Anyone who knows me well knows that I've never really liked fishing.
I think it's because I have trouble sitting still anywhere but on a beach, and I don't love boats. But fishing is a very popular sport, and many of my friends love to fish. I've been asked many times to go, but I usually politely decline.
My best friend Mike Raske loved to fish, and he asked me to go with him many times. I went a few times with him when I was in my teens, but its been a long. long time since I took him up on his fishing offer. I wish I had.
Last week he had a heart attack and a stroke and died the next day. I spoke to a mutual friend at the funeral, and he spoke to Mikey the night before - and he was "fine". Losing a friend (or husband or father or son) is terrible, but somehow it seems worse when you have absolutely no time to mentally prepare.
He was the best man in my wedding and I in his. Yes... that's me in my White Tails (with way more hair) and Mike in the ruffled shirt I made all my groomsmen wear.
It's always been Mike and Cindy as long as Carol and I can remember - for over 40 years it's been the 4 of us. We spent New Years together, and many trips and mini vacations when we were younger. That slowed down somewhat when we both had children, but we talked recently about starting to take some trips together now that we were pretty much empty nesters.
But I talked to him on the phone every few weeks for as long as I can remember, and I can't get a grip on the fact that I'm never going to speak to him again. He was one of the smartest people I knew, and had a law degree (although he switched careers many years ago). Some of you may have known him as the owner of Sydney Bush Slip Company, as many of the bridal stores and designers did business with him over the past 30 years. Whenever a store who knew him found out that we were friends, I always got the same reaction: "Michael was a great guy and a pleasure to work with".
That was the Mike I knew. EVERYONE who knew him loved him, and you could tell by the conversations at his funeral. Sometimes you go to funerals and hear all of the plaudits and praise that gets spread around and you say to yourself..."Who are they talking about"? But not this time. All of the kind words and great stories didn't do justice to the kind of man that he was. He was a terrific family man - a great husband and a loving father to his 2 daughters. And he loved those girls and couldn't talk enough about them. Not in a bragging way (anyone who knew him knows he didn't have a "bragging bone in his body"). But he was so proud of his girls, and they loved to fish with him. He loved dogs, and always had a springer spaniel since the day I met him when I was 15 years old. And yes, even his daughter Dani's brittany Elle was at the funeral! That was so Mikey.
I've been in a funk for over a week now, and I think I'll feel better when I finish writing this blog and get it all "out". But I'll never be quite the same, and I realize that these things happen when we get older and lose the ones we love. And Carol and I DID love Mikey.
Dani and Lauren wrote a beautiful eulogy for their father, and read it grave side. It closed with a poem, and we cried when we heard it. But it was such a beautiful poem, and so fitting of a tribute to my friend - for a life well lived. RIP Mikey, I will never forget you! H
I've finished life's chores assigned to me,
So put me on a boat headed out to sea.
Please send along my fishing pole
For I've been invited to the fishin' hole.
Where every day is a day to fish,
To fill your heart with every wish.
Don't worry, or feel sad for me,
I'm fishin' with the Master of the sea.
We will miss each other for awhile,
But you will come and bring your smile.
That won't be long you will see,
Till we're together you and me.
To all of those that think of me,
Be happy as I go out to sea.
If others wonder why I'm missin'
Just tell 'em I've gone fishin'
by Delmar Pepper