For Christmas of 2014, Tony and I went to visit my family in my home state of MN. On the last day of our short trip I was feeling emotionally hung over and finding my contacts to be increasingly dry from the heat of the vents blowing in my face in our car. The morning felt frigid and achingly grey. The afternoon before, we had visited with my Dad's best friend Mike and his wife Dee. Mike was fighting cancer at the time. To sadness of many, he passed away last August. I've known Mike my whole life. He met my dad when I was just a few months old. My brother and I used to call him Gumby because he'd always do his Eddie Murphy impression of Gumby for us, "My name's Gumby, Dammit!" Then he'd laugh, quite honestly, one of the most distinct laughs I've ever heard in my life which, come to think of it, also sounded like Eddie Murphy's, but louder. Basically, Mike was the Puerto Rican Eddie Murhpy.
We planned this visit to be our port in the storm. A quick visit before we hit the road after a very emotional holiday weekend (what family visits aren't a bit/a lot emotional?). The 2016 election came up and Mike brought up Bernie. At the time, I didn't know much about him and told myself to remind myself to google him up soon. Mike mused at the idea of a Bernie run. Tony said he read something similar somewhere online and Mike asked what he thought. Tony rubbed that little soul patch part of his beard, his lower lip tucked neatly beneath his top teeth. I've seen this face many times. It's the face he makes when he's pretty sure he's unsure but he likes the prospects of himself feeling sure.
Pretty soon we had to hit the road back to Chicago. Everyone said their goodbyes and found their way out of the house, but I stuck around a bit longer to say goodbye. Mike was really thin at this point, and though I was nervous about it, I couldn't stop giving him hugs. I wasn't sure if I'd see him again. Mike looked up at me and said, "Don't forget about me." I bent down to hug him one last time before I hurried out. My contacts were sufficiently moistened at this point. Hope hung so thick in the air of their home. We were all just wading in it together and it felt nice to feel hopeful with both Dee and Mike, but it made it that much harder to say goodbye, and even harder to imagine the outcome that nobody wanted to imagine.
As we drove off, my heart ached for Dee. For Mike as well, of course, but I could feel just how tenuous her grip to everything must have felt from moment to moment. The agony that accompanies the uncertainty of an illness' final outcome is felt by all parties involved, maybe sometimes more so by the caretaker. Then again, as someone who has been living a life of pain for almost the last year, I will say that watching people watch you in pain, well [big fat sigh inserted here] there is nothing in this life that can prepare you for it. Maybe we can all take comfort somehow in that part of humanity.
I've thought about Mike and Dee so much over the last year. Life since my last birthday almost a year ago has taught me some major shit. The biggest thing? The most important part of life is living the little moments, and living them honestly with your truest of intentions. Those little moments of honesty and love are FAR more powerful than anything in this world. In fact, it's the cure for cynicism, a disease that plagues our country and world.
That's my lesson, at least. It's different for everyone, but there is a common denominator: the want and drive to act truly human is something that is earned. And once you're there, the work does not stop and can only continue with you; no one will do this for you. No one CAN do this for you. Only you can choose to seek the truth about you.
Mike cannot continue to fight, but I'm here and I'm getting stronger every day. So I write this to ask of you to not only vote your conscience, but to also vote your humanity. Not me, us. United in humanity, forever one race: the human race. On June 7th, 2016, let's give the world a message that love, hope, patience, kindness, foresight, and empathy are qualities we want in a leader that will take our race, the human race, further in its pursuits.
June 7th also happens to be my birthday. Let's make it a memorable one, eh?
Feel the Bern.