Wanted: A New Best Friend

Wanted: Best friend. Must be a bit goofy. Great storyteller a bonus. Appreciation for art, music and beauty in life. Funny sans sarcasm. Love people while simultaneously irritated by them.

Love food. Dining out, dining in. Adventurous spirit a must. An innate curiosity. Engaged and interested in the world. Above all, kind hearted. 

 

Mike was my best friend. He was my companion, my cheerleader, and my love. And he just got me. And I got him.

True friendship is such a gift. I am blessed. My friends are my light. They have given me so much joy, love and support. Did I already say, I’m blessed? Because I truly am. My friends are my bedrock. (Forgive me, this may be dipping into motivational speaking territory, or, dear lord, aspirational message town.)

Here’s a point: Mike was my husband. He was my love but he was also a fantastic friend. I really, really liked him. That may sound a touch off but the idea of liking your spouse—liking them as a human being, aside from all the romantic and tummy-flipping feelings—isn’t something that gets traction in popular consciousness.

Liking your partner is more important than loving them. Love will fade and surge over time. If you fundamentally like the human beside you, that is the basis of a solid relationship.

That’s free advice folks. I’m not an expert. But I’m an expert in Mike and I.

And I miss my favourite person. He won’t be replaced.

I have many friends in my corner. And I’ve made several new friends since his death.

My new pals never met Mike. My life is moving forward without him.

Mike is now part of my past.

I feel sad for Will and I.

And I feel sad for all the people that never got to meet my incredible best friend.

My Valentine: A love letter from beyond the grave

vdday

Mike was a romantic guy.

My husband’s gestures of love were big and small. He slipped them in seamlessly throughout our days. He did it with a word, a look, a touch.

I was loved. He made that clear.

On Valentine’s Day two years ago, he bought me a book of vintage Valentines. He wrote on all 36 cards. It was the story of our love. His messages were poignant, sweet, romantic, and even a bit goofy.  The notes are snapshots of our life together. (For anyone currently in love, I recommend this idea. Please steal it. Make someone happy.)

The following year, I copied his vintage Valentines move.

This Valentine’s Day, I obviously wasn’t expecting a gesture of love from my dead husband.

But I was wrong.

Three months before his death he sat on the floor in our closet. He culled paper work from our filing cabinet, tossing out old files, taxes and letters.

A few days ago, I was going though the cabinet looking for nothing in particular. I randomly grabbed a folder. Inside was a document titled ‘The Thing.’

Mike was an avid list maker. He wrote lists for everything; long and short term goals; places he wanted to see; his favourite meals, movies and books; and so on. And on. And on.

‘The Thing’ was his step-by-step plan detailing how he would propose to me. He came up with two options: a New Year’s Eve proposal over dinner; or popping the question at Winnipeg’s English Garden, our favourite spot.

He went with option B. He asked me in the garden on his 44th birthday. He produced his great-grandmother’s engagement ring. Later, he had chilled champagne waiting for us inside our room at the Fort Garry Hotel.

Back in the closet, I scanned the note. Joy washed over me. Sadness came next. And then a rush of love for my dear love.

He left the note for me to find after he died.

And I found it one week before Valentine’s Day.

When I need Mike the most, when I need to feel his love around me, he sends me a sign. ‘The Thing’ is his sign.

The universe is on my side.

And Mike is still on my side.

I know it. I feel it. And with this note, I see it.

Leaping Forward, Walking on Air

Monday, August 18, 2008  - Calgary, Alberta  Calgary Lawyer, and dual-U.S.-Canadian citizen, Gerald Chipeur in his office on Monday, August 18, 2008. Chipeur the former head of Republicans Abroad Canada displays a photo of himself and Senator John McCain. Chipeur has a long history representing right-of-centre political parties and groups (the Reform, the Alliance, the Conservatives, Focus on the Family, etc.) and is not unknown to U.S. conservative political circles.  Photo by CHRIS BOLIN for Macleans Magazine

Before Mike died he wrote a message to his friends and family. At his memorial service, Mike’s good friend Dean Jenkinson read it. Mike was a gifted writer, amazing husband and father, and a great human being. That shines through in his final message. — Robin

 

So, if this is really happening, I guess that last-minute cure didn’t turn up. Don’t worry, one day it will. A lot of smart people working together every day are going to unlock that puzzle. Until then, there will be gatherings like this.

