Eulogy for Michael Micciche III
Story posted June 20, 2001
Good morning, and welcome to all of the beloved friends and family of Michael Francis Micciche III. I'm one of Little Mike's many uncles. Initially, when I offered to speak, I had intended to offer all of you my thoughts from the evening when I received that dreaded notification of Little Mike's passing. It was late at night, and, naturally, after hearing that I had lost my eldest nephew, I could not sleep. I sat at my computer and began to type. All the thoughts that came to me about Little Mike, because thatís what we all called him, Little Mike. I typed for maybe two hours, oddly I was even concerned about grammar and spelling, and even syntax and structure. When I was done, I realized that I had prepared a eulogy of sorts, without even intending to do so. Thatís when I asked Little Mike's Mom and Dad if I could speak at his services. But between then and now, something happened.
One of the things that happened was that a lot of wonderful and grief stricken young people from Bowdoin College filled in the blanks for me. The things I couldnít have seen or known about Mike and his college years. I decided that maybe I should share with everyone at Mike's services the scenes that these young men and women shared with me. So I decided to revise my writings about Mike.
Grieving is a strange thing. You go through so many stages, from disbelief, to anger, to feelings of unfairness, to questioning why or how, and finally to a form of acceptance tinged with intense sorrow. Actually, every feeling you have about the death of a youthful loved one is intense. But, I didnít cry, or more accurately I couldnít cry. I experienced a sort of catharsis that evening that I am only now beginning to understand. You see, while I was still in the stages of disbelief, I forced myself to put my thoughts about Mike down on paper, or in this case on a computer screen. I tried hard to think of all of my experiences with Little Mike. Being a realist, I pressed myself to think of everything, the good and the bad. What I realized after two hours was that I couldnít think of any bad, and it wasnít the product of a faulty memory. Almost all of my experiences with Little Mike were positive and happy encounters, and the ones that weren"t, were entirely during the typically awkward years that are early adolescence. But even those experiences were not negative, merely neutral. I realized that I couldnít cry because laid out before me in the form of a Microsoft Word document was a beautiful life filled with laughter and smiles, conquests and success, accolades and honors, achievements and fulfillment, and how could I cry about that? In fact thinking about Little Mike, all I could do was smile and think that as far as his life was concerned, he did it right.
Some of you may have noticed in our collage of baby pictures of Little Mike that was displayed during his visiting hours, there was a snapshot of a little carrot-topped kid holding a beer bottle. This was symbolic of one of many seminal moments in Mike's life. Little Mike's first word was not mama ,or dada, but courtesy of a little coaching from Uncle Steven, it was buh-why-sa. Hence the picture of the little guy holding a Budweiser bottle. I tell you this not to illustrate my brother Steven's pedantic abilities, but to demonstrate that Little Mike was a sponge awaiting droplets of information to suck up. You didnít have to repeat things to Mike, he only needed to hear or see it once to commit it to memory. Ask anyone who made the mistake of telling that toddler their phone number.
As Little Mike grew up, I saw him at the usual holidays and family birthdays, which in MY family are frequent. I'd also see him at Sunday dinner very often. He was always an inquisitive kid, and when he was reading at the age of three, he couldnít get enough of it. Lord help you if you were reading to HIM one of his favorite dinosaur books and mispronounced stegosaurus or pterodactyl, he would correct you instantaneously.
Now as Mike entered his teenage years, I must say he was
well, I guess gangly would be a kind word. Goofy might be more accurate. He would come to family gatherings, with his legs and arms seemingly too long for him to control. He would find a quiet corner and open a book many times, a budding intellectual. When he would joke around with his uncles or his siblings or cousins, it would always be silly things. But if you chatted him up about baseball, you best be an encyclopedia of baseball knowledge. That kid could look at a baseball card for a few minutes and memorize every fact and figure on there, it really was amazing. And it spoke to his genius. But in all the times I ever saw Little Mike, he was never really idle. He was always up to something.
In his high school years, he wasnít satisfied to just ace his pre-SATs when he was a freshman. He decided to take on band and swimming too. My father told me that he met Mike's High School swimming coach at the Bowdoin commencement, and the coach told him that Little Mike may not have had the most physical ability, but he always gave his all and had a lot of heart. When I saw Mike during these years, he was very quiet, almost introverted as teenagers sometimes get around adult relatives. He seemed unhappy in some ways, but whenever he opened his mouth he had good words to say and a smile to finish it off. Sometimes I thought it was impossible for him NOT to smile, like that would take more effort than doing nothing at all.
