You never know who’s going to appear in your life, but whoever does, it’s always for a lasting reason. My friend Mike proved to be one of those people that enter your life by chance, just when you need it most, and change it for the better.
We met by circumstance, his boss was fired and he took over as a maintenance manager of a nursing home, while I needed a job during school. The options were either maintenance or desk work; I figured I might as well learn to be handy.
At first, I thought he was a goofball, who acted like a tough guy and he thought I was some know it all city punk, who was the owner’s kid. As I learned, we had similar personalities and interests (he was 27, I was 20), but also shared a similar issue; we struggled with self-confidence.
He had big dreams, but didn’t know how to get there. I saw what success looked like in family members and felt less than because I didn’t know how to get to their level. We carried large chips on our shoulders and took it as a mentality to always bring out the best in ourselves since no one else would.
Since I wasn’t much of a handyman, I would paint, while Mike would fix everything wrong with the place. The guy had the energy of five workers, desperate to prove himself to management. As the facility improved, management took notice and rewarded Mike with raises, but also more intense projects because he had proven himself, which is all he ever wanted in life.
“This is just a stepping stone, if I keep this up, I can move to corporate or a state position and inspect facilities across the country.”
One day he asked me to help him with mechanical stuff, which I was hesitant to do because I didn’t know how to. He said what I’ll teach you now, you can keep forever. Little did I know, he wasn’t talking about screwdrivers, plumbing, or wiring. It was the lessons of patience, responsibility, to believe in myself and my abilities to achieve success.
We spoke on the morning of my college graduation. He called to congratulate me and I thanked him for being a big brother and that this wouldn’t be the end of our friendship, but only the beginning since we had some dreams to accomplish.
It took a while because we lost touch for almost nine years until a couple months ago, as we reconnected through Facebook. We spoke as if the time never passed, joking and still talking like it was us against the world. We discussed our struggles over the years and how we managed to get past them. It may have taken a long time to reconnect, but we always knew we would.
The last thing he said was that he was proud of me. I replied that without him in my life, there’d be nothing to be proud of.
On Friday I read that he was gone. No goodbye this time, no thoughts of seeing each other again, no more youthful talks of having “mansions and Mercedes”. I thought of his wife and son, heartbroken.
As I write this, I remember how unsure everything was in my life before meeting him. I couldn’t trust anyone to look out for me because I was always let down.
Then Mike appeared and took the time to believe in me, to make sure I was learning something because he was that kid that no one looked after either. He may have never believed me, but without the life lessons he taught me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
He is gone, but his influence will stay forever in those that encountered him.
Mike, thank you and rest easy my friend.