camping site

Tribute to Michael

by Nora Roth

picture of Michael

About two weeks before his death, Michael and I made a trip from Centralia to Walla Walla. He was beginning the registration process for Spring quarter. We were planning to come home on Thursday.

Then Michael learned that one of his Engineering professors, Rod Heisler, had been killed in an accident and there would be a memorial service for him on Saturday. Michael very much wanted to attend the service so we arranged to stay in Walla Walla until Sunday. After the service Michael told me that the formalities at the beginning and end of the service were pretty standard but what was really significant and touched him personally was the middle part where information was shared about Dr. Heisler.

One of my goals for this service has been to share some snapshots of Michael.

Michaelís favorite book of the Bible was Deuteronomy. Isnít that a unique choice? Michael liked the book because it tells the story of the farewell appeal that Moses gave to the million plus people he had shepherded for 40 years. Moses knew he was going to die and he had an opportunity to tell the people exactly what the purpose of his life was, and to recount for them how God had led them through the wilderness.

Michael didnít know he was going to die and he didnít have the opportunity to share with you what he would have wanted you to know. So Larry, Julie and I are doing our best to share Michaelís life story with you and to give you a glimpse of things that were meaningful to him.

More than anything else, helping other people brought meaning and fulfillment to Michaelís life. So often he would say, ďIs there anything I can do to help you?Ē He readily put other peoples happiness above his own. He was insightful and intuitive. He had a gift for understanding people. Often when he met a new person, within about 5 minutes he would have a sense of the depths of their heart and he would feel the pain that they so carefully tried to hide from the world. He would feel bad for them and empathize with them.

Michael could sense when someone was discouraged or troubled and he would strive to encourage them and lift them up and give them a vision for how to improve their lives. He was careful not to judge or criticize people. He didnít want to cause pain to anyone else.

Michael was easily discouraged Ė maybe this is why he was so careful to encourage other people.

Michael was often misunderstood Ė maybe this is why he was so perceptive and understanding of others.

Michael experienced so much pain in his life Ė maybe this is why he sensed the pain of others and avoided adding to it.

Michael encouraged me in so many ways. I felt like he knew me better than anyone else. It seems that almost everything I think about or do is somehow connected to him.

He loved to think and talk and explore new ideas. Some of my favorite memories are the hours we spent together talking, laughing, sharing of ourselves -- our hopes, dreams and thoughts, our concerns and disappointments. He would mix humor and creativity throughout the conversation.

My favorite book of the Bible is the Revelation of Jesus. As a family we memorized 6 chapters from Revelation as well as several hundred other verses from the Bible. I would often share with Michael some new idea I was exploring. He had such a quick mind that usually before I had even finished explaining the idea he would understand what I was saying. Then he would expand on the idea and share new points with me that I had never thought of.

As we talked about the events described in Revelation, Michael expressed that he wanted to be ready to follow the Lord, as He lead.

I like to eat blueberries every day and each summer I try to pick 100+ pounds. Last summer Michael went blueberry picking with me for the first time. I showed him how to pick berries and it wasnít long before he was doing a better and quicker job of picking than I was. He didnít just do a job, he excelled at doing it. And the topics of conversation we covered as we picked were free flowing and fascinating.

In September of 2011, Michael moved into his current apartment. He had to fill out a detailed rental application and since Michael didnít have a job, Larry said he would co-sign the application. The agency ran a credit report and later that day the agent called and said, ďMichael has been approved to rent the apartment, and his credit is so good that he doesnít need a co-signer.Ē ďIt is so good to see a young person that has their life together.Ē When Michael heard this he burst out laughing because he didnít feel like he had his life together.

Iíd like to share a story from Brandon, Michaelís roommate for several years:

ďWe shopped for food in sporadic trips, as needed. On our first grocery run, we stocked up some core foods as well as what we thought kitchens were 'supposed' to have. This included a 1 pound bag of pinto beans. This bag of pinto beans was a source of great humor for us throughout the years. When we were hungry and the kitchen was essentially empty, we would stare at this lonely bag and debate whether we were hungry enough to actually try to cook these beans. Neither of us knew how and we would eventually go shopping. I think the pinto beans symbolized the fact that things could always be worse. I still have the beans and was planning on sending him half of them to Michael in a jar - just as a funny reminder. I wish I'd sent it sooner.Ē

Michael was calm and full of thought in emergencies. Recently the four of us were having dinner together and I cut my finger with a sharp knife. Michael calmly made suggestions for how to keep pressure on the cut, how to hold it so it wouldnít hurt, and where to go for help.

Michael loved adventure and challenges. He would push himself to the limit both physically and mentally to do things faster or better.

There is a hike in the Columbia Gorge which has an elevation gain of 5,000 feet to the top of Mount Defiance, the highest point in the Gorge. This hike is rated as very difficult. Michael completed the 12 mile loop in less than 4 hours, which required him to run most of the way back down the mountain. Then he set a new goal for himself to complete the hike in less than 3 hours.

When things were troubling to Michael he would often head out for a long walk, night or day. Or else he would sit quietly and think.

Michaelís second favorite book of the Bible was the book of Acts. He was impressed at what God accomplished by the outpouring of His Spirit. He also saw themes in the book that mirrored his own life Ė helping others, struggle, pain, pushing to the limit and adventure with a purpose.

Michael had many gifts and talents. He was special and unique. He can never be replaced. He believed that each person is special and unique.

Iíve never experienced more heartbreak, or had such disappointed hopes, or felt so much pain as I have had in losing Michael. But through this time of grief Iíve appreciated Jesus as my empathizing Savior. My trust is in Jesus, for Michael, for Julie for Larry and for myself.

Jesus could raise Michael from the dead, today. That would be easy! But what He canít do is to change a heart that is not surrendered to Him. The desire of my heart is to be reunited with Michael in heaven. But itís not just Michael that I long for. Itís each one of you. I would like to get to know you. Your strengths, your talents, the precious, God-given traits and abilities that make you unique in the whole universe. By Godís grace give your life to Him Ė today.

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