Do you ever find that sometimes your "bucket" is running on low? That there isn't enough good stuff to make it all make sense?
There are normal challenges and events that make it seem like you are putting out fires and dealing with all of the idiosyncrasies of dealing with the public at large.
There are days that you question is it worth it. Heck there are months were you wonder did I make the right career choice?
And then just when you feel like you've given everything you have, like your being literally sucked dry of feelings, emotions, the last drop of anything you have left to give... that is the moment when tears will fill your eyes. Not out of sadness or despair, but because something slaps you in the face and says "I was here all along, I just wasn't ready to show myself".
The tears that filled my eyes a few days ago weren't from exhaustion, frustration or even from being overwhelmed - although this month has definitely given me far more than I am sure I have the ability to handle gracefully. Those tears were from a simple text message.
One of my B's leaving for the day, sent me a message. We'd received a call while I was away from the Y at an event. One of our members had passed away. She needed me to call her.
It was actually the second one in a week that I'd been notified of. The first one had left us with the transition and found a new Y home. His death saddened me, but it wasn't a personal blow to my heart. I knew who he was, had spoken to him pretty regularly, but hadn't seen him in over a year. He was a leaf in my life, one that had blown away.
But this one.
This one made me stop in the middle of another Y's lobby, surrounded by strangers and gasp. It stole my breath and felt like a razor sharp knife straight to my heart. It was not a loss I was ready or able to deal with.
Mike was special. In far more ways than I realized. We selfishly enjoyed the difference he made in our lives. His presence was like that drink of icy cold water on the hottest day of the year. You wanted to be near him. You wanted to be the one that got to walk him through the building and laugh with him as he joyously went through life.
We were very protective of our dear friend. No, he was part of the fabric of our Y family. He was one of us. He wasn't a leaf, or even a branch that could break away, he was part of our root system. Mike and his wife joined our Y family a long time ago. She reminded me at the visitation yesterday that I was one of the first people they met when they joined the Y. They weathered the closing of Marquette, left us briefly for a more accessible Y after that, but very quickly returned home to Downtown. She'd had to quit coming for a bit, she had family responsibilities, but not Mike.
Mike was there like clock work, unless he was traveling for one of his many adventures, mostly working with the blind or visiting friends and family. We made sure his call a ride didn't miss him, ranted at them for making him stand in the brutal heat or bitter cold.
Mike laughed with us, cried with us, celebrated and mourned. He helped us raise money to continue our mission and had already committed to helping us again this year. He had the wittiest sense of humor and we loved that he knew us by our steps, voices, cologne. Mike didn't come with us to our new location because of the beauty, the colors or the sparkling clean state of the art facility. Mike came because that is where his Y family went. He never saw it.
Mike was blind.
No. Mike's eyes were blind. Mike's was probably the most seeing person I have ever met. He saw the good in people, he saw joy, sorrow, excitement, fear, he saw people for who they truly were. He was a magnet.
That couldn't have been truer for me than when I read his obituary. And the conversations I've had since then.
Even though his visits were less frequent lately, he was battling some serious health issues, he never failed to call us. He always let us know where he was and that he was okay and thinking about us. We knew that he made our lives incredibly special. We didn't realize how important we were to him.
The last line in his obituary directed people to give to his favorite charities, the Downtown Y was one of them. As I met family that I hadn't met before in my quest to provide some comfort and pay respects to his sweet wife, I was overwhelmed by the number of times I heard - "look, it's Y people!" We were thanked so many times for all that we had meant to him. And I was there to thank them for sharing so much of him with us!
As I approached his beautiful casket to say my final goodbyes, my heart heavy, my eyes filled with tears I didn't want to shed. I was overwhelmed. There was a large picture of our dear Mike, wearing one of his favorite Y t-shirts. His massive collection is being made into quilts. His family knew and understood his love for the Y and that was how they chose to remember him.
He will always be a light for me. I will challenge myself forever to see people the way he did - with my heart! And I will try to honor him by being the light and love for other's around me.
Mike is still filling my bucket, still reminding me that what I've chosen as my life's work is worthy and fulfilling.
Thank you Mike! Rest my friend, you've earned it.