Hello to you all. It’s been an intense couple of weeks. It still doesn’t seem real that Michael isn’t here. I know we are just beginning on this road without him.
Thank you to so many of you who joined us this past weekend for storytelling on Friday and for the memorial on Saturday. I was moved to see and hug so many of you. And I know there many more of you that I didn't get a chance to hug. Thank you for being there! And I know many others were there in spirit -- we could feel you with us too. I am also deeply grateful for the many many hands and organizers who made it all possible. You know who you are -- thank you! Michael and I went to a number of funerals over the past years, especially since we know a lot of others walking with cancer. He liked to talk shop afterward, musing about his own memorial service. I’m sure he would have loved it, and I’m sure he was there with us.
During the Quaker memorial, many people stood and gave us reflections or stories about Michael. I’m guessing many of you had a story or thought about Michael that you didn’t get a chance to share. Whether you were at the memorial or not, my kids and I would love your stories / thoughts / reflections on Michael. Please feel free to share in the comments. Thank you!
Below, I’m including the poems that my kids read at the memorial below, along with the lovely words from Christy, Michael’s sister.
Reading by Grace:
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
Reading by Isaiah:
On the Death of the Beloved
By John O’Donohue
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
Words by Christy, Michael’s sister:
It is so lovely to see you all here. This is exactly the kind of gathering Michael would love, except he would be the one up here telling a story and testifying to the power of love, healing, transformation and community. I didn’t want to come up and say something today, it felt too intimidating and scary, and how can I put into words what Michael means to me? I can feel shy and uncertain of what to say and consistently in my life when I have been at points of making decisions or wanting to talk something through, it was Michael who I would call. He would listen and ask the most challenging and supportive questions, reflecting back what I often could not or would not say. And then he would believe in me, often more than I believed in myself. He would encourage me to the outer edges of my comfort zone, and then try to encourage me to go a step further. I was often scared by that, and I loved that about Michael. I knew he loved me unconditionally, a special gift. When I asked my 5 year old daughter what I should say, she said, “you just say he was your brother and you loved him.” So I want to say Micahel John Bischoff is my brother and I love him. I love him in life and in death, and he was about love. He spent his life, especially the last 4 years, immersing himself in giving and receiving love -- love of Jenny, Isaiah and Grace, love of his wider family and friends, love of the river, love of God, love of the birds, love of his doctors, love of community, love of stories,….it could go on and on. He lived and nurtured this love like no one I have ever seen. He shared so openly and vulnerably, inviting us all into his healing, and our own healing and the healing of our communities and the world. He did a lot of that through sharing stories. Stories that could connect and could transform.
A few years ago, Michael asked me how open I am to experimenting with ways for him to communicate with me after he died. He seemed to be pretty good at talking to dead people. I asked him what he did and he said, its part listening, part surrendering, part imagination. I have been going to the river this week. One day when I went this week, I was running on the River Road listening to music on headphones. I heard a loud screech, and I knew it was the sound of an eagle. I had asked Michael a few months ago what an eagle sounded like and he had made that same noise. I stopped and took off my headphones. I was at a spot on the River Road where you can go down a bit, one of Michael’s frequent walks. I tried to surrender and listen. I saw the river, and there was a little bird playing in the branches of a nearby tree. I couldn't see the eagle, but it had brought me here, and I had such a sense of Michael as a part of the river, flying with the eagle, as the little bird playing in the branches. I could feel the healing power of the river and the trees and birds, so deep the connections, and I felt how we are all apart of it. And then I tried to surrender and listen and imagine what else Michael had to say, and I heard, “it’s the people too….don’t forget the people--the kindness the love, the connection.” And I see that here and now in this gathering, in all the kindness of food and words of love, of neighbors shoveling sidewalks, of being in absolute amazement of the love that Jenny continues to show Michael and Isaiah and Grace. Michael nurtured so much love and relationship and it is a force so strong in this world. The pain and sadness that I have felt over the last few days feels immense and it also feels like it takes me to the outer edges of my comfort zone, and I can hear Michael inviting us all into healing, saying, “just come a little further, go a little deeper, trust a little more, it's an amazing adventure.”
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