When Mike got accepted to Bowdoin, he was thrilled, as was the whole family. We knew he had incredible intellect, and everyone thought Bowdoin was a fine place to further cultivate it. I was a little afraid for the kid though. While he was brilliant well beyond his years, I didnít think that he had the social skills to survive away from home. I had never seen Little Mike as a social creature, but more of an introverted intellectual, as many a genius is. This didnít take away from his sparkling and loving personality. He was the sweetest kid you'd ever want to meet. Always a kind word for everyone, and nothing bad to say about anyone. He had a big heart, and always seemed like he wanted to make everyone around him happy. And he was constantly smiling, or smirking. And I hoped that maybe that good heart would translate well in a tight-knit college community.
Through Mike's time at Bowdoin I didnít see him much, and often times he couldnít make it to family functions, he explained, because he had to study. Not surprising to many of us. When I did see him he would tell us how great it was, how he loved dorm life, his classes were fascinating, his instructors wonderful. He genuinely seemed to be having the time of his life. He was involved in giving tours of Bowdoin, which his friends who are here today tell me was because he walked better backwards than forwards. Little Mike had worked at the radio station and found that he truly loved broadcasting, he even rose to be station manager. His friends have told me that his favorite job, however, was interviewing prospective students. He took the time to learn all there was about his college, because Mike never did anything half way. In fact, he had recently taken up weight lifting, and figured he'd start out at THREE HOURS A DAY and work his way up. Nothing ever half way, all he knew was whole hog. Charging ahead full steam.
And he apparently never ran out of steam. As I was comforting one of his close college buddies the other day, I told him that Mike had truly lived a blessed life, seizing every opportunity that had come his way, making the most of himself, and giving as much of himself to all his endeavors as humanly possible. I told this recent Bowdoin graduate that my nephew didnít have regrets in his life, because he took advantage of every minute of every day, never missing a beat. At this, that young man who was on the verge of tears, looked up at me and smiled and then started to laugh. He said, "You know something, you're right. Did you know he never slept more than 5 1/2 hours a night? Always almost exactly 5 1/2 hours, he would spring out of bed and run down to the radio station or get into his day's work. And it didnít matter what time he had gone to bed. 5 1/2 hours was it." It made me wonder if Little Mike knew something we didn't. If he knew his time was short, so he had to cram as much as he could into each day.
Extracurricular activities were just that to Little Mike, at least according to his Bowdoin grades. Classes came first, and he did extremely well. But, he still managed to fit in time for his many friends, and according to him and them, they all had the time of their lives. The last four years, Little Mike seemed happier and more well adjusted than I had ever seen him.
I last saw Little Mike at my grandmother's 90th birthday party in October. I met some of my brothers over at Little Mike's father's house in York. As I walked in, a towering young man strode directly over to me with his hand extended. "Hey Uncle Chris! Great to see you! How've you been?" So much for shy and reserved. His handshake was firm, his demeanor self-assured. The carrot-topped boy I had known, and seen go off to college had come home a man. It seemed like time had flown by me. And I felt like I had missed something.
Mike's four years at Bowdoin had allowed him to blossom, and it seems he found himself. Instead of unsure, he seemed confident. Instead of bookish, he seemed comfortable in social settings, making small talk as well as intellectual chatter. Mike had become a fine, well-rounded young man. As comfortable talking about the weather as sports or Shakespeare.
I spent a good portion of my time at that party talking to Mike. He told me about girlfriends and law schools, and how he loved majoring in English as well as studying the law. He told me he worried about his little brother, and hoped that Brian would find happiness in his life. He joked with me about having to lean on some of his sister Kim's new boyfriends to keep them in line. Then he talked about his parents, Michael and Patty, and he expressed his gratitude for all that they had done to help him along the way. The support and love he got from all of his family, he told me, had been what kept him going all along. The fact that he could speak to me from his heart, and express such adoration for his parents and brother and sister spoke volumes about his maturity. And I was sad that I had missed this metamorphosis. While he was away at college, he came into his own. I was so impressed by little Mike, I told all my brothers how he had overwhelmed me with how much he had changed. When I got home to Virginia, I told my wife of what a fine young man Michael had become, and the indelible impression he had left on me. I realized that he had become more my equal, and a little less my nephew. That was the last time, as it turns out, that I would ever talk to Little Mike. Today I can look back and see how enriching those moments spent with him were for me. I caught a glimpse that day of a man, who I really had only known as a child, and he was a fine man. And I knew he was going places.
