This One’s for Mike I always thought that the point of summer was to get a break from it all, and just relax. Nothing was supposed to stop you from having a great time, and living your life to the fullest. That was my summer attitude, and the attitude of all my friends. That was until I received the most horrific, mind-blowing news of my life.
Working as a camp counselor is a boatload of work and responsibility. After a long day of work, it is just a relief to be able to go out and get away from all of the stresses of a typical day. Camp was barely in full gear; we were still in the first full week of the summer. Just about the entire staff was already feeling the typical drag of a camp counselor. Finally we got some off time, and we weren’t going to let it go to waste. We got a few age groups together, and headed out into the woods to make a campfire, and just kick it. Everything was perfect; we were having a great time, the fire was roaring, and the laughs were deafening. And then it happened.
It was about 1 a.m. and I heard my phone ring. I remember being excited when I noticed it was my sister calling, because I hadn’t talked to her in what seemed like forever. I was expecting a cheery “hello” on the other end of the line, but instead, I heard silence. An eerie silence, the kind that is only heard in horror movies. After a few seconds of that painful silence, I heard the only thing that was worse than the silence. I hear my sister, A.J., whimpering, and crying. Trying so hard just to say hello, but not even that would escape her mouth. Without the small talk, she hit me with news so hard, that it nearly knocked me to the ground. “J-J-J-Joey” she said balling, “It’s Mike---- he died.” That was it, that’s all she said. News so gut wrenching, it felt like I was hit in the stomach by a freight train. I completely broke down. I fell to the ground in shock, my fists clenched in rage; I was a fireball of emotion. I started screaming at the top of my lungs for my brother, “MAX, MAX, MAX,” I damn near woke all the campers up with my actions. When Max finally made it to me, he noticed the position I was in. When he asked me what was wrong, I tried to tell him. My words were stuck. My whole world was stuck. I was completely frozen, like I had just been spooked by a ghost. I tried to tell him but my thoughts translated into mush when they left my mouth. I handed him the phone, so he could hear for himself. I heard the mumbling on the other end of the line and I waited for his reaction. Just as soon as I expected, he dropped the phone and broke down.
Max and I spent the next hour or so grieving over the loss that just rocked our world like an earthquake. We had just lost a kid that we both considered one of our best friends. Those who were blessed enough to meet him during his time, would immediately describe him as “compassionate, down to earth, and the most personable eighteen year old they have ever met.” They would also tell you that he lived for golf and roller hockey. Mike had plans to be a successful businessman, and he carried the character to do so. He had a swagger to him that none other could ever possess; he always had rosy-red cheeks and an ear-to-ear smile wherever he was. The only thing in the world that may have been worse than the news itself, was knowing that we had to head home the next day. The trek home was a 12-hour marathon drive; I wish I knew how terrible that was going to be. My brother and I hit the road, and the car was filled with the same silence that had come upon me the night before. The silence was rarely broken and when it was, we talked about Mike. We laughed together; we cried together, we called all of our friends. We were working together to solve the mystery, and get any information that we could. Through the grapevine, we learned that it was a swimming incident. Mike was doing his final swim test to receive his white-cap. It was as if some higher being flicked his power switch from on to off. The next few days were filled with crying, laughing, and reflection of how Mike individually touched all of our lives with his unprecedented cheer. We had lost a member of the crew, and it left a gaping hole as big as the Grand Canyon in all of our hearts.
Death affects everyone at some point in their lives, but never do you expect to lose someone that soon. A kid whose life never got the chance to blossom, someone who’s potential was endless. There seemed to be nothing that could ever stop Mike and his ambitions; he had the potential to be great. I thought that it was impossible for anyone to be as crushed as I was during this time. I was definitely mistaken when I attended the funeral. There were thousands in attendance, from friends to teachers. Mike and his remarkable views on life had individually touched every person in attendance. He never let anything get to him personally; he took everything on the chin, and kept on rolling. I thought the worst part of the whole mess was over. That was until the precession line leaded us to the cemetery for the burial. It was there, where I saw the most dreadful scene of my entire life. In Jewish tradition, anyone who was close to the passed individual takes a shovel full of dirt to toss into the burial. Mike’s parents were first, and the sight was sickening. Watching two parents bury their eighteen-year-old son is the most horrific scene in life, and it nearly made me sick. After watching them throw their dirt in, I heard the most appalling sound of my life. The sound of rocks and dirt hitting the hard wooden casket. Eventually, my turn to add dirt came along, and I decided to not use the shovel, but use my hands. I picked up a handful of dirt, gave it a kiss, and sent it down with Mike... After the funeral, all of our friends went to grab lunch together, and go hang out. We decided to finally give ourselves a break from the grief, and talked about the good times. It was a good way to end an otherwise tragic weekend.
Even now, there is not a day that passes when I don’t think about Mike and his accident. It is extremely hard knowing that he would have been a sophomore at Western this year. Sometimes life throws curveballs, and people are taken from us when it is clearly not their time. After two years, I still wonder why it was him that was taken from us that early. This was a situation that I would never even wish upon my worst enemy. To lose someone close is horrific, but to lose a close friend before college--- that is straight terrifying. I am reminded daily, that it could strike anyone, at anytime. That is why I use that as a lesson in my own life, it keeps me living my life with no regrets. Mike taught all of us that there is no use having petty fights, and that everyone should “just chill,” those words will be forever branded into my head, and my heart.
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