Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Tribute to Mike

Today is my big brother, Mike's birthday. He would be 51 years old. There are certain days that he is on my mind more than others. Of course, today is one of them. It has been 7 years now since he passed away but I miss him and think of him always. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that he is in a better place and that I will see him again. What a blessing that is to me. There is just something about having a big brother. He always made me feel safe and I trusted him with all my worries and concerns especially through my teen years. I'd have to say he was the perfect big brother (teasing included).

In May of 1993, Mike was surfing off the coast of Southern California and somehow broke his neck. He was surfing a wave and the next thing he knew he was face down in the water. He laid there conscious watching his hands hanging down, floating in front of him, but was unable to move. He held his breath, hoping someone would see him and come to his rescue. It was around 7:30 a.m. and a lifeguard, who wasn't even supposed to be on duty until 8:00 had come in a little early that morning. He was standing at the Marine Avenue headquarters window shaving when he caught sight of Mike. By this time Mike's friend that had been surfing with him had come to his rescue and so did others that saw what was happening. His friend was screaming for help because he knew something was seriously wrong. The lifeguard radioed the paramedics and hurried to the water. Mike eventually passed out. He was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and later life flighted to UCLA Medical Center. Despite the fact that he never impacted the sand, or was hit by his board, it was determined that his neck was broken and the spinal chord severed.

Mike lived 8 years as a C-6 Quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. He taught me a lot during our childhood but so much more after this accident. He had more courage and faith than anyone I have ever known. Although he definitely had his bad days, he was for the most part amazingly upbeat. He had an incredible sense of humor. There was a strap on his wheel chair that would keep him from falling forward. One day he had wheeled up to the table and was eating his breakfast cereal and the strap gave way. He fell forward face down in the bowl of cereal. He said he kept imagining the news headline reading something like... "Man dies face down in Cheerios". Mike was a great story teller and he had so many funny stories of adventures in that chair.

During his last year I visited with him every Tuesday, other days as well, but Tuesdays were my "Mike Days" . I always left his place feeling happier than when I arrived. I'm so glad I had my Tuesdays with him. He told me about his mission in France, stories from his travels around the world (he'd been just about everywhere), and he would share his testimony of the Savior. He was so brave to me. We would laugh and cry and with only partial use of his arms he managed to give the best hugs ever. The day before he passed away, he wanted to read scriptures together. He loved Alma and as we were reading, he pointed out his favorite verses and even asked me to write them down.
Alma 34: 40-41 "And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; ....... But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions." I love to read these verses and feel comforted knowing that Mike is free of his afflictions. I love you Mike, Happy Birthday.


Marci said...

I'm so glad you posted this tribute to Mike even though it totally made me cry :-)! I especially loved the scripture at the end. I miss him too!

Diane said...

Thank you Kelley, for sharing some memories of Mike. I feel like I got to know him a little bit, and he inspired and uplifted me. It made me cry, as well. That picture of him holding you looks like he could be holding Ella!

Sara Jean said...

This is Marci's friend, Sara. I loved reading your tribute to your big brother. It made me get teary eyed and I don't even know Mike. What an amazing person. I'm so sorry you lost his early but I'm glad you had him on earth while you did.

Annemarie said...

I had heard about his accident but had no idea he passed away. I am so sorry. I remember him as such a neat guy, and very funny!
I lost my big brother Scott last December and it is a very hard thing to go through. Thank you for wording it so beautifully.
We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the hereafter. Please give your family my love.

Annemarie said...

We studied that chapter of Alma in Sunday School today and I got chills when I read it here.

Brittany said...

Kelley this post is so beautiful and inspiring. I agree with my mom that it makes me feel like I know him now. He is in a much better place though and how awesome to know that you'll see him again :)

Christina Bambina said...

Beautiful words.

I remember the day of the terrible news.

Sending you lot's of love......