Sky blue eyes twinkling with mischief and love, a massive smile bookended by cavernous dimples, peals of maniacal laughter echoing through my aural canal, these are the gifts that Michael left behind when he spun off this mortal coil. He grew physically over the lifetime that I knew him, but these essential characteristics remained unchanged. When I regarded Michael as a man, I could still easily identify the boy that he had once been. The light of youth always kissed him and, given his premature demise, will shine forever in my heart.
Born fourteen months before me, and with our fathers as long-time ski jumping pals, Michael was a consistent presence throughout my life. From the lunacy of our boyhood, to the quests of our teen years, to a stint living together as ski bums in college, through to our quasi-adulthood and my own parenthood, Michael’s love and friendship were ever abiding.
The marks that Michael left upon me were not only figurative. Potential energy did not remain stored within him; he was a purely kinetic being. Never a wallflower, I was nonetheless the more reserved of the duo, magnetically pulled into innumerable shenanigans, with the scars to prove it. Michael always inspired me to be a more outsized, more mythical version of the self I had envisioned.
Not content to play tag like normal kids, we used to launch fireworks at each other as we ripped through the woods that were our natural habitat. Whether on skis or on bikes or over water, Michael never hesitated to hit a jump, drop a cliff, launch himself off anything, and I was there, an inch behind, scared out of my wits but still airborne or plummeting to an unforgiving ground. His athletic prowess far exceeded mine, as did his disregard for personal safety. A ride in his WRX as it wound through mountain passes was a cardiac adventure.
Michael’s death is a shock, but perhaps not a surprise. He was always living on borrowed time. I was but an adolescent when I first feared that I had lost him. A champion BMX racer, he had an intense accident that put my entire family in vigil. Since that time, his predisposition to push down the throttle was exacerbated. For most people, this would be a concern, but the clarity of his zest for life was a fundamental attribute of his existence and a joy to behold.
In recent years, Michael had rounded out the sheer force of his personality with an attention to the mysteries and promises of the spiritual world. Not a man prone to mellowing, he dove with all his considerable might into readings and practices that allowed him to see bigger pictures and his place within them. He was a seeker, not only of adrenaline, but of beauty and wisdom. I had not seen him in the flesh in about a year, to my now eternal dismay, but he frequently checked in from some scenic alpine vista or azure sea, usually with a stunning woman in close proximity.
Michael would be an excellent fictional character, save for the potential criticism that his antics and mannerisms seem too unreal. While I recognize the sanctity and uniqueness of each person on Earth, it is no exaggeration to say that Michael was the most singular person that I could ever hope to know. The void that his passing leaves in my life will never be filled.
I mourn and honor Michael as I lived with him: by pushing deep into the backcountry, by appreciating the obvious and the subtle in this gorgeous world, by connecting deeply with friends and strangers alike. He will forever be a part of me, that internal voice motivating me to go a little faster, to hug a little tighter, to dream a little bigger.