On January 26, 2005 my beautiful brother Mick died suddenly at his home from a heart attack at age 50. I lost one of my best friends on that sad day.
Growing up in a family with eleven people in one small house was awesome but very busy. Unfortunately we couldn’t all become best friends because of our age differences. My brother Mick was two years older than me so we became very close. Our bedrooms were right next to each other and if we both laid at the end of our beds we could see each other and talk until our older siblings, Joan and Jim, came to bed.
We grew up in a neighborhood with lots of kids that played with each other. The older kids included us younger kids in a lot of baseball and hockey games, in snow fort building and in games like Red Light, Green Light in our yards. We had so much fun.
Mick was always goofing off even when he was suppose to be working. Every summer we picked blueberries to help pay for our school clothes. One morning my mom dropped us off at Hyrn’s Blueberry Patch and when she picked us up eight hours later, Mick had goofed off so much that day that he only made 12 cents. Needless to say, he got into trouble with my mom.
Another time I thought Mick would get into trouble is when he would drive me and my three younger sisters to Wednesday night Catechism class at St. Thomas Church. We were all supposed go to the class but Mick skipped every class that year. He would drop us off at church and then head over to McDonald’s and come back to get us when class was over. As far as I know my mom never found out.
Probably the first time I realized how close Mick and I had become was in high school. Mick was very handsome, athletic, had a great personality and was smart but he never acknowledged it. Mick had lots of friends and because of his great personality and looks he had a lot of girls that had crushes on him. I was always so proud to be around him and loved him so much.
Mick had a very frustrating side, too. Mick was stubborn and never realized his full potential. Mick had so many natural gifts but never felt worthy of his gifts. In his senior year he was chosen to be on the homecoming court and when he heard the news he said, “Bob Nolan should have been chosen before me because he has done so much for our class and I don’t deserve it.”
After high school Mick and I remained close. I absolutely adored him and was so proud to call him my brother and my friend but his stubborn ways were getting more frustrating. Mick started to drink a lot and my parents were getting worried about him but I was just plain mad at him because my unselfish brother was now so selfish and was hurting our parents.
One day Mick and I were driving around town and talking and Mick told me a deep dark secret. He said, “Sometimes I can see myself driving really fast down Horton Road and when I get to the end instead of stopping at the cross street, I would like to keep driving fast into the trees.” At that moment I was devastated and felt so helpless but I kept his secret.
While going to school at Eastern Michigan University and working at a local hospital Mick met Jackie who later became his wife. Jackie already had two adorable kids, Eric and Jennifer, and Mick instantly fell in love with all three and they became a beautiful family. Mick eventually adopted Eric and Jennifer as his own. Later they had Jessica and Michael and their family was complete. They moved to Muskegon and I thought Mick had finally found true happiness but I was wrong. Mick started drinking more until Jackie had had enough. Jackie had suggested that we conduct an intervention with Mick so we did. We sat in a private room with a counselor, Jackie, my parents and Mick’s eight siblings all sitting in a circle as we talked with Mick. After our intervention Mick agreed to go into a treatment center.
I remember my dad saying, “If a guy really wants to quit drinking, he should be able to.” But after our whole family was educated on addiction, we all learned it is easier said than done. During that time we all learned a lot about addiction and became less judgmental.
The treatment facility Mick went to didn’t fix everything but it was a good place to start. As the years went on Mick had his ups and downs which affected his family life. I had a chat with Mick not long before Mick died and on that day he had already attended two AA meetings and I asked him why he went to two that day. He said he was starting to struggle more at that time so he was trying to attend more meetings per day for at least 21 consecutive days. Mick said, “The real struggle with addiction is the thinking and not necessarily the chemical dependancy.” Today I believe Mick’s “thinking” was his biggest problem starting from when he was young.
It baffles me to think that all nine of us kids have the same parents but we are all so different. Mick had every gift imaginable except the gift of self-worth.
Dear Jackie, Eric, Jennifer, Jessica and Michael,
I know your husband/dad was tough on you at times but he loved you all so much. Maybe he never felt he could ever live up to his own expectations of being a good husband and father.
I love you all.
I miss Mick but lucky for me every day I get a glimpse of him through Chad, Corey and Bryan because of their laugh and sense of humor, the way they scratch their head, the way they walk, the way they love and their sometimes stubborn ways. My brother Mick loved bigger than most people could ever imagine and touched so many lives and was so loved by all and I’ve missed him every day for nine years.