A man was laid to rest this week. There were no banner headlines marking his passing. Only his family and those few who were his friends or coworkers knew of him. There were a smattering of comments about him on Facebook and the newspaper held the usual kind of obituary outlining the essential elements of his life. He was quiet and unassuming and so too was his final memorial.
I first met Michael when he was still a young boy, a teenager only nine years younger than I am but who at the time seemed to be from another generation. He was the only son of my next door neighbors and I mainly saw him coming and going from school and outings with his friends. He was always polite and helpful, quite pleasant, and I liked him even without talking much. His was a blended family melded from the union of two people who had each been married to someone else. All together there were five girls and Michael who had been born in France while his father served in the Air Force. I never really knew what became of his birth mom but I learned soon enough how much his second mom truly loved him. I suppose that it was inevitable that she would because Michael was so sweet with an oh so genuine smile.
Michael followed in his daddy’s footsteps and joined the Air Force as soon as he could. He loved planes and flying, something that he also inherited from his father. He was one of those people who always tried so hard but seemed to be stalked by bad luck. Somehow he never let the setbacks get him down. Each time life dealt him a blow he got right back up and began again.
He eventually found great solace in God. His faith was joyful and profound. He was so happy to know his savior that he proclaimed his newfound faith to the world. He was lit up with a fervor that wasn’t always understood or appreciated. He wanted to share what he had learned so that everyone he knew would feel the love that had made such a difference for him. At one point he actually lost a job because he refused to still his voice when it came to proclaiming the word of the Lord. Luckily other employers were more understanding of his fervor and he proved to be a remarkable worker who gave his all to his jobs.
Everyone who knew Michael loved him. He possessed a generous spirit much like his mom and dad. He was never particularly concerned with hoarding earthly treasures as much as making certain that the people he encountered would be okay. He loved unconditionally and believed totally in salvation and forgiveness. Even when people hurt him he was willing to take them back into his heart.
After Michael left home I didn’t see him that often. He always came to the big family celebrations that his parents held. The ever growing family would crowd into their little home and fill the air with their laughter. When his father began to grow weak from his own illnesses I often saw Michael mowing the lawn or doing other tasks around the house to help his parents. He’d always wave and smile just as he had done when he was still a teenager.
I moved from the old neighborhood almost twelve years ago. At first I lost track of everyone but through the power of Facebook I found members of Michael’s family one by one. I was saddened to learn that his father had died. He was such a good man who took care of all of us who lived near him. I found out that his mother had moved to east Texas and on one occasion when I was camping I was close enough to her new home to go see her. She was as hospitable as ever, stuffing me with all of the wonderful delicacies that she is known for creating in the kitchen. Since that time I read all about various family trips and parties and emergencies. It was with great sorrow that I heard that Michael was dying in the hospital. It somehow didn’t seem right that someone so young was being taken from those who loved him so.
Michael was taken from this world far too soon. He was only fifty nine. He suffered more than most. The pain in his final weeks was almost unbearable but he saw it as a small price to pay for the eternal glory that he was convinced he would soon share with God. He was certain that his heavenly home would be far grander than anything that he had acquired on earth. He assured his wife, his children and his grandchildren that he would always be watching over them even when he was gone and that one day they would all be reunited in heaven.
Now Michael is free of pain and hurt. He is flying high above us with the wings of an angel. Those who knew him will surely miss him. He was a good man. All of us should have someone like him in our lives. Rest in peace, gentle soul. You have surely earned your reward.