I don’t know what your expectation of Heaven, is, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s like an air-conditioned mall with permanent mark-downs on upscale items. Everything in the food court is free, even Orange Julius.

I don’t know who’s here but I can picture about 90 per cent of you. I hope you’re smiling. I knew very little true sadness in my life, even during its very end. Don’t feel bad for me.

I feel bad for Robin and Will. They have the tougher job. They have to carry on. In time, Will will understand the permanence of this situation. Robin will endure. I know Will has a great foundation. I have been blessed with spending a lot of time with him for the first four years of his life — more than many fathers get. And he will continue to have a loving, affectionate, grizzly bear of a mother, who will bring him up as wisely as anyone could.

Will, I want to tell you three things. I mean them all. First, be kind to other kids. Help them if they are sad. That’s the number one way you can make me proud. Second, be the boy you want to be, and feel good about yourself. You’re pretty great. Third, always wear comfortable shoes. I had to learn this lesson twice. If you feet hurt, ask your mom to buy you bigger shoes. Do those three things, and you will see that life is not that hard.

I ask Robin’s friends who are here to continue to be a friend to her. Reach out to her. Marianne and Robynn B., I hope each of you will make sure she gets out for some much-needed fun. It will be worth it, because she is one of the funniest people I know, and by the second drink she’ll have you laughing.

But I ask my biggest favour of all of you. I’m asking everyone in this room to play a role in bringing up Will.

Grant Summerfield, who owns more books than anyone I know, please bring your grandson up to appreciate all the great books, for kids and adults.

Brian Buck, please teach Will how to tolerate bad luck and bad people with a shrug and a smile.

Bonnie – Ga-Ga. You have been a third parent for nearly five years, helping us in ways I literally can not count. Please just keep doing that. You’re in the two spot now.

Sheila O’Brien – Nana.  Tell Will about me, when I was a boy. I had no stories of my own father’s young life. Please tell Will all the things I did, good and bad.

My cousin Jeff… please tell Will the stories my mother doesn’t know about.

Uncle Scott, you could turn Will into a real little handyman. He likes to fix things.

Auntie Lori, show Will to follow your example and embrace big adventures, no matter where they take you.

Iris Yudai is the best boss I ever had. Iris, you could teach Will a lot about how to do great work through co-operation.

Dean. I never met a better joke-writer than you. Please teach Will how to tell a joke. When he’s older, show him how to write one. Or at least how to steal one.

Colleen Silverthorn and Sean Friske and Brenda and Dan Palsson are two couples we love, who were both unfortunate to have three girls each. I’m inviting you both to escape your pink-pony nightmare by spending time with my boy. Sean and Colleen, teach him to have fun on a lake. Dan, throw him a football and see what happens. And remember — no hockey!

Paul Curtis, of course it falls to you to teach him how to tie a hook and cast a line. And if he catches a fish, remind him to throw it back.

Kim Westad, you shared my love of walking along a rocky, driftwood beach, even in a light rain. When Will and Robin visit Victoria, I hope you, Adrian and Theo take them to a beach.

I’ve named some people, but I‘m appealing to all of you. I want my son to grow up armed with a little bit of the best that people can offer. Since I know only the best people, it should be easy.

Visit my little family. Go on play dates. Look out for my son.

And if you and he happen to walk past a pond or lake, grab some flat, smooth stones, and teach him how to skip them across the water. And if you can make one rock skip three or four long leaps before disappearing, tell him that is just how his father felt most of the time: leaping forward, walking on air.

Thank you.

Love, Mike

 

—A celebration of Mike’s life was held on Thursday June 4, 2015 in Winnipeg.

Here’s a link to Mike’s memorial service.