I originally wrote this for myself to deal with grief in March 2017.
This blog post has been months in the making for me. I didn’t even know what to write at first. On November 17th, 2016, my cousin Michael, passed away. He was only 37 years old. I was told about this two days later on a Saturday morning by my mother in the car when she picked me up from work after my night shift. I did not sleep that day…or even that weekend. I was absolutely devastated. More than any other family members could even know.
Michael was more than a cousin to me. He was my “second brother”. The best friend I ever had in life my life. Mike, as I always called him, was half a year younger than I. Our maternal grandmothers were sisters. So we were 3rd cousins officially. During seventh grade, in junior high school, bullying was really taking its toll on my mind and my body. I was literally losing my mind. I was suicidal. My parents pulled me out of school in the last few months for my survival. I was sneaked back into the school library in June to write my final exams. For eighth grade, I was transferred to another school an hour’s drive away where my mother taught grade three. This public school was for all grades up to grade nine. This is when Mike and I first became close.
Mike and I were in all the same classes. Since I lived an hour away and in another town, my Mom usually worked after school. I would go to Mike’s house after school. So Mike and I were together all day long at school and afterward. These were our “coming of age” years and we talked about everything that young men think about at that age. I had been bullied all my life, even to violent extremes, but Mike accepted me as I was. Like the brother he never had. We became inseparable during our junior high school years. We were basically Wayne and Garth, or Bill and Ted. You messed with me, you messed with Mike and vice versa. I have countless stories about Mike and I during these years that I could write a series of stories on the subject. I am sure I will share them over time right here.
I went on my first date together with Mike. It was a double date. Mike was dating a girl and he encouraged me to ask out this girl, Becca, who danced with me at the school dances and who I had a crush on. So all four of us ended up going to see the Charlie Sheen movie “The Chase” at the Air Force base theatre. My first date ever. I remember later on that night calling her on the phone after 9 pm while sitting on the stairs at Mike’s house to “officially” ask her to be my girlfriend. Sadly, her parents answered the phone and were freaked out over a boy calling their daughter that late at night. I guess they thought I was bad news. If they only knew the truth. Who knows what could’ve happened with her and I. I never saw her again other than in the hallways at school.
In 1992, I got my first electric guitar and seriously started to learn how to play. Taking lessons at the local music store. Each month Mike would either come stay at our house for a weekend or I would stay at his house in the basement. I would bring my electric flying-V guitar and mini-amp and I would teach him what I learned on guitar in the basement. He had his 12-string acoustic guitar. So many musical good times we had. I still privately play and sing all the weird and silly songs we wrote and sang together in that basement with our guitars. We both also got into martial arts. Other than mimicking Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Jean_Claude Van Damme movies, Mike and I took actual classes. I had taken Judo, boxing and Taekwondo classes. We would always be trying out new movies on each other, either in our front yards or in the basement. We’d still be doing this today I am sure. Friendly challenging each other. We were always having strength competitions with each other. I miss those days. Dearly. The last time I spoke to him on the phone, we still planned our little tests of strength and might between us. We so respected and admired one another still.
My family moved again and so Mike and I were in separate high schools. We visited each other for weekends all throughout high school.
Mike’s younger sister, Michelle, was (and obviously still is) only a year older than my own brother. I babysat her a few times while Mike worked at the local video store. I remember to this day taking her to see the movie “Batman Forever” in the summer of 1995. I thought of her as the little sister that I never had. I still do to this day. Mike and I had a deep conversation one time in 1998 that I will never forget. Something he brought up again in our last phone conversation. He asked me man to man to look out for his sister if anything was to ever happen to him one day. I promised him I would. I wish I was closer to his sister Michelle these days. I will NEVER break that promise I made to her brother. i know she is a grown woman now and even as of writing this, has someone in her life that I know is a good guy. Still…I will ALWAYS look out for her and want to protect her. Especially now with Mike gone. I will be there for her. Always.
Mike and I had not seen each other in over ten years. Though we talked on the phone. The last time we talked was about a year or so ago. We talked for at least 3 hours straight. Which is what usually happened when we were on the phone together. I wish I had that call recorded. You’d be able to tell how much we loved and thought of each other. We made plans. So many things we wanted to do together again. Things we talked about doing back while coming of age. These things still seemed so possible. Neither of us even thought possible that either of us would be gone anytime soon. Never seeing each other ever again…never came to either of our minds.
I had no idea that he was so sick. Fuck. Goddammit. Fuck. I guess he only wanted his sister and parents to know. I did get a Facebook message from him requesting my phone number again a year ago. I replied with my number. He never got around to calling me. I would’ve called him each day to be there for him. No matter any cost. It kills me each and every day wishing I could have been there for him. I wish I had known how sick he was. I cry almost every day wishing I had known. I know Mike was tough. He held me up during some of the hardest times of my life when I was younger. He would fight anything that came his way. He did his best. I know. I just wish I could have been there during his final days. To hug him and remind him how much he meant to me. What comforts me somewhat, is knowing Mike remembered and knew how I felt about him. I am sure of this. Knowing Mike, I do understand why he kept his illness private. I get it. I do respect his decision. No matter how much I wish I had that chance to say goodbye. I always will.
Now in full disclosure, I’ve fallen down and smashed my fists to the floor many times in recent months. Mike’s death has been devastating for me. Not to dare compare my pain with that of his parents or sister. I never could imagine. For me, with how close we were. As you’ve read. Especially with him being my age. My brother. My fucking TWIN in many ways. I’ve had grandparents die in recent years, but with Mike dying, it is like having an arm amputated. I’ve thought about suicide again. Truth. Full disclosure here. He was so much a part of my existence and my world. My future plans and world. As I mentioned before, I could go on and on with many stories of him and I growing up together.
Yes. I do love my own brother, Thomas. My one and only brother. Mike and I were the same age and basically grew up together as best friends but I am always here for my own brother. I love him very dearly. I mentioned suicide above just now so I know people reading this have it on their minds. I have tried to take my own life three times in the past. I have both mental and physical scars from each of these events. One time, I barely survived. Mike was the only person my age that I truly had on my side. When someone gets you…and truly accepts you…that is special. You fucked with me, you fucked with Mike. So many times he had my back with bullies. I will always love him for that so much. He ALWAYS had my back.
My goodness. I could go on and on about Mike. I am still upside-down without him around in many ways. Over the past few months. I have had many breakdowns. As I’ve already stated. Screaming for Mike to be alive. Wishing I could have done something to keep him here. Wishing I was there for him while he was sick. I’d have given my own life for his.
Losing Mike, for me, has been like living the movie “Stand By Me”. Mike was like Chris Chambers to me if I was Gordie LeChance in that movie. That movie holds so much more meaning to me now. The final words from the narrator of that movie state my truth:
“Although I hadn’t seen him in over ten years, I know I’ll miss him…forever.”
In the end, all I can do is remember him. I am now taking better care of my own health. Losing weight and working out. I want to do my best to live a longer and happier life and be a good man. For myself. For Mike and his family. I will always keep my promise to Mike and watch out for his younger sister and his Mom and Dad. Till my final day.
I love you, Mike. My brother. My best man.