They call it news. A man was found dead in a park and no one could identify him. They called him another John Doe. Just someone on drugs that the world wouldn’t make much mention of. I have heard of these sad stories before and with detached concern I would do as all the world does. Not think or say much about it. How can you give considerable attention to the death of someone no one knows?
I go on about my life, driving my car, feeding my pets, raising my son, and noticing a song playing over and over in my head.
“If you’re wondering why I’m weeping. It’s because I’ve waked from sleeping, to discover God is keeping me forever whole. In God I am forever whole.”
I think of my friend Michael Labadie who used to sing that song to me. Yes, life is but a dream we would say in numerous conversations. One day we hoped to wake up to the big picture and see the vision to be universal LOVE.
I think more on my beloved friend. How many times I have called him with personal worries and he comforted and encouraged me while expressing that all he offered in wisdom, he knew was true for himself. I think of the song he wrote for his daughter Mara, “That’s who you are,” and how her face lit up the first time he sang it to her in church. The same way she beamed each time he picked her up from my day care and whisked her off for an afternoon of fun.
I step into the shower and as I have done each day in my water cocoon for over three years, I sing, “Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary, for you.”
I reminisce on the first time I ever heard Michael play that song and the many times we sang it together, along with his beloved friend Don, on special occasions such as the party in my home for my 34th birthday and the gatherings of our spiritual community.
A friend happens to stop by and because I am walking down memory lane I get out pictures of that birthday party and show him Michael strumming away on his guitar, while flashing the camera one of his big exuberant smiles. His aura reflecting all his goodness, spiritual consciousness, loving kindness, and of course, his sense of humor.
One of the biggest smiles I ever saw on my brother of love was this past March when he was ordained as a minister. Oh how proud I was of him. I wept at the ceremony with such deep joy, considering all he had come through in his life. He had spoken to me many times of his drug-induced existence of long ago in Detroit, where he slept in doorways, homeless and high. Homeless and high. I wondered if that unidentified man in the park was just like Michael had been so many years ago. I sent that lost and weary son of someone a silent prayer.
The phone rings and I set aside my pictures and singing to take the call. My dear friend Sandy Lee is on the other end of the line and I begin to feel happy to hear from her until I detect the quiet unrest in her voice. “Kristina, Michael is dead. He was found in a park here in town a few days ago. He was just identified today. Apparently he relapsed and overdosed on drugs." The rest of her information becomes fuzzy with the numbing of all my senses. I vaguely remember muttering something about feeling him so strongly lately, thinking I should contact him. In tears, I wish I had.
Though I have never participated much in drugs, I have quite a few friends who are recovered addicts. I think it is because I strive to be a non-judgmental person who accepts people and their past. My friends tell me that once you are an addict, you are one the rest of your life. I used to think that addicts were the people you see on cop shows, all doped up, thinking of no one but themselves and their next buzz. Michael was not that kind of person. Michael gave children unto this world. He so passionately expressed his love and so joyfully accepted another’s. He not only spoke of God’s word in his circle of friends, he sang of God’s love in gatherings at large and small churches. He was real when he told us of his own shortcomings. He was inspiring when he shared his realizations about this thing we call life. Every time he blessed us with a hug, we felt closer to God than we did the moment before.
I believe that each event in our lives holds a lesson. I have felt at peace in knowing that Michael is with his Creator, enveloped in the greatest love that any Being could ever comprehend. Selfishly, I have felt saddened each time I consider that I shall never hear him sing or play his music in person again. When I move into the next awareness I feel that Michael is trying to tell me how important it is to stay in my heart. Don’t let the thoughts and experiences of this world take you down. Stay true to what you know to be true and if it is not of love, it ain’t the truth. That we are all suffering inside from some past haunting which we let spook our hopes and dreams of today. We must take care of this gift of life that God breathed into us and never think that we have climbed so far away from our misgivings that we no longer need faith in our Father, belief in ourselves, and love from our spiritual kin.
In my way of viewing the world, I see that Michael lives on. A butterfly so beautiful and unencumbered, flutters its soft wings across my freckled skin. It reminds me that freedom from the inner shackles is something we are all striving for. Liberation from who and what we think we were to all that we truly are.
Michael’s death plays out just like his life, as a messenger of inspiration. The desire has been growing within my heart to become a minister or motivational speaker. There has been so much in my realm to tend to this year, I just put that dream on the back burner. Since hearing of Michael’s passing I have been reminded by gentle whispers to look into pursuing the path of service he walked so well. Today my friend Tony showed me some motivational tapes he bought last Thursday at the local trade store, just hours before our Michael’s transformation into the next world. Inside one of the cassette packets was a brochure from the Reunion Living Ministry where Michael received his holistic training. On the brochure was a personal message written on a sticky note to Michael encouraging him to consider becoming part of the ministry program. I gasp in awe of life’s synchronicity.
I hear you Michael. We love you Michael. You will live forever blessed and celebrated for your music, your divine spirit and the joyful difference you made in this life, and continue to create from beyond. And so it is. Amen.
“I will celebrate your life living inside of me, I will celebrate your life, your life, I will celebrate!!!!”
Footnote: I wrote this memorial to Michael 18 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday and I feel the messages here are still very relevant today.
Painting by Trea Christopher Grey