After nearly a year fighting multiple myeloma cancer, my friend Mike passed away February 25th at 8:55 pm EST. Mike had been a dear friend of Wally and I for almost as long as we lived in MA. We met Mike through our Ham Radio club, which is a group of people that were essentially our family while we lived in MA. To Mike, I came to realize we all were family to him as well. Like us, Mike did not live near his family, so having this dear group of friends filled that gap.
Mike will be missed by all of us. He helped many of us with our Ham Radio software, programming radios, setting up or taking down antennas, being a great mentor in so many ways. Wally and I went fishing with him and I had one of my most memorial Atlantic day trips on his boat out of Newburyport some years ago…but that was Mike. Helping and sharing with “his family.”
Now mind you, Mike was no saint. He was after all, Mike. He had a thick head, like my dad, and his opinions were strong. He lived his life a bit on the straight and narrow. I enjoyed “wifeing” him by arguing with him over his opinions or saying things I knew would piss him off, only in a nice way off course and with affection. We did this banter so well that N1IK-Brian, when he first met our group asked me if Mike and I were married. I laughed. “Ohhhh, no…not me. I just annoy him as IF I were his wife so he does not miss out.” Mike never married. He told me a story once of a woman he intended to marry, but that did not work out. I know it affected him deeply and we talked about it from time to time. Mike was was not driven to date as if he HAD to have a woman…he had a rich full life and if a woman came along, fine, but he was just A OK with his life.
Every winter, when the first snow storm hit, I looked forward to him singing, “The weather outside is frightful…” it was like a tradition…he never complained about the weather. I think he enjoyed it the more messed up it was. He constantly reminded us to stop “Wedging” out or we should move like Steve did. Sorry Steve….but your name became immortalized. Grins.
Mike lived his life well, did all the right things. Saved his money and looked forward to a great retirement. He talked about buying a place on a river or creek back in Michigan so he could go fishing out his back door…he actually found a nice place some years ago but he was waiting just a few more years to finish our his time with Mitre Corporation. He loved his real family back in Michigan and went back to visit several times a year. They had a great family camp and he LOVED to go there and visit with his brothers and sisters. We gave him a swinging chair that he put on the porch up there.
Because Mike was single, I tried to make sure to include him on various holiday dinners. At Christmas we always gave him homemade cookies and one year he asked me to bake Springerle cookies like his family used to bake and he even gave me a family rolling pin to make them with. I tried to make them each year for him…and this year I had to wait and by the time he could have cookies he wanted Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter cookies. One batch I shipped and the last batch I delivered in person. I think that meant a lot to him. He really enjoyed the peanut butter ones.
Visiting Mike a few weeks ago happened on a whim. I saw a window and Wally and I jumped on it. Steve Wedge joined us and we had a WONDERFUL visit, not only with Mike but with nearly all our MA friends over a two day trip. I think this trip extended his life some and he rode the adrenalin a little bit longer. Not due to us, but to due to all who rally at that time and thereafter.
When we decided to move from MA, it was hard on many levels, not the least of which was this wonderful group of friends in our ham radio club. I got to see over the last months and weeks just how great these folks are. Bill was there for him the most as far as I know. He and a few others drove him to appointments and sat with him when he had to be in isolation. Some plowed his driveway, most visited him or brought him meals. Bill helped with his affairs as best as he could. When Mike was moved to a NH Rehab center, Bill and Ken I think set up a ham radio station for Mike to work his last DX (foreign contact), bringing his total count up to 320 unique countries. Bill somehow was able to get Mike a DXCC plaque award and really brightened his day. What great friends.
During his last days, Mike was moved back to Brigham & Women’s in Boston. He communicated less and less. He made the decision to have no more treatments and he began to slide faster into his inevitable end. The friends kept visiting. Sometimes, it was just to hold his hands. When he began to bleed out his nose, Jim and Erik put on latex gloves and wiped it off. These are my friends. I love these guys. I know of no other story of friendship as deep as this. I am blessed to my core on how each of them stepped up to the plate. Mike took comfort from this even when he could do little more than lay there.
The last time I spoke to Mike was Valentine’s Day. I was only texting him at this point as I was told he was too weak to take calls. I had texted him, “Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.” As I sat at my desk at work my cell phone lit up. It said it was Mike Bernock. I was like, “Holy shit, it is Mike.” I answered it quickly. “Hey sweetie. I can’t believe you called me. He answered, “ I don’t have any energy, and so this is a very quick call. My phone was charged so I wanted to thank you for wishing me Happy Valentine’s Day and tell you I love you too. I have to go.”
“Thank you Mike. I love you too. Take care.”
Those would be the last words I would have with him. I guess I can say I could not ask for better words. It was hard being so far away because I would have sat there those last few days with him…I would have done what I could have to make sure he was not alone. I knew he was in good hands with both our group of friends and also his family that came as well.
When I read the email last night from his brother that Mike had passed, I was relieved. The relief was in knowing he was no longer fighting the deterioration of his body while his mind was whole. That was killing me to watch from afar. His death was slow and difficult and he was too nice a guy to suffer that. He is at peace now…
Last night, in the middle of the night…I had an experience I like to think was Mike passing by. I do Reiki, and when I do Reiki, I see like an aura in my mind’s eye..it is like flashing circles of light or energy and I see it when I feel the energy pulsing at my fingertips. Last night, I was awakened with this same type of light in my closed eyes…it was very bright..much brighter than my usual experience. It pulsated for a few minutes and it was a very happy, positive feeling and it made me smile and think of Mike. When it stopped, it was gone. I tried to get it back but I could not make it happen…it was outside of me…it had washed over me. I felt it was Mike passing by…and letting me know he was ok. I hope that does not make me sound crazy, but it gives me peace.
I will miss you Mike. You were a dear friend. I won’t ever forget you.