Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tribute to a Friend

Mike is the 'adopted' grandfather to my kids.  During a life of caring about everyone around him, he collected lots of kids beyond the two he brought into the world.  Luckily for us, Little Bear and Girlie Bear's mom was one of them.  She grew up with his daughter, and Mike and his wife Barb took her under their wing.

After we divorced and she returned to Louisville, they were a godsend to her and the kids.  That's when I met Mike.  Even though I was the 'ex', he and his family took me in too.  During family emergencies and day to day life, they helped out the kids' mom and I.   I tried to reciprocate, but that was a debt that I never could repay, and repayment was never expected.

When Irish Woman and I got together, they took her into the family with no questions asked.  When BooBoo came along, their entire family was with me as I waited for Irish Woman and BooBoo to come up from recovery. 

Mike worked hard all his life.  He raised two wonderful kids, and added to the raising of Lord knows how many more.  30+ years ago, he got sick, and his kidneys died.  Luckily, a close family member donated one, and he got one of the earliest kidney transplants from a living donor.  I've been told he's been a beacon of hope to other transplant patients because of his longevity. 

He returned to his job stringing phone lines.  The massive amounts of drugs necessary to prevent rejection of his new kidney drastically decreased his ability to fight the sun, and eventually he came down with very bad skin cancer.  His quality of life went down, but his attitude never did.  Mike never met a stranger, and his own problems never did anything to reduce his love of life or the smile on his face.

Over the past few years, his health has slowly drained him.  He has fought long and hard with the sickness so that he could be there for his wife, children, and extended family.   Even when you could tell that he felt really bad, he wanted to go out for a ride in the boat or play with the kids.  He was content to have a house full of people, or just a couple of friends over for a movie.  He never greeted anyone with less than a smile and a good handshake, and you never wanted to leave his house unless you absolutely had to.

This morning, my family lost a very important piece to our puzzle.  Mike has been in the hospital for several weeks, and he passed away today.  My family will be praying for him and Barb and Jenny and Jason.

Mike, Irish Woman and I will always be there for your wife and family.  Jenny will always be Aunt Jenny, and Barb will always be Mamaw to our kids.  When we talk about our family, you will always be Papaw.  You are our father not because we were born to you, but because your heart was too big to not reach out to pick up the strays and love them. 

We all love you, and we will miss you until we join you.  May the Lord bless you and Barb, and hold you in the palm of his hand.


Christina LMT said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, DaddyBear. My condolences to Mike's entire (extended) family. He sounds like someone I would have liked to have met. May he rest in peace.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Very touching remembrance. Prayers for you all.

Stay strong.

Borepatch said...

I'm sorry to hear this, and he sounds like quite a man.

Our condolences to you and to all his family.

Shannon said...

Beautifully heartfelt tribute. Mike obviously made quite an impact on many lives, and although he is gone in body, he will live on in the hearts and souls of everybody he touched - condolences to all involved and prayers of healing held high.

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