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It’s close to 3 a.m. and I’ve been awake for probably close to an hour now. Danny and Zoey are both snoring unmercifully. Zoey went through a period of lots of coughing, but she must have repositioned herself, because she has stopped coughing and is merely snoring loud enough to compete with her father.

Also, Laurie Berkner is in my head relentlessly singing:
Buzz buzz buzz, buh-buzz buzz, buh-buzz buzz, buzz buzz buh-buzz!
Buzz buzz buzz, buh-buzz buzz, buh-buzz buzz, buzz buzz buh-buzz!

I have to go to work tomorrow and be productive, and it is not going to go at all well if I don’t get to sleep very, very soon. But I am not even close.

Surprisingly, this is what I feel most of the time. I’m just so grateful for so many¬† things.

Of all the families Mikey could have been part of, he was part of ours. He could have been some other parents’ son, some other person’s brother, some other little girl’s beloved Uncle Mikey. He could have watched football games season after season with some other set of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins at some other house. I could have shared a bedroom wall with some other guy for 16 years, some other guy who played music too loud when I wanted to sleep or study. I could have had an absolute blast on family vacations, put on a truly terrible one-act “Romeo and Juliet” in the living room (“Juliet — what yer doin’ here?!”), stayed up wringing my hands during Hurricane Erin, and opened presents on Christmas mornings with someone else. Some other spiky-haired kid could have come to my band concerts and football games. I could have gone to golf tournaments to see somebody else try a season in the Brevard County Junior Golf Association. …Some other guy could have cried at my wedding, and some other uncle-to-be could have waited with Roger (Danny’s brother) outside the door of our hospital room when Zoey was born.

Instead, he came to us, and we had him for 22 years. It doesn’t seem like long — it doesn’t seem like enough. But… that’s better than 21 years. If someone had asked us, when he turned 21, “So, should he come home now, or would you like one more year and some change?” What would we have said?

Exactly.

I’m also grateful that, instead of feeling crushed all the time by loss, I can always sense him nearby. It’s been almost a month since we lost him, and longer than that since I hugged him and had a two-way conversation with him, but it doesn’t feel like I haven’t seen him in so long. He’s around, and he’s found small ways to let most of us know it.

I’m even grateful for the way he died. Stay with me… it sounds weird, but it’s not. If he really had to go — and he obviously had to go, because otherwise he’d have been sent back to finish his mission — there are so many worse ways it could have happened. It could have been something that took a long time and chipped away at him little by little. It could have been something that happened so fast we couldn’t go into his hospital room, touch his hair, rub his hands and tell him we love him and we’re all here with him, and eventually tell him good-bye. It could have been even worse; he could have gone missing and left us all completely bewildered and frightened, left to figure out over months and years that he wouldn’t be coming home.

Instead, he drifted off, without pain, with his family nearby, with no loose ends and no unfinished business — just an array of people left behind to love him and miss him.

Last, but not least, I’m grateful for the example he set. For years I thought his greatest weakness was that he would invest too much of himself in people who were damaged. Along the same lines, I believed he was also too quick to forgive. I’m sure I told him — and I know I thought it — “you can’t be everyone’s savior. Some people don’t want to be saved. It’s not always up to you.” And that’s true, but he was always willing to try — to take one more chance on someone, no matter how messed up they were, just in case he could help pull them up. And since he left, it’s obvious what this love of people cost him: nothing. It didn’t damage him or put him in danger — at least, never for long.

I’m grateful to him for proving that you can maintain a standard for yourself, without judging people who measure up differently.

So maybe this is actually going better than I expected, or maybe it’s just the Effexor talking. All I know is, I’ll take gratitude over sadness anytime.