August 7, 2012
Michael O’Connor Clarke is a very charming man.
This gifted storyteller put me right at ease when I first met him. In retrospect, I believe it was mutual. I mean, he hired me to work with him, after all. I would be his right-hand person while he concentrated on business development. It was wonderful to discover that we had mutual friends who weren’t in the PR world, and that his youngest son is the same age as my daughter. Oh, and that we are both geeks in our own way.
The business relationship didn’t work out (not me and him, me and the business), yet we remained friends.
This charming man is not having a very charmed go of it, at present. Michael has oesophageal cancer. The “why” of it confounds me. Michael is young (ok, maybe a couple years older than me), smart, a great father, and a loving husband. He’s got an army of friends who love him. He found out about this cancer thing last month, after his rockstar turn at this year’s mesh Conference. (You are right my dear — marketing ruined social media.) An early adopter and innovator in social media, Michael seemed to have reconnected with the other pioneering thought leaders in the digital realm, and reasserted himself as the expert that he is.
A couple weeks later, he was in ICU at St. Mike’s Hospital. Know how he found out he had cancer? He had a persistent and debilitating stomach ache. Cancer is not readily associated with tummy ache.
I am really angry about this for many reasons, but the most important reason is that Michael is one of the best people I know. I’ve been scattered for years, but Michael has always been on team MMJ. He’s always supported me, and likewise, I support him.
His cancer is aggressive. I really do not want to think about a world without him. So I pinged Michael by email when I found out, to tell him how I felt. This is the text of the email.
There is a part of me that would like to write a comforting pastoral note to you; however, that mature and genteel aspect of my personality is duelling with a louder part that is very very angry that you are at St. Mike’s, battling cancer.
I’m not mad with you … It’s not fair to you, Leona, the kids or your family. Frankly Michael, it is not fair to me either.
You and I have shelved several six-pint conversations in the past and — dammit — I still want to have them. I realize that I am being selfish, but I would pay. Tell me that is not an incentive for you.
I’ve already talked to God about this, but God is mulling it over at present. Thus, I have asked my congregation and Bloor Street United Church to pray for you. I also asked my friends on Facebook to do the same... I admit, it helps that I know lots of ministers across Canada: I’d like to think they have way more street cred with the Creator than I do. They have no idea that this is all a clever ruse to have a proper booze up with one of my favourite people.
Indeed, this is all about me. I cannot stand the idea of you being ill and in intensive care. I love you too much. You are a good and loyal friend. I am here for you and your family in whatever way that you need
me to help … I will even wash the pint glasses.
He’s been kind of busy laid up in the hospital, and I haven’t received a response. I think I’ve made the best case possible that I can make as a friend for him to recover. His wife and kids will make their own.
One of Michael’s many accomplishments as a leader in Toronto’s social media community is that he co-founded HoHoTO. Using social media as a planning and promotion tool, Michael and a host of other amazing people gathered Toronto’s social media/ digital/ PR peeps together to raise money for the Daily Bread Food Bank. Last year’s event at the Mod Club raised more than $70,000 for the food bank.
Michael gives. He gives because it is good to give. His time, energy, expertise, and humour make this world a better place.
I mentioned Michael’s family, didn’t I? Because this is important.
Michael is the sole provider for the five-person O’Connor Clarke brood. They need our help. Michael’s friends at Media Profile set up awebsite and a created a way to help raise money for Michael’s family.
As they wrote on the Support Michael O’Connor Clarke website:
So let’s do this thing.
no donation is too big
no donation is too small
if you can’t donate, can you help some other way?
do you have an in-kind donation we can use to raise funds?
can you get involved by sharing this story?
Donate please. Please help my friend’s family in any way that you can. If you see a fundraiser in the future, please consider promoting it or coming to it. Lord knows that I will flack for Michael O’Connor Clarke shamelessly.
Pray for him, too, if that sort of thing moves you. He really is an amazing person. My life is better because of Michael’s love, support and friendship.