Let me start off by saying that this was not easy to write.
Today is my brother Mike’s birthday. Chances are, very few of you ever got to know him. But I can tell you that if you had, you’d been blessed beyond measure.
The best way I can tell you about Mike is showing you some snapshots of this awesome dude.
For starters, his awesomeness was apparent at an early age. He knew that it was better to be Batman than to not be Batman.
Growing up, Mike played football, ran track and excelled at just about any sport he tried. But like a lot of us, those 30s showed up, as did the adulthood paunch and accompanying health issues. Mike didn’t lie down and give in to middle age, though. He started Body For Life, trimmed off 40 pounds of bad weight, cut his cholesterol by 100 points and became a ripped muscle machine.
This fueled him to become a competitive bodybuilder in the all-natural circuit while also coaching men and women in the sport. Mike and those he coached all walked on stage looking great, and walked off the stage with hardware.
Here he is in all his shredded glory.
I credit Mike with reinvigorating my love for the outdoors. A Colorado resident for most of his life, he took to the high country like a mountain goat. Mike tagged more than two dozen 14,000-foot summits – a number that approaches 40 when you include repeats.
That was one of the coolest things about his love for the outdoors – he liked to take people to his favorite places, share his knowledge with them and, ultimately, share in their accomplishments. Thus he didn’t mind revisiting peaks he’d climbed many times before.
I know a lot of men out there will take exception with this, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a better family man than Mike. He set a high standard in terms of being a great husband, father, brother and son. He filled those roles extremely well while also being a friend to all he loved.
One of the truest tests of a man (or woman) is how they respond to crisis. Look back in your own life and you will see examples of success and failure in this regard – this is definitely true with me.
It was also true with Mike. Again, he set the bar almost impossibly high.
In the summer of 2010, he wasn’t feeling quite right. He was getting frequent colds and feeling a lack of energy. A health scare in a relative prompted him to go to the doctor himself. The findings: Mike had myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder/cancer that is similar to leukemia.
True to his nature, Mike fought with everything he had. As his health declined, he remained ever the encourager to those who visited him and cared for him. During his healthier days, Mike was known to be a great confidant and friend to people who needed it. He made a point to talk to anyone, and assigned them value as people – folks created in the image of God. It didn’t matter if it was his own family, a barista at a coffee shop or a homeless guy he saw on the way to work. He saw people as God saw them.
That’s easier to do when you’re feeling good. Mike continued that when he was ill. Even in his last days, Mike sought to bless and encourage others. “Love God and love others” was the advice he gave two friends who visited him just two days before he died.
Mike would have been 49 today. It’s been almost two years since he passed, and in that time we have grieved him deeply. He is now spending his time with the God he loved and served while on this earth, healed and whole, eyes filled with wonder by what has been revealed to him on the other side of the veil of life.
We must realize that the life we’re given is finite. The body we’re given is the only one we’ll get while we walk this earth. Life is a gift that some of us enjoy for many, many years. Others only get a few. Mike lived in a way that acknowledged these truths.
I hope I can do what Mike did and make it count, not just in terms of merely being active, but in having an impact that makes the world around me a better place. My bro set one heck of a standard – a lofty and worthy goal to shoot for.
Happy birthday, Mike. We miss you.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088