My phone rang at 6:00 AM. Still groggy with sleep, I tried to make out the name on the Caller ID. It didn’t look familar so I let it ring and went back to bed.
When the phone rang again at 6:30 I looked again at the name. It was my friend Kevin from Madison. I knew this couldn’t be good news. He wouldn’t be trying to call me so early, and with such persistence.
I was right. It wasn’t good news at all.
Our friend Michael, who I had just seen when I was in Madison earlier this month, had committed suicide the night before.
Michael, Kevin and I were part of the Wisconsin State officer team for Delta Epsilon Chi (Collegiate DECA) in 1993-1994. I was the Wisconsin State President, Michael was Executive Vice President. He was my roommate at many functions and a friend almost instantly. We even traveled together to the National competition that year in Detroit.
Michael was a fun-loving guy. Always ready with a laugh and a smile, and with a knack for being quite the ladies’ man.
I sang at Michael’s first wedding. He and his fiance had some ideas on what they wanted me to sing, but I found the song “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon and played it for them, and they loved it. (I would later sing that same song at my sister’s wedding.)
Unfortunately, that marriage ended rather quickly. Michael was saddened by this, and fell into a state of despair. He called upon our friend Mimi, who also served on the state team with us, for comfort and support. He came through it, and eventually moved on.
A little later he moved to Cincinnati to work for a regional airport. After a few years there, he met a new lady and eventually married her. They had a daughter together.
But in the last few months, this relationship, too, turned sour, and Michael was again split from his spouse. (I don’t know any details and would not share them here if I did, but I do know that this split was definitely against his will.)
He had heard about everyone who was going to the conference in Madison in March, so he decided to go. As news spread about his being there, more and more people signed on to be a part of the conference. Michael was a popular guy, and people liked to be around him. We loved him, and we had an awesome time that weekend. I will remember it always.
I never, ever thought he would do this. I knew he had bouts of depression. I knew he had thought about it before. But I never thought he would actually follow through. But he did. And now we are left to pick up the pieces.
I miss my friend. I regret not spending more time with him. I regret not sending him the pictures I took of him with me and our other friends that weekend in Madison. I regret not calling him once in a while and just shooting the shit.
But regret can’t bring him back.
So I will remember him. I will remember the laughs we had; as recent as three weeks ago, and as far back as 10 years ago. I will remember his “It’s Bacon” impression from the “Beggin’ Strips” commercials that were popular in the 90’s. I will remember his suave mannerisms and his slick way with the ladies when were were just kids. I will remember his goofy laugh and his offbeat sense of humor. I will remember his acceptance of me when I came out to him. I will remember the drive to Detroit and the trip through scary and deserted Benton Harbor, thinking we would get killed (even though there was nobody around to kill us.) I will remember sitting up during conferences and talking our hearts out about everything from family to friendships; to God and love.
And the memories that I keep of him will last much longer than this painful end.
I will miss you, Michael. Farewell, my friend. I hope you are finally at peace.