The world got a new angel tonight.
In case you felt a shift in the heavens, a change in the winds, a rumble in the earth beneath your feet, that was my friend Michele, exiting this world peacefully and landing on the other side with a bang. I’m sure she’s already forming teams, developing strategies, and leading the troops – proudly sporting a bold golden halo. One of the few comforts in losing her is my belief that her take-charge-with-tons-of-energy-and-a-big-heart-and-oh-yes-a-huge-smile was more needed elsewhere. I’m not sure what that means or what it looks like – Heaven, reincarnation, dust to dust – but it’s the only way I can make sense of why someone so larger-than-life is no longer with us.
Michele was my colleague, client, and most importantly, my friend for 14 years. She was a master connector – everyone I’ve met through her has been so extraordinary, I’ve often wondered where the hell she found them all. Clearly she was a magnet for greatness because she so embodied it herself. She was a powerhouse in business – I watched her rise through the ranks, blow the socks off oodles of people, and just plain make shit happen at Microsoft, HTC, and Land O’ Lakes. She was fiercely protective of her siblings and went to the ends of the earth for them. She was devoted beyond measure to her husband Rick and his family – sometimes in superhuman ways that I don’t know I could ever achieve.
And to me and everyone who knew her, she was a loyal and generous friend. A few years ago, I told her – and damn, I’m glad I did – that she was the catalyst for many of the turning points in my life, things that were key to not just my growth, but my survival. She made the connection that led to the job that took me to New York. She opened the door for me as a Microsoft consultant. She hired me to consult for her at HTC. When Michele said shit, people listened – and it was an honor to have her in my corner. It’s no exaggeration that I’ve been able to keep food on the table because of her. She even set me up on a couple of dates when it became clear that I was capable of nothing other than driving a wrecking ball into my personal life. And these weren’t the “Hey, he’s single and you’re single, let’s see what happens” sorta set-ups. She put thought into her matchmaking efforts, carefully considering whether someone was a good fit for me. Although the matches didn’t pan out, I was grateful. It was more her gesture than the guy that mattered anyway.
In December 2010, Michele and I took our first – and sadly, only – trip together, journeying to Napa for a long weekend. We stayed in a lovely cottage where a basket of Bouchon Bakery goodies was dropped on our doorstep every morning. Michele was patient with all of my weird OCD morning rituals and prepared coffee for me, though she didn’t drink it herself. Over the course of the weekend, we drank too much wine, laughed too hard, and got lost in the hills on a dark, foggy night – taking turns shitting bricks and uttering words of encouragement. We blamed the GPS Michele had brought along and after nearly driving off at least one cliff, we made it back to town and decided that “Barbara,” the GPS voice, was an incompetent bitch and fired her immediately. We sat in a restaurant parking lot, auditioning the other options and settled on “Daniel,” who was Australian and sounded super hot.
That is one of my favorite memories – not just of Michele, but of my entire life.
We lost Michele suddenly and tragically, but she fought like hell – right to the very end. When I heard that her time was near, I started making dinner to center myself. As I chopped vegetables and stirred quinoa, I wondered what the end is like, certainly for Michele in that moment, but also for all of us. If there is another side, is there a deliberation as to whether we’ll accept the invitation to that white light party? Or is that all bunk and you just fall asleep and next thing you know, you’re a squirrel or a tree or possibly one of my cats (giant, cute, constantly hungry, and frequently asleep)? Do you get to choose that new life or is it predetermined? And do you keep your soul, thus becoming an old soul – or an older soul, depending on your experience in this life? I checked the veggies in the oven and hoped everything we were hearing about Michele was wrong and that I’d get to ask her these questions one day. At the same time, I worried that if she remained with us, she may not be able to live as vibrantly as she had and that this would crush her soul. I didn’t want that for my friend who was full of life and love and beauty and spirit. After all, being amongst the living is not the same as being alive.
Michele passed when my dinner was ready. There were timers going off left and right – you were right, Zuzu: she was getting her wings.
Some say that death is an ending, but that’s only the case for those of us left behind. For Michele and for all souls who pass on, I believe it’s a new beginning. And while her absence is palpable, I don’t believe the world is a heavier place without her. I believe it’s lighter because she was in it.