I am writing through tears because I need this man to be remembered. Not just for his business, but for his heart.
Time and again, I’d find his kind words helpful to me along my difficult journey with Crohn’s disease. He was always there to boost me up and follow through with his talk of treating members of the company as family. I believe he truly meant that.
Both of us bonded over our shared list of projects we wanted to take on and our passion for the ostomy community. Michael was an unforgettable man, and he could be a bit of a shock. How can someone who suffers so much and honestly needs some rest be so enthusiastic for every moment in life? How can he be so contagiously joyful? How can he be such an outrageously persistent visionary? How can he be such a brilliant source of light for those around him? I’ll never understand. I’ll never forget either.
I told Michael frequently how happy I was at his company and whatever happens, I know I will have been a part of something important.
I never told him that I believe he saved my life by hiring me. But I can tell people now and try to honor his legacy. I don’t know how to express my profound gratitude. Nothing is enough. Nothing is special or eloquent or heartfelt enough. He simply had so much heart that I felt humbled by him and inspired to be kinder and more enthusiastic with people.
I owe him more than he will ever know. But he set me on a path toward better care for people like us, so thanks to his vision and planning, I have hope I can stay on that path and help achieve some of his goals.
He was enthusiastic about living. He inspires me to try to take a better attitude because I handle life with a lot more frustration and profanity. Thankfully he was no stranger to obscenity so I could freely express myself around him. Because of him, I feel like I have value. I believe I can help patients now. I didn’t believe I could make a real difference before Michael. He believed in me when I needed it so badly. Because of him, I see the world and my possibilities differently. Because of him, there are patients who found comfort and relief. Because of him I will never stop trying to change healthcare. I know he’s touched many lives and I’m proud to have had his friendship.
We got to know each other better at a ostomy conference hotel party. Thankfully a few of us left when the crowd started getting rowdy. A few of us went out to dinner and his business partner had some very smooth pickup lines and Michael kept saying, “Bloody hell.” We shared a lot of laughs and the world is darker without him. Just thinking about my precious little time with him makes me smile.
Cheers to you, my dear friend. Thank you for sharing your life with people who needed you.
I would also like to share a story that makes me laugh every time, with the warning that there’s some crass language.
One of my favorite memories with Michael was when we were playing an improv game that required some volunteers from the audience. He and our youngest Patient Coach at 13 years old were among them. Nathan Seres, Michael’s son got the opportunity to ask the volunteer panel a question and he went with “Why is the sky blue?” I think he was just trying to mess with his dad. So the answer, thanks to Michael, was “Because, you twat.” And then our 13 year old asked what twat meant.
Lessons from Michael:
- Don’t let a little health crisis deter you from important work. We both worked more than we probably should have during bouts of severe health issues and hospital stays. When doctors and nurses would ask about it, I would tell them how Iucky I am to have such a fulfilling job that I love so much.
- Express appreciation for your time with those around you. He made everyone feel special, and he was quick with compliments for a job well done or well wishes. Because of him, I will treasure time with people a bit more, and I’ll make more effort to express that.
- Don’t let anyone tell you something is impossible. I don’t know much about the massive amount of effort that went into developing a new company and starting to change healthcare. I’m sure people have doubted along the way, but Michael fought so hard and so persistently that he created an amazing, unique company.
- Adaptability and creativity are vital. Life threw him so many obstacles. He managed to adapt, carry on, and inspire people no matter what.
- Put others first. He was not the best at self care because he was so passionate about making life better for other patients. He put the needs of the ostomy community over his own so constantly, and even when he was down he continued to encourage all of us who were blessed enough to work with him.