Tribute to Michael from a distance

 
It is with a heavy heart I write this as we pack our bags to travel once more to Toronto to be with our sister Leona and three wonderful children.

Our hearts bleed for Leona, Charlie, Lily, Ruairi and Mam and all we can do is hold their hand and share fond memories of a beloved soul that was gifted to our family when he met Leona. Our hearts also ache for Kay who has fought the long battle side by side with Michael, and equally for Joe who has shared with us all his unequivocal love for his son, whose tweets gave Michael strength and brought emotion and heartfelt sorrow to everyone who was watching. Eamonn, Gerard and Kieron have lost a brother who was in his prime and we share their grief.

I still cannot believe that Michael has moved to a better place, that he is at peace and that his horrible illness can hurt him no more – this reality will dawn on us when we once again set foot on Canadian soil.

To us, thoughts of Michael only bring happy memories. As my mind races with clips of his company – many of which have been on replay for most of the last few months, I am happy to recount some of the headlines…

Michael entered our lives in Valleymount at Leona’s 21st and has remained part of our family ever since. He became a regular fixture at Christmas and his cooking prowess gained significant brownie points with Dad (I liked him more for his Sega to be honest).

On Christmas Eve, 1992, (or perhaps very early Christmas Day), Michael fell into bed beside me with a great big dirty grin – “I am going to marry your sister” was the sentence that followed. As we were sharing a room I told him to go and shite and get into his own bed. Having thought about this piece of information I asked him to repeat what he had said as this event would mean significantly increased access to his Sega. Michael showed me the ring, had just asked Dad for the honour of marrying Leona and I was chuffed to be the second person to be told. He duly went on bended knee around the tree the next morning and produced the ring, asked the question and she said “yes” – why wouldn’t she, sure he made a mean bubble and squeak.

Dad lost his fight before he could walk Leona down the isle in 1993 and the sorrow of that year was book ended with the joy of Leona and Michael’s engagement and their wedding in September. It was a tremendous day and one that will live long in our memories.

Michael has been our brother ever since, we have eased willingly and with excitement into his company, relished his dark and constant humour, asked ourselves how he is able to get away with the use of profanities in formal settings and sat in wonder of his jokes (even the really long ones) and his ability to hold a note – none of Leona’s immediate family can do this. He has brought so much joy and this is clear when you share moments with Charlie, Lily and Ruairi who have cousins around the globe that are now sharing their pain and tears.

This man was blessed with many gifts . He was a man who told me my Dad would be proud the night before my wedding, having felt my pain that Dad wouldn’t be there. He is a man that made very special leeks that I have failed on so many occasions to reproduce, he is a man that sang ‘five little pennies’ for myself and Mandy on our wedding night and who spent time some years later in the wee hours teaching me the song from Canada so I could sing it (poorly) for my wifes sisters wedding.

Both Michael and Leona have gifted us the best holiday we can recount and memories of that summer will remain alive and clear for the rest of our days – the food, the company, the midges, the beers, a shared midnight skinny dip in cottage country (Dwayne chickened out), wizard, and the many many laughs shared and alive in our hearts.

We have been overwhelmed by the support, kindness and friendship shown to Leona and Michael by their communities, both social and professional. This support doesn’t happen by itself and is a testament to Leona and Michaels efforts to immerse themselves in Canadian life. It is also a testament to all the people who have come forward to support their friend, neighbour and colleague and for this, on behalf of all of Leona’s family we are truly grateful.

With great pain we will celebrate Michaels life this week as we bid him farewell. His wonderful life has been cut far too short – we will all grieve his departure, we will shed tears and if Michael has anything to do with it, we will enjoy some moments of humour.

Michael – you will be desperately missed, you will always be cherished and hold a special place in our thoughts and I can only hope you are entertaining all those who have gone before you.

With our love always, Cathal, Mandy, Chloe and Sophie.