Michael Reeves is dead. Even now, I find it so hard to say. I am told that is a reality, and yet I have to say those words are still unbelievable to me, just about as much, if not more, than the moment I first heard them. Michael Reeves was the husband of my dear friend Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves. Tomorrow we will gather around the liturgy of the church and celebrate his life and there is much to celebrate and remember.
In my life there were just very few people that were more “alive” than Michael Reeves. When you knew you were going to be with him you also knew you were going to hear about adventures already taken, or those that were impending. I have to be honest, he and I had not spent long nights in deep philosophical conversations, we had not known each other all our lives, but you were always a friend in his presence. I knew him mostly through his beloved partner in life, and my colleague, Mary, but I had the great privilege of spending moments only with him, diving with him and my son in Hawaii, grilling sardines on his deck, sitting in his living room watching comedians, and laughing together.
Michael was a man of adventure. He liked being outside, and he liked doing stuff. A day hike might have enlightened my life in a day, and be adventure enough, but Michael would go gliding, as in a glider pulled behind a plane, something else he was qualified for and knew how to do. I will never forget him bringing his Ipad video of that glider trip back to show us all. I might go out for a light and calm swim after a long day, and Michael would be skin diving for an hour, his head bobbing up only sporadically as I already sat wasted on the shore. I am a Divemaster, and yet I could not hold a candle to where Michael had been diving, what he had done, or seen.
Quite frankly I am not sure I could have brought anything up that he had not at least tried. Shortly after hearing the words, Michael Reeves is dead, I took my son to college orientation at his Jesuit University, where I heard the Chaplain talk about the fact that Ignatius truly wanted people to be “soul persons.” Yes, it was the hope that they be smart, learned, but more than that they be people of character, of conscience, of integrity and feeling for the world around them, persons that engaged that world, balanced in mind and heart, soul persons.
Once again, by this death, this cessation of being in this world, I am reminded how fleeting life is, and that we only get so many trips around the sun before our time to exit comes. For the most part, we are not given the luxury or burden of knowing how that will happen. Michael surely did not set out on his bike ride thinking it would be his last earthly act, and yet, so it was. Now, on this side of that tragic reality, I think about his great devotion to being “out there,” and go, he did. That is what he did, he engaged this world. He could have stayed home, played it safe, but he didn’t do that much, and for it, I admired him so. Though some of us are called to it, I have never thought of Michael Reeves as a person that could, or would, leave this life slowly. It is how I will remember him and in some small measure hope to live a bit more like him in the days that remain for me.
Hunter Thompson once wrote
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
I think Michael believed that and lived it completely. To my beloved friend, and his soulmate Mary, and to his children and family, I say what you must know. Every breath, including his last, was filled with love for you.
We usually say, in the Church, “May his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.” But I have to say I find that just almost laughable to say for Michael. Somehow “rest” is not what fits with him, as much as something new, a unique journey.
So I pray for a peace that is filled with the awe inspiring new, with love and long, peaceful rides to new places, offering vistas never before imagined. My faith is just strangely traditional enough to imagine Michael welcoming me someday with amazing stories of what is to be.
Michael Reeves is dead. In our Christian tradition we believe that is only an earthly reality, and not the end and a I am among those who believe it. Michael Reeves was a soul person and it is indeed one wonderful, gracious, loving, and whole soul heaven has received.