Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Brother's Tribute

This was read by Keith Mayer, Michelle's younger brother, at her memorial mass.

Bill, Amelia, Aidan, and Father Kevin, thank you again for a beautiful service and your dedication to this family. As I look out to the crowd this morning I see many loving and familiar faces that produce a memory for me personally and my family. For those in the audience that do not know me, my name is Keith Mayer and I am the youngest of Michelle’s four brothers or as Michelle always referred to as “The Keither”. On behalf of the Mayer family, Michelle’s parents Jim and Claire, her brothers Anthony, Jimmy and Mark, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this Church and back in Philadelphia. We loved her as a sister, as a mother and as a daughter and I stand here today with great pride and energy to eulogize my outstanding sister.

In order to convey her daily struggles with family, friends, and the world, Michelle authored a daily blog which illustrated in acutely articulate writing her thoughts and translations of fond memories of the past, the unpredictable present, and her hope for the future. To me, this blog will forever serve as Michelle’s memoirs - the stories are vast, the writing eloquent but yet the lessons simple. On every entry, Michelle never stopped teaching. Whether or not it was her intent in those entries I don’t know, but her sentences led to paragraphs of life’s happenings and the reasons behind those happenings and what can be learned as she would convey this in simple stories so that any reader can comprehend and apply to their daily life. Michelle’s writing centered upon childhood memories of growing up in Philadelphia, picking buttercups with Uncle Snowy, her fabulous high school years and the lifetime friends she made during those four years, conversations and specific memories with Bill, Amelia and Aidan, the goodness of our parents, Bill’s grandfather Mel, Watson the dog, and many others. But on July 14th there was an entry that touched me deeply entitled Nothing Gold Can Stay:

The entry spoke of a day at Emerald Isle, off the coast of North Carolina, and how the day was a serenely beautiful moment where the kids were carefree, Bill and Michelle were in each other’s embrace, and it was at this point when Michelle lifted her head from Bill’s shoulder and recited the words of Robert Frost:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour,
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay,

Michelle’s lesson in this blog entry was clear - golden moments don’t last and that’s why they are golden.

When I think about gold I think about its brilliance and luster, but also the rareness of gold. In my sister those same qualities were nurtured at a very early age. It is of no secret for at least anyone that held a conversation with Michelle or read any of her writings that she was clearly brilliant. I, on many occasions, would have to interrupt conversations to reference a dictionary to figure out exactly what she was saying to the point where the conversation would cease because Michelle would lose her train of thought in addition to her patience waiting for me to get up to speed. Further, her intelligence was so great that she didn’t realize she had the ability to clear out a whole dining room as her and my father would go head to head on any issue, and I mean any issue. They would argue over why one fork would shine brighter than another; an exaggeration, but clearly a golden moment. But the rareness found in gold that generates its luster surely flowed through Michelle much the same way. Michelle gave us strength in HER time of trouble, wisdom in HER time of uncertainty, and courage in HER time of need; she will always be by our side.

During Michelle’s suffering I would ponder a simple question to myself over and over again, Where is God? When a wife in her prime and a mother of two could be forced to suffer such a grueling disease rather than the glorious freedom to digest all the great things about life without any interference: Where is God?; and every time I had the same answer - I don’t know. But when I think about it further and I reminiscence about the doctors clearly telling Michelle that it would not be in her best interest to get pregnant, that she would not be able to handle it, that her body would battle her all during the process and placing herself in grave danger. Well, her body did battle her and Michelle won. So, every time I lay my eyes on Amelia and Aidan I say to myself “there’s God” and every time I lay my eyes on my brother-in-law Bill, who’s endless, tireless, unstoppable dedication for my sister remained constant and his resolve to love her to death do us part … again I say “there’s God”.

In Michelle’s suffering and death, I witnessed what people are capable of; the goodness that exists in everyone flourished during Michelle’s time of need, Bill’s time of need, Amelia and Aidan’s time of need; people taking care of each other for no other reason than it was the right thing to; it is important for us to talk about that good, to remember that good. I saw my sister surrounded by a community that displayed love, kindness, care, friendship and sacrifice of time to assist in any way possible. In Michelle’s death I am proud and humbled by the people present today that embraced all those qualities, because in the end it is always important for us to remember that standing together as a people, a human race, we can do amazing things and that is what I saw with this community and it should never be forgotten by each and every one of us as our lives continue.

