Mourning into Dancing-Our Infamous New Years Eves

Dec 31, 1988

It’s amazing how with the short shrill ring of a phone, life suddenly turns upside down and backwards at the same time.  Tears, mixed with that heartache that not even the greatest writer on earth can describe rips through one’s being.  Thank God above for the gift of shock because I don’t think we could have survived losing Cliff’s brother, Mike.  You see Mike was as free of a spirit as one could be.  Oh, everyone knows he was wilder than a billy-goat and had adventures that no billy-goat couldn’t conceive.  In fact the critter would blush at some of his escapades.  Some of the lighter stories include driving a motorcycle in the high school and leading an all school walk out in defense of a teacher.  That landed him the five-year plan to graduate.  But, graduate he did!  At 16 he told his dad he was spending the night with a friend, went and cleared out his savings account, and crossed the Kansas state line.  A day later, his mom called his dad to tell him that Mike had just driven up to her house in Oregon!  He knew it wasn’t working out so well for his little brother there and rescued Cliff.  His heart was so big that if he had money, some did everyone around him.  Three blond-haired little girls wrapped ‘Uncle Mikey’ around their fingers like none of the parade of girlfriends did. With a cigarette in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the other, he laughed and lankily loped through life on his own terms.

All things come to an end at sometime, and Mike grew up real fast when an oil rig exploded under him.  One learns patience in a burn center, and how precious life is while watching graft sites heal   New choices had to be made as working in the oilfield had led to temptations that he could not resist.  Continuing to partake of the substances would mean life and death.  But, walk away he did!  Life was new for him as he grabbed on to his second chance with a cigarette in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the other.  He helped whoever he could with his wit and humor still in tact.  His fear was without the help of his ‘friends’, no one would like him.  Oh, was he wrong!  He was a deeper Mike, setting goals for himself when he got his medical release.  He would pick up one of my Guideposts magazines and amazing conversations would start.  So funny and blossomed in his own grafted skin. He was one of my best friends.

Then the phone call came and Mike was gone.  A car accident in Las Cruses, NM was the culprit.  My guess is he went out with a cigarette in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the cup holder.  I know how much my heart broke, but can not imagine what Cliff went through.  Mike had been his rock, his best friend, his brother, his hero, and sometimes his parent.  For months afterwards Cliff would stand in our picture window, watching for Mike’s vehicle to come down the drive-way.

For 2 New Years Eves, we sat around and pretty much had memorial services.  Finally the third year, I said “Enough!”  It was time to go forward.  We invited friends and family in for a night of cards as a zillion kids destroyed our upstairs.  It was worth it, even if we discovered after everyone left that our Misty had broken out with a rash.  We greeted friends the next morning with phone calls saying “Happy New Years!  Your kids have been exposed to the chicken pox!

Dec 31 several years later~

We find out in a random phone call that Cliff’s step-brother, Steve, is celebrating his birthday.  Steve had come into the family a few years prior, the irony of this birthday had slipped by us.  After having a herd of ‘steps’ through the years, it’s hard to get too close, but these two had hit it off at ‘hello’.  They seemed to share the same brain.  While totally different from Mike (other than some billy-goat moments), Steve put some sparkle back into Cliff’s life.

Dec 31, 1996~

Our phone rings again!  My brother calls to say that they have a new tax deduction, Jacob Jeffery Parkin.  Jake hit the scene with a long lanky body and a unique way of looking at life.  He’s got quite a spirit about him with his goal is always to get Aunt Kel to laugh at something goofy.

Dec 31, 2011~

No phone calls yet and I don’t think anyone is getting married or about to give birth.  I may get electrocuted by the laptop because I’m a soggy mess writing this. I marvel how God has encouraged us through this rough situation with 2 very special blessings we weren’t expecting.  Oh, they can never replace Mike and he could never be a substitute for them. They are their own blessing on the world.

I’m amazed at how much you can miss a person after 23 years, but also marvel at how Mike’s influence has never left us.    It’s no long mourning since we are used to him not here, but severe cases of missing him that comes from left field.  For now we are just apart, but we have the hope of seeing him again.

My guess is when we meet Mike at the pearly gates, he will have St. Peter in stitches, a Dr. Pepper in one hand and Jesus’s in the other.

“You turned my mourning into dancing.  You removed my sackcloth and clothed me in joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O’Lord my God, I will you thanks forever. ” Psalm 30:11-12


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