Guest Post: Jon Jordan of Kukla’s KornerShareThis
New Puck Daddy: All about hockey players and returning from mid-game injuries to finish the game, ala Willie Mitchell and his 54 stitches last night. (Puck Daddy link)
Jon Jordan writes for the must-read hockey site Kukla’s Korner. After hearing about my close relationship with my sledge-hockey playing brother Jeff, he reached out to me with his own personal story about his brother Mikey. It’s a heart-warming one, so I’m only 100% sure my own mother will truly love it.
This article first appeared in Exceptional Parent magazine in 2009.
You can follow him on twitter here. You can read his daily coverage for Kukla’s called “Beasts of the Southeast” here (primarily Tampa Bay Lightning based). Check out his work, he’s a good man.
-by Jon Jordan
In the June 1998 edition of Exceptional Parent, a college freshman’s article, written for an undergraduate composition class, evolved into a pillar of family pride, drawing attention to the story of a young man who couldn’t tell his own tale but made as big an impact on the people who loved him as any one of us can ever hope for in the short time we are afforded in life.
I authored “We Won the Lottery,” and the subject of that piece was my younger brother, Michael. At face value, it wasn’t anything special. I think I earned a “C” on it as a freshman at Florida State University and now, as a part-time writer myself, I can freely admit that it is nowhere near my best work. Still, that particular composition remains the undisputed favorite above anything else I’ve ever written.
It put Mikey’s story—as best I could tell it at the time—out there for the world to read and put smiles on the faces of family and friends, proud of his little moment in the spotlight. In some way, I felt that I had done right by Mikey just by getting his name in print and by passing along part of what I now call “Mikey’s Message.”
At the time, all I could grasp of that message was what having him around did for me as an older brother and, with less clarity, what his presence did for our family as a whole.
Twelve years later, I am only now beginning to realize the true message behind my brother’s life. Michael passed away on September 29th, 2009, after the latest in his lifetime of medical battles, at the age of 25.
As I said in the eulogy I gave at his funeral Mass, in many ways I had always been preparing for the day that my brother would no longer be with us. Even so, from the time the ultimate outcome of his final plight became inevitable, to the very moment of his passing, to the immediate days after and, finally, to the weekend of his memorials, I had never felt more unprepared in my entire life.
There were simple thoughts—the kind I’m sure anyone who loses a sibling might have: How do I say goodbye? How do I honor him? Did he know what he meant to me? And there were more complex questions, specific to Mikey’s difficulties, that I struggled with: Was there more that I could have done for him? Did our family make the right decisions? And, again, did he know what he meant to me?
But somehow, writing his eulogy on autopilot, numb from his very difficult final days, sharing “thank yous” with special people and funny stories about growing up with Mikey morphed into what I believe will be his lasting legacy.
His message …It simply came to me, without any deep thought or hidden meaning. There were no mysteries to unravel, no code to be cracked.
Michael’s message was love.
As it turns out, Mikey never knew anything else. Despite his many hardships, my brother was a living, breathing symbol of unconditional love, both given and received.
He was raw emotion, smiles or tears, with no in between (and thankfully, far more of the former). His heart was never influenced by the discouraging moments in life that most of us go through. He was as pure a human being as anyone can be. And Michael’s big grin and contagious laughter brought joy to all that knew him.
When he heard your voice, he was happy. When he saw yourface or felt your hand, you knew he was glad you were there. Of that, there was never any doubt and remembering just that has answered several important questions for me.
Mom’s morning greeting was always met with a giggle and a smile, as was Dad’s post-work hug. The “wrestling matches” (talk about laughter!) he and I would have growing up became too sporadic later in life as I moved away and started a family of my own, but my phone calls, when Mom or Dad would put the phone to his ear, still put a smile on Mike’s face as soon as he heard my voice.
My favorite picture of Mikey is of that trademark smile, with the phone pressed to his ear, me on the other end of the line. Unconditional, unblemished, unending love. Nothing stops that. Not even death.
That is how my little brother lives on and how we honor him. And that is his message that can be embraced by anyone.
Twelve years ago, I was proud to give the readers of EP a glimpse into Mikey’s life. Today, in his memory, it is my absolute honor to leave you with that message.
Love your family. Love your friends. Love yourself— for who you are. And love life. Mikey did all of that, to the fullest of his ability. •
I’m far from tech savvy, and couldn’t figure out how to copy and save pics from a PDF, so if you’d like to see Mikey and Jon, you can click here.