Friday, July 4, 2014


Summer of 2002. I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment in Memphis and most days were spent at the pool.  That was a great summer.  One day in particular, I was cleaning the house, getting ready to spend the day at the pool with my friends, and I was jamming out to some recently burned cd's as loud as I could. (That's what we did after mixed tapes and before iPods). Michael came over to see what the days plans held. One or two songs randomly played, and about the time that the third one came on, Michael jumped up and told me to turn it off. "What for? I like it!" I said.  "You don't understand. That song is about cystic fibrosis. They play it every year at camp to honor those who've died of CF".  Point taken. I get up and turn it off. 
Michael had cystic fibrosis.   The song was written by and sang by Tammy Cochran. "Angels in waiting". It was written for her two younger brothers who had lost their fight to CF so many years earlier.  I never "heard" that song the same way again after that day.  I knew someday, I'd hear it and "remember" him. I didn't ever want to see that day come.  We buried his older brother, John, who also lost his battle to CF. It's a horrible disease that's cruel and painful, and takes the lives of so many, usually just as their lives are beginning.  Michael was one of my sweetest friends. He worked with me at the bar, worked with me at Lenny's Sub Shop, and lived in the same apartment complex that I did. NOBODY could tear up a buffet like he could. I know the girls at the Barnhills in Bartlett shook their heads every time they saw us coming. We called him skittles.  Usually he could walk in a room and brighten the entire thing!  He was a burst of sunshine and energy. He would be in the hospital for weeks and months at a time, and never lost that sparkle in his eyes.

 Three years ago today, on July 4th, I got that dreaded message I never wanted to get.  Michael lost his own battle to cystic fibrosis. The world would never be the same without that spirit. That person. That friendship. He touched every life and every soul that he ever met. 

I woke up this morning sore and sun burned from the lake yesterday. Not thinking about today being the 4th, or even, sadly to say, about Michael. I cooked breakfast, showered and headed out the door to work, running late as usual. My phone was laying in the passenger seat beside me, and the windows rolled down.  Soaking up the sun and breeze of this summers day. Out of nowhere, my phone starts playing music. It never does this. From the first note, chills run all over my body, and I realize that I have a special passenger in the car with me on my ride to work today. Michael was NOT about to let me forget that this was his day.  Tammy started singing. Point taken, skittles.  Point taken.  I can't tell you what it felt like to hear that.  That song.  This day.  I KNOW it was Michael smacking me in the head, telling me "look ass, it's my day. Don't even think about forgetting me". That could never happen... 
It does the soul good to get the subtle reminders. Haha. Subtle. Nothing about him was ever subtle.  Just like today. It couldn't have been any clearer if he would have appeared and turned the music up himself. I got the biggest smile on my face, looked over to the passenger side seat and said "yeah I know. You're right here". I felt him in the car the whole way to work and still feel him with me now. 
This is your day, kid.  Fly high, fly fast and light up every star in the sky tonight!  It feels good knowing you're still here with us.  

"They were angels in waiting, waiting for wings to fly from this world, away from their pain, treasuring time, till time came to leave, leaving behind, sweet memories, angels in waiting, angels in waiting for wings". 


  1. A friend of mine died this spring from lupus and all its nasty complications. She was way too young - in her mid 20s - and knew her time on this earth would be short. Your post title, Skittles, is what she loved and we'd always 'toss' her skittles (she was eating such a weird diet at times that I'm not sure when the last time she had them) and seeing references to them now makes me think of her.