loving person who was loved by all who knew him – and this started at an early age.

I remember when we were in elementary school, the two beautiful young stewardesses who lived in the apartment downstairs just doted on him. I remember the Israeli drug dealer our mother was dating at the time would occasionally pause from his general yelling, stroke his chin, look at Michael, and say “this is a manly child”.

It was during this time that Michael developed his life-long love for the music of the Bee-Gees. You simply have not seen dancing until you’ve seen Michael dancing to “Staying Alive”.

And Michael was involved in the lives of the people around him – when he managed a local restaurant chain, he knew details of the lives of every one of the 300 people who worked for him.

And he was generous. When he felt that the company he worked for did not sufficiently reward the people who worked there, he took his own money to make sure they knew he appreciated them. Michael knew that success is a team effort.

And he loved his family.

I remember Michael visiting us when our 1st daughter was born – he brought all seven dwarves with him, life sized. And he bought out the entire stuffed animal inventory of FAO Schwartz.

When our son was born, he brought a Minnie Mouse that was bigger than him – I think he had to buy an extra plane seat for that Minnie.

Michael wanted nothing more than to start a family of his own.

And he did. But Michael suffered unspeakable tragedy when his pregnant wife Ashley died in a car accident.

We were all devastated. Michael sank into a depression so deep that we could have lost him then. But Michael’s love for his family pulled him through.

Michael took in our father and cared for him when he lost his bout with lung cancer. And Michael cared for our Mother when she had her long fight to receive two lung transplants.

Both of these times Michael had Melissa by his side.

Now I’m not the best person to tell you of the romantic saga of Michael’s love for Melissa, but I can tell you that I know she was very important to him from the beginning.

And I can tell you that she saved Michael from dying from his unbearable heartbreak.

And since he married you, Melissa, and since you two had this beautiful wild Antonella, and this incredible happy boy Peter, Michael has been the happiest man in the world. You made him so happy.

The last words Michael wrote were to Antonella [he wanted to write to each of you, but he couldn’t] [I had the original paper at the time, but it is now with Melissa. This is the best I can remember]:

“I have loved the thought of you for as long as I can remember. You have made me cry tears of incredible joy.”

Enough of this lovey-dovey stuff.

Michael truly wanted the best for everyone around him. I know everyone here who knew Michael can tell a story about how Michael went out of his way to make your life better.

So I am going to ask you all to do something.

Tell each other, tell me: how did Michael touch you, help you, make your life better.

Let’s not stop telling each other these stories.

We need to keep Michael here, because he was taken from us way too soon.