Wherever he is, Mike is loving this. Mike as the center of attention. That was just about his favorite thing.
That and chocolate and music, good food, a good joke – or a bad one – video games, friends and family.
Mike asked that we celebrate his life rather than grieve his death. Of course, we will grieve. His death leaves a gaping wound in all our hearts.
But Mike hated negativity. His final days were spent in a gaunt, pain-wracked body, too weak to even get out of bed. He told me the night before he died he was having a good time.
I couldn’t believe it.
But he said he had all he needed within reach: the walkie-talkie to summon me, his personal valet, cigarettes, chocolate, the TV remote, the Playstation joystick, Idiot Bear, Boo Bankie and the pee bucket.
Even though his world had shrunk to a hospital bed in a small room at my house, he found fun.
He was all about leaving the bad stuff in the past and laughing about the most inappropriate things.
When his Grandpa died, Mike wasn’t sure what it meant to celebrate someone’s life, but he learned as people talked about how my father had made them laugh, and he never stopped emulating the old man.
Mike loved an inappropriate joke. He loved making people look at things upside down or inside out and making them laugh at the most terrible things.
Mike hated cancer, but he loved playing the cancer card.
The first time he did it to me, we were at Wal-Mart. I had bought him a few things, and as we were checking out, he said, “Mommy, can I have a candy bar?”
I told him no.
“But I have cancer,” he said. “I could DIE!!”
The woman at the cash register and the woman behind me in line were shocked. Their jaws dropped as they looked at me to see what I would do next.
I stared them both down and took out my cash.
“Cancer, schmancer,” I said. “He’s always using it to get what he wants. No candy bar.”
When we got outside into the parking lot, he doubled over laughing.
“That was fun,” he said. “Can we go back in and check out again?”
“Check out? I can never set foot in that store again,” I told him.
A week before he died, Mike told me he was through playing the cancer card. I thought it might be because he didn’t think it was so funny anymore and I was about to tell him how I understood, when he said, “I have a better card now; it’s the I’m-dying card.”
Michael died peacefully, leaving all of us who loved him in awe of his grace, serenity and humor. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how he changes lives. He certainly changed mine.
Wherever he is now, he is free of his devastated body, and that gives me some comfort. But my heart is in a million pieces as I try to face the rest of my life without him.
He left quite a mark; he changed us all for the better.
Thank God for the Life o’ Mike.