Good Bye Mike!
Mike was one of my first friends in the Brey family, other than the girl who would later become my bride.
When I first met Mike, he was taking a break from college so when I would go to Sally’s parents on weekends he was generally there.
Though Mike was 3 years older than I, he was about as far along as I in college since he had taken many medical breaks from school due to a rare disease that he had, known as Fabrys.
A disease that was gradually killing off most of Mike’s uncles, and would later affect many of his nephews including our son Josh.
And even after I graduated, he continued to struggle along with attempt after attempt with many cut short by a mid to late semester stroke.
Mike was a very popular guy with a great sense of humor, and a love of dancing which made him very popular with the girls.
I still remember him dressed up and surrounded by a dozen girls at our wedding dance.
After college we moved out west for a few years where we would get frequent reports from home, many about Mikey’s condition, and eventually he was no longer able to pursue his accounting degree.
By the time we got back to Wisconsin, Mike was looking very crippled and working a job along with mentally handicapped people where he felt very insulted, since most of his difficulty was with motor skills like walking and talking, and the rest of his thinking skills were still intact.
By the time our children were old enough to notice; Uncle Mikey was in pretty rough shape, walking with a walker, talking with an extreme slur, and displaying a lot of pain.
When they were young the kids were a little fearful and I remember once Josh mentioning that he hoped that none of the rest of us caught what Uncle Mikey had.
Later we would remember those words when Josh was diagnosed with this dreaded disease and it took us months to find the right time to break the news to him.
Fortunately by the time Josh would get to college there was a treatment coming onto the market, a treatment that we helped to research during his high school years with many trips to Mt Sinai in NYC.
Unfortunately the treatment was too late for Mikey, by the time it was developed, he was moving between his parents’ home, an assisted living center, and a nursing home.
The treatment did stabilize him however and he has not gotten appreciatively worse, just lingering along for the past decade.
We had a big party for him on his 40th since he was not expected to live this long, and he did outlive his mother who passed away 2 years ago.
I sat next to Mike at the funeral and I could feel his apprehension, not knowing what was to happen to him without his mother to look out for him.
Fortunately my sister in law Kutzy, who lives near him took over as his protector and poa, and has done a great job of watching over him and helping him when needed.
This past week Kutzy called to let us know that Mike was in the hospital with pneumonia, a heart attack and a blood clot in his leg.
The doctors did not think that he would survive treatment of the heart blockage or the blood clot, so they treated the pneumonia and sent him to a hospice facility.
Fortunately Sally, Josh and Amy had a chance to spend several afternoons with him, feeding him Easter candy and sharing stories and jokes, his mind was still sharp to the end.
Nick and I did not make it back in time, we got the news this morning at 6am, while napping at a truckstop in Minong, he had died in his sleep a few minutes earlier.
I spent a bit of time on the phone with Sally today as I traveled toward home, accomplishing a few projects along the way, and she seems very sad and yet happy for Mike, knowing that his suffering is over and he is likely in a much better place and in better shape now.
Good Bye Mike, know that you are loved and will be missed!