In June, Michael Brindley passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 16 from natural causes. Michael was one of my students. Michael was my friend.
I had just spoken to Michael's mother a few days earlier, about how proud of Michael I was for the amazing growth and commitment he showed in the spring semester of his sophomore year at Hinsdale Central High School. Michael had just left for his third and final year at Culver Military Academy Summer School, and I was so looking forward to working together again when he returned just a few weeks later. Life is crazy sometimes.
It's been a little over two months since Michael passed away. Even though I only knew Michael for less than a year, I have thought about him every day since.
This post has taken me longer to write than I thought it would. I thought it would pour out of me after Michael passed away, but instead I would just catch myself thinking about Michael and his family, about how exactly I should write this post, and other ways Joseph and I would like to honor Michael. But I think more than anything else, deep down I put it off because I still wanted something to look forward to about Michael. A time when I could isolate my mind, and just think and write about him.
Writing this post has lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It's been fun, sad, joyful, nostalgic, funny, and everything in between. It is by far the most emotional blog post I've written.
It goes without saying that this is an incredible reminder for all of us that nothing in life is guaranteed, not even tonight or tomorrow. A kind, passionate, resilient 16-year old sophomore taking driver's ed, just starting to think about college and life beyond school with amazing potential, is no longer with us. Tell your family and close friends that you love them, whenever you have the opportunity. Cherish every experience and appreciate all of the small things, and do it today, because you might not be able to later.
How do we honor and remember loved ones that are no longer with us? There is no manual or one specific way to do it, that is for sure. But for an amazing example, look no further than the Tribute his mother and family wrote about Michael. This is one of the best tributes I have ever read, and I urge you to read it. I included a link for the Tribute at the bottom of this post.
Their Tribute pays homage to the magnificent person Michael was, as well as his unbelievable passion for sports. The Tribute itself is posted on Michael's sports blog that he started when he was just 13 years old to begin his dream career as a sports writer and broadcaster. In just three years, Michael wrote 110 blog posts!
Many of you know that Mike & Mike is one of the most famous sports talk shows in the world, named after the two hosts, Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic. Michael's blog was cleverly named "just1mike." I could not help but cry when I found out about the incredible salutes to Michael that happened in the sports world, I urge you to check them out in the Tribute. I included some related images below.
What the Brindley's Tribute to their son did for me, mainly the light in which they wrote about him, was further my beliefs, suspicion, and curiosity about life, before and after death. The way that the Brindley's are honoring Michael makes me believe that the ways, and the ferocity, with which we remember our loved ones, can allow them to live on forever through our minds and our hearts. Although they may not create new memories with us, we can do our absolute best to remember the memories we have often and with intense, collaborative detail. And not just the best times- all the times they made us laugh, cry, scared, frustrated, any and all of the wonderful stories and memories that make that person who they are. To the extent we can do this, I believe our lost loved ones can be with us as often as we want them to be. If we want them to, they can be with us forever and always.
As Michael's mom, dad, and two brothers put it best, "We are a family of five and will always be a family of five."
THANK YOU, MICHAEL
The Brindley's are one of the founding families of 220, and we are forever grateful for the relationship we have together, for the support they've shown us, and for allowing us to know Michael. They are a very close and special family for whom we have the upmost love, respect, and admiration.
Michael, now I want to thank you for some of the unique qualities you had and memorable experiences we shared together. Even though we only knew each other for less than a year, you had a huge impact on my life. I miss you and I miss our sessions together, and I get the urge to text you with any big story in sports or when something happens with one of your teams. Here are some of my favorite memories.
Thank you, Michael, for your passion. Your passion for sports burned white-hot. The passion you had is what we try to help all of our students discover and relentlessly pursue for themselves. Even though you weren't going to make a career playing professional sports, you did not let that deter you from going after your passion in another way- sports writing and broadcasting. You found a way to make your passion a central part of your life. 110 blog posts as a young teenager in just three years! Writing for your school and a local magazine. A member of your school's broadcasting club. Constant predictions, SportsCenter, arguments. And an incredible loyalty to your players and teams. As you predicted, I think we will finally be celebrating together here in Chicago when the Cubs win the World Series in October. One question I would love to ask you, even though I think I know the answer, is what you think of your favorite NBA player, Kevin Durant, signing with the Golden State Warriors??? One of my favorite sessions was when we were reformatting your blog. I will always remember how excited when you saw the final product with a new header picture and color scheme. Being around and involved with your passion for sports reinvigorated my own passions and my desire to help others discover theirs.
Thank you, Michael, for believing in yourself. When we started working together, one of your overarching goals was to improve your confidence and delivery in public speaking. You knew that was going to be essential for your illustrious career on ESPN, and you did not let the fact that you identified this as a current weakness deter you from working on it. One of my favorite memories of our time together was when you had to deliver a mini "TED Talk" in one of your classes. Given the ability to choose your topic (which I loved!), you of course chose to talk about sports, specifically the perplexing topic of whether or not NCAA athletes should be paid. We worked on that speech for a few weeks, and you practiced for me twice over the phone while I was in Hilton Head Island. I was so impressed with your dedication to making that speech a winner, going over it multiple times yourself, with me, and with your family. I will always remember when you told me that, despite not feeling confident in your public speaking when you got started, that you earned an A on your TED Talk, the 2nd highest grade in the entire class! Wow, was that the beginning of some amazing things that I know were coming for you.
Thank you, Michael, for being you. A fiercely kind, passionate, humble, loving, loyal, resilient teenager with an inspiring zest for life. I always looked forward to our sessions together because I knew every time, the genuine, authentic version of you would be there- because that was the only version of you. I admired you so much for returning to Culver for your second and third year. You loved it and had fun, but you also knew how much the experience helped you with your confidence, growth, and leadership skills. The list you put together before you left for Culver about all of the things you could do to be a leader and help others in your final year was so awesome and inspiring!
Thank you, Michael, for your friendship. One of the things I will always remember about you, Michael, was how quickly we became more than just Student and Coach. I loved that we texted each other after Michigan, Indiana, and March Madness basketball games, that we'd always start and end each of our sessions talking sports. I thought it was so cool, and really appreciated, how you were never worried about how long our sessions went. You'd want to talk well past the scheduled hour and it was awesome. If we had a session this week, I'd ask you how to fix my below-average running back situation on my fantasy football team this year. I would ask you how excited you're getting for the Cubs playoffs. I would tell you that I miss you, but that I have thought about you every day, and that you will always be in my heart.
Thank you, Michael, for everything.
Thank you, Michael.
Love forever and always,
Matthew, your Friend and Coach