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December
29
2020

A podcast for you

Hello all,
 
It's been awhile. I wanted to let you know about a podcast that Cathy Wurzer and CaringBridge put together. Cathy interviewed Michael sometime last fall about healing. Michael got to hear the final version before he died -- we listened to it together as a family. It was posted at the end of October, and I've been meaning to tell you about it so you could hear Michael's voice and words.
 
The kids and I are hanging in there, staying healthy as far as Covid goes. We had a nice little trip up north before Christmas to a cozy Wisconsin cabin, then good food at home for Christmas and a chilly backyard bonfire with my brother and family.
 
I'm finding grief to be strange and disorienting, rolling in as waves. It seems that some of the adrenaline I've had over the past five years is starting to wear off -- adrenaline for getting through cancer news, next MRI, next surgery, parenting in cancerworld, taking care of my dad, my dad's death last fall, intensive caregiving for Michael, saying goodbye, memorial details, paperwork, solo parenting. With a little less adrenaline, I'm starting to feel the grief more. It's still shocking to me that Michael is gone, with all of his big dreams and wise thoughts and his knowing me like no one else ever has. It was early January of last year that we found out the cancer was growing and Michael chose hospice, so we are entering the season of his last weeks. As much as we all want to say goodbye to 2020, I'll soon be in a new year without him and that feels hard.
 
I've been finding resources and support in this grief word even when Covid keeps us from being with people in person. The online group Hot Young Widows Club, made of (all gender) widows from all over the world (and they say, yes, we're all hot and young) helps me feel less alone. It's super helpful to hear stories, rants, things that are hard from other people grieving their person, from new Covid widows to people who lost their partner many years ago. I also took an online grief writing class from Megan Devine, who wrote the book, It's OK That You're Not OK, a book that normalizes all the many ways grief affects our lives. I'd highly recommend the book for grievers -- and for people supporting them. Both of these resources have reminded me that in some ways I've lost half of myself; that grief takes its time and I've only just begun; that our culture shies away from acknowledging grief; and that this deep ache -- and Michael -- will always be a part of my life. And that we can have a mix of feelings all the same time, which I often do, sadness and belly laughs with the kids all at once. 
 
Wishing you all the best. I'm grateful for you.
 
------
Blessing for the Brokenhearted
by Jan Richardson
 
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.  

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September
4
2020

Michael cheering us on

Hi all, it’s been awhile.


Six months and more have passed since Michael died. He seems close and impossibly far away too. Sometimes it feels like the whole world has changed because he’s gone.


Tomorrow is our anniversary, it would be 22 years. Even though he’s not here, I know our partnership and love still goes on and always will in some form. I have been missing Michael deeply this week, thinking about our weekend of wedding fun at Koinonia Retreat Center on Lake Sylvia. The weather was hot, which was perfect for swimming and boating and being outside, a little less perfect for the Quaker wedding on the hot deck in the sun. I'm remembering being amazed to have people from all parts of my life and Michael's in one place (except a few that missed out because of the Northwest Airlines strike!). I’m grateful for the years, weeks, minutes I had with Michael, who loved me and our kids so fiercely.


I wanted to let you know about a tree that was planted in memory of Michael near Minnehaha Falls. Some thoughtful relatives on the Bischoff side of Michael’s family (thank you!) organized the tree planting -- it’s a little cottonwood tree, one of Michael’s favorites. Cottonwoods like to hang out next to rivers and grow big and tall. I met up with a woman from Minneapolis Parks and Rec at Michael’s tree a few weeks ago. She put a medallion on the tree that says “Honoring the legacy of Michael Bischoff. 1971-2020.”


If you want to visit the tree, it’s at Bridge #3 along Minnehaha Creek, the third bridge after the falls (the bridge after the spot where people like to wade). It’s on the side of the creek where the boardwalk starts -- behind three benches. The tree is inside a white plastic tube, to help protect it as it grows a little bigger. I like to sit on the bench where you can watch the creek burble past and see the little cottonwood at the same time.


After I visited the tree, I walked along Minnehaha Creek to where it flows into the Mississippi. The paths were thankfully quiet, on a sunny weekday morning. As the creek rushed along, a great blue heron swooped past me and landed on a dead tree above. Ah, Michael, here you are! As you probably know, the great blue heron is Michael’s bird, they even have the same wingspan. I got to hear the heron make its prehistoric squawk before it flew away, and I felt so happy for the visit.


A quick update on us. Isaiah graduated from South High School this spring, although of course all of the senior things were canceled. He’s taking a gap year and planning to attend Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, next fall. He’s working on plans for a road trip this fall, destinations to be determined, but probably west. Grace starts her sophomore year at South High next week with all online classes. We had some family adventures this summer with a week at YMCA Camp Du Nord on the edge of the Boundary Waters, which was super lovely. And we returned last week from a road trip to Montana (thanks to my dear college friend for a stay at their family cabin) with some camping at the Black HIlls and the Badlands (we avoided Sturgis) along the way. We all appreciated some different scenery and got to see moose, bison, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and a marmot.


