I've just spent my whole morning reading back through texts messages, all the way to the beginning of 2018, trying to find this one text I remember getting from Mike about his cancer returning. He was so darn inspirational in his plainly straight forward, faith filled, come-what-may kinda attitude. I cant find it :/ So instead I screen shotted that one up above cause it made me smile. The Reverend ;)
I remember the August evening that Jana called from the hospital. Aaron and I were out on a sidewalk in Vancouver, on our way to see Mumford and Sons play at BC Place. Her and Mike had gone in to the ER because Mikes mysterious back pain was out of control, and while there for pain help, they got scan results from a few weeks earlier - Mike was filled with cancer and there was no treatment this time. She didnt stay on the phone long, maybe just 3 frantic minutes, and then had to go.
I cant remember her exact words or mine, but I can clearly remember how I felt standing in the sunshine on that street, trying to wrap my brain around what I was just told. I can remember standing in a sold out stadium next to Aaron, listening to one of our favourite bands sing our favourite songs, and feeling stunned and nauseous. I remember Aaron holding my hand as the band sang "Awake My Soul" and the two of us crying in the dark arena.
Im sure that any of us who knew and loved Mike can remember the moment we found out his time on earth was coming to an end. For me, the feelings were mixed. He had been suffering - this meant relief. He was still with us now - this meant he would soon be missed. He was alive on earth - this meant he would be alive with Christ, though at a much younger age than we had hoped and prayed for. Joy and grief, living vs being fully alive, the hope of Christ after the the pain of death - I was all over the place, most of us were. But not Mike. True to form, Mike seemed to not be mixed about it at all. He was the most heaven-minded person I ever knew, it was actually a little freaky haha. His faith was solid, even when faced with a brutal disease, even when faced with imagining what this would do to his wife and kids, his family and his community. He knew that he didnt have any control over that, and he knew even more so that Jesus did and would take care of it.
Right before my sinus surgery a few years ago I asked Mike for pro tips on how to not be so anxious and nervous before going under the knife. "You just have to be ok with dying" he said. "If you are ok to die, then you dont have any fear going onto that surgery table that you might never wake up! Its just one of the ways it could go". My jaw DROPPED! I thought he was gonna tell me about some good Bible verses to meditate on or recommend a calming worship song or something and instead he just whips out this comment about how all you need to do is be good with dying on that day. That was his solution for pre-surgery fear, thats what he did to get ready for his own.
For him, it was super simple: love God and love people. Thats it. Thats what it all boiled down to and Mike took every opportunity to do both of those things. We all saw it, we were the recipients of it and we all loved him for it. He didnt just offer lip service, he led with his lifestyle. Mike lived for Christ, and took every chance to show the rest of us how to do the same. He was the human version of a giant arrow pointing to Heaven! Everything about the way he lived chose God and people first. Everything about the way he died chose God and people first.
Mike knew where his citizenship belonged and that same security is what he wanted for everyone he came in contact with. He wanted us to be Heaven minded too - to know that Heaven is our home, not this crazy broken earth. He didnt want us stuck in all the awful stuff of this world, but instead focussed (just like he was) on the goodness of God.
So how do you ever get ok with not having a guy like that around? I dont think you do. I think we will always miss him and that the missing will act as a reminder: The memories we have of Mike, the things we loved about him most, are still pointing us to Heaven almost a whole year after Jesus took him home. And I think the memories always should. So follow the direction he pointed us in, guys! Look up! Raise your eyes above the level of the pain, fear, uncertainty, suffering, disappointments and challenges of this world and look to Jesus! Dont get hung up on the petty stuff or the prideful stuff and instead live life as an expression of love for God and people - just like Mike did.
In the words of Mumford and Sons, on one of the most bru-tiful nights of my life:
"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die, where you invest your love, you invest your life. Awake my soul...for you were made to meet your Maker"
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 1 Corinthians 4:16-18