My brother-in-law, Mike, should have turned 33 on March 1. But he didn't. This summer will have been 8 years since he passed away in a car accident. I don't know that I've ever written about Mike in this venue, and honestly I don't know why. On my run today, though, I did think about Mike. I thought about how it was his birthday this past Tuesday, and I didn't remember. It was the first time since his passing that I forgot. Big Red didn't even mention it. Did he forget too? I have a hard time believing that he did forget, perhaps this was just the first year that he felt it unnecessary to bring up? But at what point do you stop counting birthdays? Do you ever?
There is an online "Guestbook" linked to Mike's obituary that has been preserved indefinitely by an anonymous donor. I went to it earlier and saw that the latest entry had a posting date of October, 2010 - just a few months ago. People, almost 8 years later, are still logging in and signing this guestbook. It's kind of amazing and it makes me realize that memorials such as this are really for us. Obviously Mike is not reading this guestbook. Sure, those who are more spiritual might say that "he knows" people are writing to him. Unfortunately, I don't buy into that. We don't even visit his grave anymore and we're just 30 minutes from it. You'd have to ask Big Red his reasons, but mine are simple: I'd rather remember Mike the way I knew him when he was alive. I don't want my memories of him to washed over by a big block of marble marking the spot where his bones are buried. Those bones are not him. They certainly held up the frame that was once the body that held his spirit, but those bones are not the living, breathing, laughing Mike.
It's hard to imagine getting on with life after you've lost someone so close. The reality of the matter is, you can and you do move on. Mike was the kind of person who would thump you over the head and tell you what an idiot you were if you'd have stopped living life. So partly in his name, we keep on keep'n on. While I don't miss him on a daily basis anymore, I do find myself caught off guard when moments of sadness do creep their way in. When we got married, when we moved back to the East, when we bought our first house, when we adopted our beloved Olive; those are the moments I find myself missing him most and wondering, what would Mike say if he were here? Would he love our house as much as we do? Would he have gotten along with Olive?
These are the things I think of. But mostly, when memories of Mike find their way into my busy daily life, they are memories that make me laugh more than anything else. And that's what I want to keep.