When I found out about Mike's accident, all I could think was, "My God, what a waste." My second thought was, "How could God be so cruel and unfair." So many people waste the gifts they have been given, and squander lives of endless possibilities. But he was a person who was multiplying, exponentially, the loaves the good lord had provided him. Not long ago, many of you sitting here today with heavy hearts of sorrow sat before a different podium. All of your hearts were filled with joy and celebration at Mike's accomplishments. Many of you heard his tremendous baccalaureate commencement speech, and all were impressed. His future was bright, like the lyrics to a song say, "So bright you gotta wear shades." Those of you who sat there were celebrating his future as well as his commencement and academic accolades. While my parents, who attended the graduation, spoke of how wonderful the whole experience was, something else impressed me more. I was told that his long-time employers, the Calaresos, had made the 3-hour drive all the way to Bowdoin to spend the weekend sharing Mike's commencement exercises. This illustrated what an exceptional young man Mike really was. All I could think is how much love he must fill those around him with to have such a lasting impact. Those of you who know me, know that there are few people in this world that I admire. But, I had found that I had great admiration for Mike. And, I felt he deserved every bit of it.
Mike saw what he wanted, and he persevered, and he went about humbly reaping the fruits of his labors. He wasnít arrogant or cocky or full of himself. He was a young man that didnít only set goals and strive to conquer them, he also took time to stop and smell the roses. Whether it was kayaking in Maine, touring and studying in Europe, or driving across country with his closest friends. He was always persevering, and never resting on his many laurels. It was apparent that Little Mike had a thirst for the sweetest nectars that this life could offer him. He was living life on his terms, and he had the world in the palm of his hand. His life may have been tragically cut short, but it seems to me that his life was more full, more fun, and more satisfying than most people dare to hope for in even a hundred years of life.
Mike was probably so loved by all that knew him because he was the sweetest guy on earth and he had a huge heart. Nowhere could one find a clearer example of his good-heartedness than in the final days of his life. As he was frantically preparing for his long cross-country trip, he went out of his way to hunt down some tickets for the U2 concert in Boston. Those tickets were a hot item, and very hard to come by. He had a big date planned, and he wanted it to be perfect. Mike treated his Mom, Patty, to a night on the town before he left for part of the summer. They took the train to Boston, had dinner, and went to the concert. They reminisced about old times, shared laughs and smiles, and talked about Mike's bright future. That was Mike's thank you to his Mom after graduating college, and his goodbye before he left cross-country. Mike was always thoughtful, and he loved all of his family very much. Perhaps somehow he knew that it was the most important thing in the world to get that final goodbye in, and thatís what he did.
So as we sit here today trying to cope with this devastation that has set upon us by this tragic accident, maybe we should take Mike's example of how to live life. What is truly important in life? Not money or careers, not success. What's most important is that we make the most of the time we have, and we live our lives without regret. I believe thatís exactly what Mike did, and along the way he touched many lives and hearts with his sweet and compassionate ways. Little Mike, in your short 22 years, I have realized that I never told you, but I love you. I was proud of you, not because of scholarships, or Harvard Law, or Bowdoin, or baccalaureate speeches, but because you had become the rarest of all things
a man I admire. I admired you for you zeal, your compassion, your intellect, and how you never ceased to seize the day. We never know when our final day is upon us, and you lived every day as if it was your last. Your loss has taught me that life is precious, and time is uncertain. I have learned from you that we should settle all of our accounts by the end of each day, lest we never see another sunrise. There are people here who know I love them, but have never heard me say it, as you never heard me say it. But you have changed that for me Little Mike, and I hope for everyone here today as well. I hope that we will all honor you by making the most of each minute of our lives, as you did. Perhaps that is your lesson to those that you have held so dear. For me, your life will be a monument in Technicolor to the saying "Life's a journey, not a destination." You savored your journey, and I hope all of us take the time to savor ours. As I drove north to be here this weekend, I heard a song on the radio that I will now always connect with Little Mike, because I believe it tells his story. The song was "I believe I can fly." Mike believed that he could fly, touch the sky, spread his wings and fly away, that he could soar, run through every open door. He believed it, and so he did it.
Finally, I would like my sweet nephew to know, as he looks down upon us today and hears these words spoken on his behalf, that this is not the hollow praise of a eulogy, but a heartfelt and genuine expression of how you affected my life, and the many loved ones here today. We have not gathered here today to say goodbye, because I donít think Mike will ever really leave those of us whose lives he has touched. Nor should we be here to feel sorry for ourselves, and the loss of a gift in our lives. We are here to celebrate a brilliant and beautiful life, extinguished well before its time. We should take comfort from one another, and know that what brings us together is our shared love for Mike, and the love that he gave all of us. I know Little Mike will always be with me, in my heart and soul, and my fondest memories. You were loved by so many Mike, and you will be missed by all. God Bless You Michael Francis Micciche the third, and God Bless all of us who have to sadly carry on without you.
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