In Memory of Mike Marino
Michael Marino was a man truly made in the image of God, fashioned after God's loving heart. It is hard to speak of love, because it is primarily an experience beyond words. And, therefore, it is so hard to speak of Mike's spirit because he was so loving. Love is gentle, love is patient and forgiving, love is kind, love celebrates. Mike was gentle, Mike was patient and forgiving, Mike was kind, Mike celebrated.
Mike was gentle.The prophet Isaiah says of God, "He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break (...)" (Is. 42:2-3) Mike's voice was soft, his presence never over-powering, his demeanor meek. He mirrored something of the gentleness of God in how he walked on this earth and in how he interacted with others.
Mike was patient and forgiving. Living in community means living amongst people with different personalities, and not always easy ones. Oftentimes, if in community there was an argument or people seemed upset at something, Mike sought to be the peace-maker. During our April community night, Mike described peace in this way: "Peace is kind and joyful and outstanding." The words of someone who knows it. Mike wanted people to be well, and he was worried for them if he saw them unhappy. If something upset him, Mike was quick to forgive, so much he valued peace.
Mike was kind. Two of Mike's favorite songs were titled "With Arms Wide Open" and "Humble and Kind." These titles describe something of Mike. He looked after people and, although at times he seemed distracted, he always carried people in his heart and enjoyed keeping in touch with them, in these past years even posting periodic evening messages on Facebook wishing them goodnight. His heart was so big and inclusive that he welcomed people as they were.
There was something Marian about Mike: he was able to stand by people even in their suffering and as they endured their cross. Maybe, sometimes, in his rich sensitivity, he even put on himself a little too much of other people's emotions, yet he cared for them so genuinely.
Mike celebrated. Mike celebrated himself. He said he liked himself. He was proud to be himself. He was proud to be a rapper (he wanted to try out for a talent show!). He was proud of his family. As a person with a disability he mentioned, during a StoryCorps interview, that "you don’t need to be afraid to have a disability. That’s the way that God made you."
Mike also celebrated others, forming community with them. As a young boy he was in a baseball league and in the Boy Scouts. He was part of a high school acting group and of a Catholic religious group. As an adult, he was part of the Arts of Life studio, his church community and his online social media community. Of course, he was a beloved member of L'Arche Chicago, which he joined in the summer of 2009 and left as he died unexpectedly this April.
Our L'Arche community cherishes and misses Mike. Personally, I have been privileged to have grown in friendship with Mike over the years and to have been his travel companion as we worked together in starting and nurturing the L'Arche USA Inclusion Team for some years. He was one of the people most like God I have ever met.
At Peace House, were Mike lived, he would often go in and out of the living room, the kitchen area, and other living spaces, wandering around from room to room, often with his iPad at hand. One time you saw him in a space of the house and a few seconds later he would already be walking towards another room. Today, as we mourn Mike's absence and celebrate the gift he is, there is a sense that Mike has never fully left our L'Arche community, as if his passing was like going into another room for a bit to then come back in a different form.