I am still grateful for all the hugs I was able to collect from you round the time of Michael’s death and memorial. Remember when we could hug?? I’m still feeling the love from all of you. I hope you are well. I know Michael would have so much to say about this time, about living with a pandemic, about healing racism in our city and country -- he’s certainly cheering all of us on.

 

March
30
2020

Strange new world, plus a few jokes

Hello dear ones,


I hope you’re staying safe and healthy. Shocking how much has changed in the world since Michael died. I keep wondering what he would think / say about our world right now. I know he would be going to the river, connecting people, and finding ways to live with another kind of uncertainty. If Michael was healthy, I’m guessing he would have been one of the first people to organize some kind of big Zoom storytelling event. The covid-19 world is in some ways like living with a terminal diagnosis like Michael’s cancer. Lots of uncertainty and unknowns, plenty of fear and anxiety, and some beauty in the kindness and compassion of others.


The kids and I are doing ok. We are hunkered down, trying to find our rhythm in this new world, and the new world without Michael. It’s strange and unreal, all of it. Taking walks to the river helps me feel grounded. I miss Michael in so many ways, including his hugs, his dish washing, figuring out how to parent in the world of coronavirus, watching movies together, having my person to be holed up with, and on and on. I do feel connected to him, though, feeling that he’s close by. 


I know Michael would be thinking of the many hardworking people on the front lines, doctors and nurses, people cleaning hospital rooms, grocery store workers, etc. He’d be sending prayers and love to those who are sick and the folks with cancer or other diagnoses that make them especially vulnerable. And of course he’d be worried about the people who are losing their jobs. He’d probably also have some deep thoughts about our upside down world and what good might come out of reimagining things -- lots of opportunities for healing. (And he and I might be annoying each other a bit, with all of our together time.) I’d love your thoughts on what Michael might have to say to us about our current situation.


I’m so very grateful we were able to have that big memorial service for Michael complete with many many hugs. Seems like a world away now. Much love to you all!


-------------

Isaiah recently found some jokes on Michael’s computer that he had compiled for Isaiah at some point from various online sources, none of us remembers when. In case you need a little chuckle.


I invented a new word. Plagiarism!


Hear about the new restaurant called Karma? There’s no menu, you get what you deserve.


I once farted in an elevator. It was wrong on so many levels.


And God said to John, come forth and you shall be granted eternal life. But John came fifth and won a toaster.


I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without their motives being questioned.


Why did Star Wars episodes 4, 5, and 6 come before 1, 2, and 3? Because in charge of scheduling Yoda was.

 

February
19
2020

Thank you and a request for stories

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:

Zero Circle

By Rumi


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.”

 

February
12
2020

Storytelling on Friday

Hi again,

We have added another event this week on Valentine's Day to gather, tell stories, and love each other and Michael. Here are the details for both Friday and Saturday.

Telling Stories about Michael
Friday, February 14 
6:30 pm, storytelling starts at 7
Twin Cities Friends Meeting
1725 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Memorial Service
Saturday, February 15, 11 am

Plymouth Congregational Church
1900 Nicollet Ave.
Entrance: 1919 LaSalle
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Some notes about the memorial service. The service will be Quaker worship, which means that much of the service will be held in silence. When anyone is moved to speak -- to give a message, most likely about Michael and in celebration of his life (a song, a poem, a story, a prayer), they will be given a microphone. In between messages will be more silence. It will last about an hour or a little more. We'll give you more information at the time, just a heads up.

Also, Michael was not a formal dresser and would be happy if you wore whatever gives you joy at his memorial, whether that's a suit/tie, dress, more casual, or ??

February
12
2020

Obituary and a walk

Hello all. Thanks for all your love of us and of Michael. It's hard to comprehend he is not here. We are catching up on sleep, looking through photos, planning for the memorial, playing our music loud, laughing, and crying. 

Over the past few years, Michael designated specific spots along the Mississippi as places we could go to find him after he was gone. The kids and Christy and I each have a spot, so yesterday we four went to visit them all. It was a gorgeous sunny day along the river. I'm including a few photos of our day.

We look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday. Here's a link to the obituary: http://www.startribune.com/obituaries/detail/0000346112/?fullname=michael-john-bischoff

February
11
2020

Memorial for Michael

Hi all, just a quick note to give you memorial details. We are about to take a family walk to some of Michael's special places on the river.

11 am, Saturday, February 15
Plymouth Congregational Church
1900 Nicollet Ave.
Entrance: 1919 LaSalle
Minneapolis, MN 55403

February
10
2020

Good bye beloved Michael

*This is Michael's sister Christy, and Isaiah and Grace and Jenny

Surrounded in love with his family holding him, Michael died at 2.50 this morning. 

Michael had a strong heart and his last couple of days he breathed deep as he let go of this earthly life. Though there were sometimes where he seemed slightly agitated he mostly was peaceful facng death with courage and an open heart.

We are grateful Michael was able to let go and  we mourn his loss. 

He was never afraid to be open and fully vulnerable and in this process of dying he showed us how to surrender to deep love.

While telling stories of him at his bedside we remembered the joy and freedom he lived throughout his life and we imagine him heading off to his next great adventure like he ran down this hill in Michigan.