Mike was – and is – a gentle witness of God. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Servant of the Lord saying: “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:2-3). Christian tradition has applied this image to Jesus Christ. Made in God’s image and likeness as we are, I think of Mike as embodying quite a bit of that divine gentleness.
Mike, beloved friend and member of L’Arche Chicago, who passed away April 2018, seemed to live his life as an act of love – with a stance of profound care, of deep sensitivity, of heartfelt gentleness, and of quiet humility. Mike and the presence of Jesus seemed to be so “together” that I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
The gentleness of Mike was made manifest in his deep care towards others. I still remember him showing concern towards his family, housemates and friends, wondering how they were doing, what they might be thinking, how he could be present to them. He carried many people in his heart, giving them attention and priority. He remembered their needs. Through social media, he would often post “good night” messages wishing the people he was connected with a restful sleep and sweet dreams.
The gentleness of Mike was also made manifest in his playful and friendly sense of humor. In May 2015, on the occasion of the L’Arche USA Jubilee celebration at the Washington National Cathedral, the L’Arche USA Inclusion Team, which Mike and I co-led, enacted the founding story of L’Arche. At a certain moment, as we acted out the story, Mike and I were to represent the washing of the feet, a biblical image of care towards the other and a ritual so dear to L’Arche. As I knelt and mimed the washing of the feet, Mike, acting as the person whose feet were being washed, put his hands around his head, with his elbows upward, as if sunbathing (picture above). The audience roared with laughter. Mike not only cared for people and gave them words of comfort, but also gifted them with joy and with occasions for smiling.
There was a depth to Mike that was likely too deep for any of us to discover and fully know, let alone put into words. How could someone be so gentle, loving and kind? There is a mystery there that pinpoints to God, and that our minds can’t fully comprehend. What I know is that Mike is one of the people most like God I have ever met – a gentle and welcoming presence that I trust has not forgotten us. We have not forgotten him.