Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goodbye for now...

Yesterday was a sad day. We said goodbye to one of our friends here at SJC. His name was Mike, and he was one of the Adventure Education guys here at the college. I can't really even describe the experience of participating in a Mike and Justin (his coworker) training session. They did a lot of team building, ropes course, all sorts of activities to get students (and staff and faculty) involved in their teams and community, inspiring them to take a different perspective, challenge each other, and look at each other and life differently. Time and time again, they were the highlight of student leader training. And you really couldn't have known two more stellar guys. Mike passed away suddenly on Friday, and I have not felt such a great deal of sadness in such a long time. Sadness for his family and coworker Justin. Sadness for the students that will never get to experience his wisdom, and all those who got to, but will now feel the void of his presence.

I'm reading this book called "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is about how social movements spread, and one of the essential ingredients are people called "Connectors." These are people who know everyone and easily connect with others. Their networks are widespread, their roots run deep. I think Mike was a Connector. Every week he'd inevitably ask me, "So, what'd you think of Glee?" I know he asked me this because he knew this is how he could connect with me. We'd often shoot the breeze about television or pop culture, he offering his opinion (which was usually quite similar to mine.) What I cannot help but think is that his connections were so widespread and he impacted and interacted with so many, the loss to our community is truly unprecedented. Within a matter of hours on Friday morning, before it was even publicly announced, facebook was filled with condolences. I had talked to a student over the phone later that day and she said, "I heard about Mike." The hole is too big to be filled.

At the same time I feel so tremendously indescribably blessed (and perhaps undeserving) because his last day on earth he did training with Justin for the RA staff. As Justin said yesterday, he got to spend his last day doing what he absolutely loved--his work. We were the last group who got to experience the "Mike and Justin Show." The focus of the training was talking about how to change your thinking, how to take something seemingly negative and look at it positively. Both Mike and Justin lived this principle--you could sense the genuineness and positivity in them both--their care for students and their thirst for fun. I remember sitting through training thinking, "They are so great. I have so much to learn from them." In the midst of this tragedy I tried to think about the positive, as Mike would surely ask me to do. While I would of course never wish this tragedy to ever have happened, I cannot help but think about how, even in death, Mike will teach so many how to truly live, just like he did.

All yesterday, when we learned the news, I couldn't help but think how we never really know how much time we have left, how important it is to express your thankfulness to those you love, how little time there is for hate and pettiness, and the importance of making other's lives better. I only had the privilege of knowing Mike a year and a half, but I will savor those moments with him and the wisdom that he shared with me. I'm so sad that I will not get to experience more of that, but as Tamara said, his work here on Earth was finished, and God wanted him for some reason we cannot see. I have a feeling he is having a great time up in heaven, and is probably looking at all us crying folks and thinking, "I don't know why you're so sad! It's a hoot up here!" Someone said maybe he was on a heavenly ropes course. I suggested he is probably playing a practical joke on Jesus, but that would be hard to do because of the whole omnipotent thing, but I'll bet Jesus would probably just laugh and play along.

Mike, thank you for all you taught our community. You will be missed--but I am positive you will continue to live on through all of those you have touched. Though your life was shorter then so many of us would have liked, I have a feeling you did a whole lot of living in those years. I hope we can all learn to do the same.

"Praise be to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

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