Saturday, May 31, 2008

A brother says goodbye

Micheal Gerald Manlove
Saying Goodbye To Mike

When I was born I imagine that one of the first faces I looked at was the 13 month-old face of Mike Manlove. I can guess what he was thinking…what’s this all about?...I wonder if this could be fun? I went on to spend my boyhood with Mike. I probably spent more time with Mike Manlove than any other person in my life due to the fact that we were together almost continuously until I was about 18 years old.
When Mike died last week we came to Ely, MN. I walked out to Mike’s death site with his son Joe, Johnny and Bert. I had a chance to be with Mike’s body. I held his hand, hugged him, felt his strong chest against mine and put my face right next to his. I said sharply “Mike”. I spoke to him, I tried to get him to quit playing possum, waited for him to start laughing, put my ear close enough to his mouth so that he could give me a Wet Willy. Nothing happened and I knew the spirit of the baby that looked into my face 52 years ago was gone.
Two nights after mike died I had a dream. In the dream I knew that I was supposed to go into an old farmhouse. I went to the front door, but it was locked. I went around to the back. I walked up the steps and opened a screen door. I entered the kitchen, which was at the back of the farmhouse. There were two people sitting at a table in the kitchen. They were dressed casually and drinking coffee. They were looking at the newspaper and visiting quietly. Across the kitchen there was a glass partition between the kitchen and the rest of the house. I walked over and looked through the glass partition. On the other side of the glass there was a party going on. There were people standing, talking to each other, drinking and eating food. My brother Mike was in the middle of the party. He was smiling, laughing, talking with people and giving hugs. I turned to the people at the table and asked if I could go in and be part of the party. One of the people at the table casually turned to me and stated “it’s a different time and a different place”. (Somehow I felt that wherever Mike was he was being welcomed). I woke up feeling good that Mike was happy.
So who was Mike?
Mike was authentic and unpretentious most of the time. Mike loved to dress up. He loved to look at himself in the mirror when he was dressed up and he thought he really looked good. He got a real kick out of looking good. But Mike never lost site of who he was, a simple, straight forward guy in jeans or khakis and a t-shirt or work shirt. The clothes were only there to support the task or to play with.
(Walks down to the casket) In honor of Mike’s straight forward, humble nature I am going to take off my suit coat. Anybody in the audience is welcome to take off their suit also. (Takes off suit jacket and sets it on the casket). Now, I’m going to take off my tie (takes off tie and lays it on the casket) and I’m also going to take off my shirt. (Takes off shirt and lays it on the casket). (Underneath shirt is a First Responder’s t-shirt). (Walks back up to the podium).
Mike never hurt anyone. Mike and I had physical battles from childhood onward. In fact until about 10 years ago whenever we got together one of us would challenge the other to a wrestling match to see who could “take” who. Mike was an outstanding wrestler and a fighter. He was one of the better wrestlers in the state of Minnesota when he was in high school. He was much better than me. He was also often furious at me for things that I had done to make him mad. Despite that he was careful to never hurt me in the process. He always stopped short. Even when he was angry he wasn’t a person who hurt anyone. I don’t recall Mike ever intentionally hurting anyone in his life.
There are other things about Mike: Intensity comes to mind, the need to explore his limits, playfulness, a guy who lived for fun.
Mike found his place in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He found a woman, Becky, who could fully accept his huge heart. He spent his time doing what he loved and what was important to him. He loved natural, wild places and had an immediate connection with them.
Mike loved his family intensely and he loved everyone else just as intensely. Like most lovers, Mike learned how to love from his family but like other true lovers, once he learned how to love he gave his love to everyone around him (what a tribute to his parents and Becky). Mike had a physical, sensuous way of sharing his love. I can see him walking into my house and I imagine many of you can also. He would strut in, in his khaki pants and with his boots on and his work shirt, come right up to you and give you a big hug, rub his head on your neck and often give you a Wet Willy. He would do this with everyone in the house if he had the chance. Mike wouldn’t have wanted to have a funeral without having all of you have the opportunity to hug everyone you want to so at this point I would like you to give anyone you would like to in this room a Mike Manlove hug. Rub your head against their neck. Give a Wet Willy if you want to. We don’t need to have a dry ear in this building. (The congregation hugs).
Mike, like all men, had anger and aggression. They come with testosterone. All men are born with the capacity to be angry, violent and aggressive. One measure of a man is how they come to manage these feelings. They are honed from childhood by relationships with family, friends, and others. Mike and I shared that honing process. Aggression, violence and anger can be destructive, to be sure. But, they can also be a source of energy for good. Lovers, like Mike, are angry when people are hurt and when there is injustice. They may be frustrated by other things, but anger is saved for the things that really matter. They try to have a positive affect on things that matter. By that measure, Mike was quite a man.
I’m not sure what religion Mike really was. Most of us take parts of a variety of religions and synthesize them into our own belief systems.
· Was Mike a Christian? If the basis of Christianity is “love your neighbor as yourself”, he was a Christian.
· Was Mike a Buddhist? If that means did Mike engage in each moment of life fully whether it was happy or painful, Mike was a Buddhist.
· Was Mike a Pantheist? There is no question that Mike saw God in nature.
· Was Mike engaged in American Indian Religion? Look at the picture of ancient Indian art in Mike and Becky’s house and remember the way Mike paddled through the Boundary Waters and cared for the Boundary Waters and you know that Mike shared the spiritual beliefs of American Indians.

Monday at 5:30am my wife, Peggy, and I set out to get some exercise. The sun was coming up. The sky was beautiful. Suddenly we heard a low flying goose honking like crazy. It came over our canyon and the meadow we were walking through. You need to understand that there are few geese in the Black Hills, there are fewer still in areas without a pond or lake. Somehow I felt Mike’s presence. What was Mike’s message?
· Maybe, it was just to let me know that he was ok.
· Maybe, it was a reminder that all life, like the wild goose, is fragile and that we need to love and care for it.
· Maybe, those were angry honks saying, though he had to go, he still wanted to be with us.
· Maybe, those were the excited honks of a goose looking for its mate.
· Maybe, it was a celebration of ongoing life.

I don’t know, but I do know, that when I am with Joe, Celin, or Becky; when I am with all the people that Mike touched; when I see a goose, a hawk, a moose or an elk; when I’m skiing through a soft snowfall, I will feel Mike’s presence. For that I am happy.
Thank you for being here.
Love, Steve

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