My sister needs to be remembered as having a predominance of courage over timidity who, with the help of Bill, saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw disease and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved her and pay tribute to her today pray that what she was to us a loving wife, a doted mother, a beloved daughter, an admired sister, a charismatic relative, and an inspirational friend will someday come to pass for everyone as an example of strength in the human spirit and the endless bounds that spirit can stretch. As I reflect on conversations with Michelle over the years and her writings, and for every one she sought to touch and who sought to touch her, I mirror her philosophy towards life in the words of George Bernard Shaw “some people see things as they are and ask why, Michelle dreamed things that never were and asked why not?”


Ana's World said...

What a beautiful tribute! I'm sure she loved you very much.

Amanda said...


May God embrace and hold you tight. You have created a piece that describes Michelle in the light that I saw her. As with everyone in her life I learned and grew to become more open minded and cautious about where I am spending my energy. Michelle helped us all feel like taking on the responsibility of living life. She is a gift from God that was sent to open and warm hearts. I dearly miss her. Now she is free. Free from suffering. Free to be an angel to her adoring family. You are all in my heart and prayers.
God bless you and your family,

Amyreyrn said...

a beautiful, touching tribute to a wonderful woman....someone i never met, but who has transformed my life through her writings...i pray you are all comforted in the fact that she is at peace and through her writings, never far from you....

Diva Velvetta said...

Keith, this is an amazing eulogy. I have never met your sister but I learned a great deal from her through this blog and I am sure she is terribly proud of you right now.

Linda Summerfield Crispell said...

Eloquence clearly runs in the family. Thank you for sharing this.

Lauren said...

Your brillence shines here just as your sister's did. Beautiful words from beautiful soul. Your family is truly blessed. I did not know Michelle but I will forever be grateful for the gifts she gave through her words. My prayers to all of you.

michiganme said...

Everyday when I read through my blogroll I see Michelle's name on the list and a sad ache comes over me. I miss her intuitive thoughts and articulate writing. I miss the anticipation of clicking on her blog and seeing what simple but brilliant narrative awaited me. Thank you so much for posting these tributes, they're beautiful and they help all of us too MIME

Ellen said...

Thank you so much for posting this, Keith. What a beautiful tribute to your sister. I think about Michelle often and frequently revisit the writings on her blog. Her words continue to inspire me. And now yours do, too!

You and your family remain in my thoughts,

Another cyberfriend

Patricia Dunn said...

I just heard your story on KYW and wanted to express my sympathies for your loss. I had been a friend of the family from years ago, but never had the pleasure of meeting Michelle. She certainly was a remarkable woman. My prayers are with you.

Patricia Dunn

coleen doyle said...

Keith: I am not sure if you will remember me...Coleen Doyle(St. Dominic's) I found this while searching Nazareth's web page. I am so sorry for your loss. Michelle was waiting for me at the front door on my first day of freshman year to guide me through. I always wanted to be as smart as her (not quite!!). You and your family are in my prayers(cmdoyle@wlngalw.com)

Anonymous said...

I typed in the Google search box, "choose to see," and this is where I came. What a perspective on life Michelle had! No matter what her struggles life presented, she had an unfailing way of allowing the expression of love of her family, self and life to shine through when anyone looking in could have winced from the emotional pain. I thank Michelle for her writings, but I thank you for sharing the post you wrote to share your eulogy of such a beautiful soul. What an encouragement to reach beyond my own emotional suffering and choose to see the beauty in life!

Unknown said...

Thank you for keeping this blog up. I stumbled upon it somewhat randomly. I can feel the courage and love Michelle had. I want to give you and your kids a big hug, on behalf of Michelle, whose love is real and impacting the world today and everyday. Peace be with you. Amy B, WA

Unknown said...

You posted nice .I am finding more similar post through online .I wanna say with you "Love Human Life" deeply .Please keep it up .

Moonmaid said...

Thank you for leaving this up. Today I woke up to a beautiful fall day in Texas, thinking, what would I do if this was my last day on earth? I wrote out a list and am determined to see it through. I stumbled on this blog and amazing entry after looking up various interpretations to Joni Mitchell's Hejira - one of Michelle's lovely entries. Wisdom, art and beauty never die. Obviously Michelle and her family had - and have - this in spades. Thank you again.

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