You know the term, "sudden death"?
Not like in a sports way--like in an NFL football game, when it ends in a tie, and the overtime is called "sudden death." Because that's not really death--it's just, "this game finally over." And there's always another game.
No, I mean "sudden death" like in "death came suddenly."
This time, to my friend, Mike.
I'd worked with Mike for almost 10 years when he accepted a new job that took him and his family to Birmingham, Alabama, last April. Ten years is plenty of time to get to know someone, even in an office atmosphere. It's plenty of time to learn about interests and dislikes, about family, about childhood, about personality. Plenty of time to become friends.
Even in a busy office, there's sometimes time to chat for awhile in a cubicle, and talk about the funny things your little boys said, or what your wife is writing about, or the next ballgame you have tickets to.
Or, you might find yourself talking about the inadequacies of the Tampa Bay Rays stadium, and when in the world they might build a new one, or how it felt to be one of, oh, say, two fans for a baseball game. Or, you might find yourself getting razzed about being one of those two, er, few, anyway.
The conversation might even veer into work territory, and you might dissect a meeting that didn't go quite right, or a project with a recalcitrant author, or why in the world can't we wear jeans every Friday?
Or, you might find yourself rejoicing over a Florida Gators win ... or commiserating over a loss. Or talking about where in the world that dead, dry, taxidermied gator on his desk came from. Or asking, just how may Florida Gators shirts can one have?
On a long weekday afternoon in a quiet cubicle farm, a little lively conversation is much relished.
Mike, of course, loved his family and the Lord above all; he would not deny he also enjoyed a good (hey, any) sporting event and a cold (hey, any) beer.
Mike died while working out at the gym; I imagine him running, and somewhere between strides leaving this earth and running into the arms of His Lord and Savior.
He leaves his parents, his wife; his little boys, whom he loved teaching about his Faith and about his sports; his step-children; his parents; and so many friends, and readers.
Mike, the ultimate sports fan, exuberant football fan, appreciated the tension of a good overtime period--what the commentators call "sudden death," even as they debate about its fairness.
Mike, the good Catholic, would have been prepared--death was sudden, but not unanticipated; surprising, yet he would have been as ready, spiritually, as he could be.
Mike, husband and father, son and friend, Rays fan -- there's no sudden death in baseball, you know. If he'd had to chose, he'd go for a ballgame that dragged on forever, in the way only a baseball game can; a game that ended in a tie, then went into extra innings; a game that ended up in the record books only because it was so long. The kind of game that when it's over you look at each other and say, "I got old at that game."
He should have gotten old. I'd have loved to tease him about that.
Bye, Mike--Go in peace, you Gator.