Three years ago today (January 20th) I lost a good friend. Another totally unexpected death – the second in just three weeks. Three years ago it felt like my world had crumbled beneath me.
Michael and I had been attending the same church for many years before I really got to know him. I knew he was a bit of a “celebrity” and celebrities have never been a draw for me. We started talking at a church dance just shortly after both he and I had ended relationships. We knew that we had the same birthday, and made arrangements to spend at least part of our birthday together the following month with another member of our church with the same birthday, and thus began our friendship. As time went on I thought of him as my big brother [big being the operative word here – besides being 15+ years older, he probably had a good foot on my 5’8″.]
I remember some 5 years ago when I headed back to Minnesota for a class reunion. I was very nervous – not very popular in high school and in the last reunion book (tho I did not attend that reunion) I made an announcement which probably came as a shock to this primarily Catholic town. I remember that Michael called me as I was getting ready to go to the first event and gave me a pep talk to ease my nervous stomach. And, when the next night didn’t go well, half way through I called him again and he gave me courage to go back and enjoy myself.
Michael was a kind, gentle man, with a voice that St. Louis had grown to love on the radio. He was a fixture in the Central West End of St. Louis City and an attraction every time our group of friends wandered to a public event.
Because of Michael’s connection to public ratio, he got me into a special gathering to meet Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame. He said there were hundreds of folks wanting to get in to see him. I know that it was because I was from Minnesota and Michael was the one who asked, that I got to meet and talk with Keillor for a few moments.
For several months prior to his death, when “the gang” would go out for lunch after church, we would talk about the word Michael would need to fit into his radio interviews. There were many, but the one I always remember is “higgily-piggily.” I’m not even sure if it is a real word, but he managed to work it into his interview effortlessly.
Michael is gone, but he gave me the gift of his sister Pat and one of his dearest long-time friends, Kathi who have become friends of mine as well. While neither of them live close by – Kathi is living in Jerusalem right now and Pat is in Philadelphia – they are never more than an email or phone call away should I need them.
He was one of my closest friends, and I still miss him very much.