I have copied it here for you exactly as I received it from Ms. Fleck. I think the similar themes across everyone who knew him are evident. Mikal was an excellent human being and a roll model for all of us.
I could start by trying to describe Mikal, but how do you describe the wind when you know it best by the way it changes the world around it? I could begin by telling you how I met Mikal, but as we all know, you don’t really “meet” someone like Mikal in the same way that you don’t really “meet” the wind. Mikal engulfed people with affection, optimism, high expectations, and an astounding amount of generosity. Mikal was a force of nature and we are all better for being swept up in his wake.
Mikal came to me because he was having some trouble with his writing. He was supposed to write three sentences in response to some question, so I asked him to read me what he had. Scrolling down his iPhone, Mikal probably rattled off about twelve sentences before I asked him, “is there going to be a period in here at some point?” That’s where we started: with periods, the most basic way to divide one idea off from the next one. Because he’s so smart, Mikal didn’t have much trouble figuring out how to punctuate his sentences and, after we reviewed the rules, he announced that he was going to come to me every week for help. Later, he enrolled in my writing class.
During our time together, I started to realize that the twelve-sentence run-on sentence he read in our first meeting reflected the way Mikal lived his life. Ideas tumbled out of him; he insisted on creating connections between everyone he met; he wanted to know everything; he wanted to do everything; and he wanted the same thing for everyone he met.
Now that he’s gone, I find myself thinking about the way we divide and combine sentences. In our internal landscapes, thoughts glow and emerge unpunctuated, but if we want to translate them to someone else, we need some boundaries. Mikal learned those conventions, but I got the sense that most boundaries just didn’t make that much sense to them. He lived his life wide open. I never saw him smack down a period between himself and anything or anyone he ever met.
In class next semester, Mikal held himself, his classmates, and me to a high standard. If this meant getting up and walking over to someone who seemed confused or distracted in the middle of class, then that was what was going to happen. If he didn’t understand something, he was going to get another explanation. If he got below an A, he was going to know the reason why. If, heaven forbid, someone wasn’t in class, he would be texting them during the break. If someone was in the hallway when they needed to be in class, he dragged them there and pushed them in the door.
By then, Mikal had started informally tutoring others. If he heard me begin to explain something he knew, he would say, “I got this,” and take over. And you know? He was great. People felt empowered with him. He was so funny. And he would be like a force of nature when he pushed any reluctant tutee who balked at his high expectations. They were going to learn this if he had to chase them down the hallway to teach it.
You think nothing can take down a force of nature. You think it will always be there, as predictable as the wind. Mikal had come through so much to get where he was. He had such great plans. He was luminescent and inspiring and exhausting and charming and utterly unforgettable. Many of us go through our lives without getting to know someone like Mikal and we should count ourselves among the fortunate that we got to feel the force of his nature because, like wind, he pushed us all along.
And then he was gone. Even a force of nature, we are forced to realize, can leave us too soon. The wind can suddenly die down and leave the world strangely quiet and empty. In death, Mikal reminds us that we are all so fragile even as we shine with potential, power, and grace. For me, his legacy will be the reminder that all of you – all of us – are gloriously vibrant and filled with so much that is wondrous, and yet we are all so fragile. May we all treat each other and ourselves as Mikal treated us. May we sometimes live our lives like a run-on sentence, letting go of all doubt and division so we can glow with life. May we pull each other along through this time, never forgetting that what the wind has blown our way can never really be lost.