Michael was blessed to have many, many friends. And to him they were all important and valued. But for some reason there were five guys who he singled out in the last days of his life.
The first time I remember him summoning these guys was a few weeks after his transplant. Michael was in ICU, unable to get out of bed or sit up on his own, barely able to raise his arms. He mouthed to me to get them together and when they arrived he began giving orders on how they would get him out of the hospital. That’s right he called them in for a jailbreak. He started telling them to get a board, put it next to his bed and slide him out so he could go home. Never mind that he was still hooked up to dialysis, on oxygen and taking an incredible amount of medicine to maintain his vitals. Needless to say he wasn’t happy that no one complied.
The second time he assembled this crew was the day after he had a rollercoaster experience. The previous day he had gone through one of those episodes where his blood pressure and temperature spiked and fell without explanation, causing the medical staff to run around trying all sorts of interventions while he went in and out of various stages of pain and consciousness. But at the end of the day he was at peace and told me he had made a recommitment of his life to Jesus Christ. (Maybe there was more going on than just a medical struggle.) The next day he wanted to tell these guys about his experience. It was important to him that they know.
The last time he called these guys together was the last day of his life. They were in different places, near and far, but all worked to get here. I remember them telling him that everything would be ok and making promises to him to take care of me. (I remember wanting to scream that I didn’t want anyone to take care of me; but all I could do was sit on the sidelines, shake my head and cry.) They waited close by until late that night when he was finally gone.
Why these five guys? There were so many men he considered close friends, whom he loved and laughed with, whom he shared life and dreams for the future with. The only thing I can say about these five guys was that he’d known them for decades. He’d prayed with them and for them. He’d argued and struggled with them over all kinds of life issues. He knew their wives, their children and most of their parents. He worked with them, built with them, travelled with them and planned for the future with them. He had seen the highs and lows of life with them.
These five guys — a brother, an electrician, a painter, a partner and a pastor. They held a special place in Michael’s last days. So why shouldn’t they hold a special place in Emily’s day as well.