In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
If me quoting scripture surprises you, imagine my surprise at the comfort these words have given me over the past few days. I couldn’t remember the exact wording without looking it up, but the spirit of that passage has run through my thoughts, again and again, ever since Friday morning.
It’s something Mikey would do. “I’ll go on ahead,” I can imagine him saying. “I’ll get things ready for you.” It’s what I picture him doing now, in the company of family and friends who have gone before, easing the way for those of us who are sure to follow.
Mikey left us too soon, but not as soon as he could have. When his struggle began, our parents didn’t think they’d have him for ten years. Once he reached his teens, twenty seemed like an impossibility. When we almost lost him at 23, no one would have taken bets on 24. Or 30. Or 40.
Mikey’s life was the dictionary definition of a miracle, coupled with the admonition that God helps those who help themselves. He could have given up at any time, and surely no one would have blamed him if he had. But “quit” wasn’t part of his vocabulary.
At Mikey and Lori’s wedding, I spoke of the roads that led them together; the hardship and pain they both had endured that eventually brought them to exactly where they needed to be, in order to find each other. Today, I’d say the same holds true for the rest of us, everyone who suddenly finds a Mikey-shaped hole in their lives.
His road led him into all of our lives, and many of us wouldn’t have had that privilege if it weren’t for his indomitable spirit. There would have been no Youth Commissions. No Mike McDaniel, or even Roger Ribbit. There would have been no Mikey and Lori, if Mikey had refused to continue fighting.
The overwhelming expressions of love and respect and remembrance over the past four days stand as a testament to Mikey’s greatest strength, the one no illness could touch or disease weaken. He always went on. For every tough hill he faced, there always seemed to be another, higher hill on the other side, and yet he kept climbing. For every battle he won, there always seemed to be another war to wage, and yet he kept fighting. And every time he got knocked down, every time he struggled to regain his feet, every time life threw more at him than any ten men could bear, he still believed. Believed that he would eventually beat the afflictions that threatened him. Believed that he’d come home again to the wife who cherished him, the family that loved him, and the friends who treasured him.
Believed that there was always a reason to get up in the morning.
And because he believed, we believed, and that’s why we’re so shocked at his passing.
And as hard as it is, as hard as it’s going to be in the days and weeks to come, we have to do the same. We have to believe, like Mikey did, that there’s a reason to get up in the morning. We have to find that part of Mikey in ourselves that refuses to let this tragedy beat us.
We have to believe.
The 30th Psalm reads, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We grieve. We cry. We rail against the night. We weep in the darkness, but joy cometh in the morning.
And, it’s always morning somewhere._______________________________________________________________
The services are done. The families have gone home. The calls have stopped and the cards have slowed to a trickle. As it inevitably must, life, once again, goes on.
Except, it hasn't.
It's only been four days since he passed and one day since we said our final goodbyes.
Except, we haven't.
I've tried to comfort. I've attempted to console. I've swallowed and pushed back and held at bay, telling myself there will be time to grieve once everything is finished.
Except, I can't. At least not yet.
The storm is coming; I'm not naive enough to deny it. I just don't know when.
But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .