I haven’t written here since June 15th. I’ve tried. The whiteness of the entry box has just been too daunting.
On June 17th the world lost an incredible amazing man. John Michael Self. Mikey, Mike, Michael. But, Mikey to most people. Mikey was 45. He left behind a wife, stepchildren, his Mom, his siblings, and more friends than anyone I have ever met. Everyone was his friend. And, this isn’t just what you say after a person has died, this is true, Mikey had no enemies. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone, nor did I ever hear anyone say a bad word about him.
He was a former Marine, who served in Beirut. Mikey is the one of the few true patriots in the world. He loved his country, and always had a United States flag to display. At his funeral service various patriotic songs were played. Many of his friends and family wore patriotic clothing, and his truck was driven, by his daughter, in the funeral procession, with the flag displayed as he would have done.
But, this is just the superficial, the things that you say about someone, these words are not describing the true man. I don’t know how to tell you about him, I don’t have the words to tell you what he was truly like.
Mikey was a big guy, tall and broad, some weight on him, he had red hair, and a red bushy beard that framed his smile. And what a smile, he had a big, beautiful smile on him that he shared with everyone around you. Staying in a bad mood was pretty damn near impossible with him around as his joy for life was just so damn contagious.
He was a hugger, Mike would squeeze you tight, every time he saw you, as if he hadn’t seen you in a lifetime, even if it was just the night before. The feeling of being enveloped by his big warm arms, and his beard resting on top of your head just made you feel safe and comfortable. His greeting of “hey girlie” as he ruffled your hair, and grinned at you.
Mike’s words as he gave me advice over one thing or the other. A wink when he knew I needed the extra confidence. His words that helped me to turn my life around, those words, and the disappointment I could see on his face, are one of the things that pushed me away from the bad life I had spiralled into.
But, before even that, the nights that he would make sure I got home safely. The times when he would convince me to ride with him instead of the stupid things I was getting myself into. Mikey meant more to me than he realized, in fact I think he meant more to most people than he realized. When I found out that the cancer was back (he had been in remission for quite a while) I burst into tears. While I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone as it is a horrid ugly illness, Mikey of all people shouldn’t have had it.
Once I found out the cancer was back, I never saw him again. In fact, it was planned for us to go see him the weekend after he died. I hadn’t gone before hand as I was just afraid of falling apart in front of him, or his wife (who is amazing in her own right, he married a great woman.) I regret that every day now. I wish I had been able to say goodbye to him. The last time I saw him, I hugged him and asked how he was doing, how his wife and family was, on and on. It was a good conversation but, not enough.
On the day of his visitation, Tracey came and picked me up, we went to the funeral home. It was about a 22, 23 minute drive from my house, down past where we all went to high school. As we approached the funeral home you could see the cars, and more cars, all over. The entire funeral home was packed with people, so much so that some where standing outside even though it was dreadfully hot and humid.
Mike’s casket sat at the front of the room, covered with the flag, a large picture of him in his mud covered Jeep on the wall behind it. (That is my favorite picture I have ever seen of Mikey) The casket was closed which was his request I was told.
Everywhere there were clusters of people talking about Mikey and how they knew him and stories about him.
I had to make myself walk to the casket and the first go round, I didn’t quite make it. I stopped and talked to one of Mikey’s brothers, whom I’ve known forever, then went back out.
Eventually, as I knew our time there was drawing to the end I walked back in, forcing myself to go to his casket. While I stood in front of it, looking at pictures of him, so many memories flooded back. I touched the casket, told him I loved him, and walked away with my favorite memory in my head.
One night, years ago back when I was a teenager, Mikey picked me, Linda and her boyfriend up to go riding, it was fall, but had been a beatiful day so he had the roof of the Jeep off. We climbed in, buckled up and went off. We rode back into this area that is now closed off (JMB for anyone who is local) and were riding around, up and down small hills, through some mud, just having a blast.
We approached one fairly good sized hill, and hit it straight on. And we went part way up, and felt the top of the Jeep start to tip back. Now at this point, all I could picture was the jeep on its roof with us dangling from our seatbelts like a turtle stuck on its back. We screamed. loudly, in sheer terror. Somehow, Mikey saved it and got the Jeep back down, without rolling over, and off we went again.
We dropped Linda and company off and eventually Mikey and I ended up sitting and talking, way out in Ingleside, watching the stars, talking about his time in the Marines, where I saw myself going, and various other pieces of our lives. We were out there until probably 4 AM before we gave in to sleep and headed home.
Now, sitting here, all those years later, with Mikey gone, I can picture that night, and others, in full detail. Every memory of him makes this more, and less, painful at the same time. I cherish each moment I had with him, and only wish that he was still here to make the world a brighter place.
I know this is a bit disjointed, and doesn’t flow well. I could write on and on about him and just never give you the full picture of him. There are memories that are mine alone, that wouldn’t be fair to share.
The tears are at the edge of my eyes again, as I’ve fought them off to write this. I’m sure this isn’t the final thing I will have to say about Mikey. But, I needed to let myself write this. I miss you, Mikey. I think about you every single day. My prayer is that there is a heaven where your body is healed and you are reunited with those who went before you. Where everything is wonderful and beautiful, as if anyone deserves to be there, you do, Mikey. Put in a good word for me, when you can. love ya.