My stepson Spencer turns 18 next month.  Crazy.  He’s a pretty typical teenager, minus getting into a lot of trouble.  An atypical trait that Spencer posseses is his fear and hatred for roller coasters.  While I have always enjoyed roller coasters, the one my brother-in-law Mikey and my sister have been on is not a fun ride.  And our whole family has been along for the ride.

In January, if I recall the month correctly, Mike was diagnosed with cancer.  While this was not the beginning of the roller coaster (one could say it was much later in the ride as Mike had twice had to have kidney transplants), it was definitely the beginning of the biggest, fastest, curviest, scariest part of the ride.  Since his diagnosis, there have been a whole lot of downs and a few ups along the track.  Often, we feel as though there really isn’t a track.  Now, is one of those times.  Mike was proclaimed cancer free just a few months ago, and within two weeks of that, he was given a few days to live as more cancer…very aggressive cancer…took hold of his body.  Mike, being the champion fighter he is, defied all odds and doctors’ wisdom and got better.  Not cancer-free better, but better.  He put weight back on, started eating (and tasting food) again, regained his memory, and became the Mike of ‘ole.  Me and my OP family had feared a few months ago we would be heading to a funeral for Mike.  Now, we have a roadtrip scheduled next week to celebrate his 44th birthday.

Another drop on the roller coaster surfaced just a few days ago, and this one is steep.  Mike is now, once again, on his death bed.  While no new abnormalities show in his blood work, an infection has taken over his immune system-weak body; one that doctors don’t think antibiotics will help.  Mike refused to go to the hospital last night, and in-home hospice was arranged.  Just moments ago, my mother sent me one of the most horrible text messages I have ever received:

“He told us goodbye a while ago.  Said to tell everyone how much he loves them.  He doesn’t want to fight anymore.”

The doctors say he won’t last long, I am told.  He has defied them before.  Only God knows when Mike is going to go, but once the will to fight is gone, well, it probably won’t be long.  To go from thinking we would be celebrating a birthday with Mike (a miracle in itself) just a few days ago, to fearing I won’t ever see him again, is just mind boggling.  I want this coaster ride to end; but with Mike healthy and happy.

Michael truly is a hero to me.  He came into our lives long ago and became the father my niece Ashley needed and deserved.  He became the man who made my sister Stephanie truly happy for the first time in a long time.  He and my sister brought my 9 year-old nephew Stevie, a black belt, into this world.  He treated my wife and kids as good as he treats his own wife and kids.  He fights, fights, fights and overcomes all obstacles in his way.  He boasts about how much work he does, even sick, as compared to his coworkers.  He melted when he received an honorary black belt when Stevie earned his.   Mike is all things good, even when it seems only bad things happen.

Maybe Mike has given up on this battle; maybe he hasn’t.  Whichever it is, he is a champion and an inspiration.  I pray to God I will see him again, but I also pray to God to have mercy on him and my sister, nephew, niece, and entire family.

I love you Michael Lovato.  While I am not liking this roller coaster ride, we’re on it with you.  We got your back, just like you always have ours.

My response texts to my mother:

Oh my.  We love him, too.  Please thank him from me for being such a wonderful husband and father to my sister, Stevie and Ashley.  Please tell him that for me.  And for being a great uncle and brother-in-law.

Peace,

Relledge

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