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Remembering Michael will help us serve others in need

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By Greg Woods

Remember Michael as the first grader who stood out from all the others at Campbellsburg Elementary School. I was a nervous, inexperienced new teacher of elementary P.E. and all those little faces just blended in as they gathered expectantly around me for their first day of P. E. Michael stood out. He was taller, he looked you in the eye and talked like a little adult. He seemed very self-assured even then.

         I remember Michael as part of a promising group of youngsters playing youth sports when I came back to Henry County as a high school teacher a few years later.

 I remember Michael as a member of the last J.V. boys’ basketball team that I would ever coach. I remember that he and his teammates had to stifle chuckles when I laced a halftime tirade with words that most of them had never heard. I think discombobulated was the one that nearly sent them over the edge.

I remember the day that I heard about Michael’s wreck. Well, actually I don’t remember the details – I remember the feeling. It was horrible. I remember thinking about how excited he was to start a new chapter in his life. He would be a freshman at Campbellsville University in just a few short months. He would be playing golf for them and studying to become whatever he wanted to become. He was the type of kid who could do that. He had the brains and the confidence to do whatever he wanted.

         I remember going to the hospital several days after the accident. I remember being clueless as to what should be said. I remember feeling helpless. What do you say to a young man who has just learned that his life had been altered so dramatically in just the tiny instant that it takes to doze off while driving home from work.

         I vaguely remember mumbling something to him about how he still had his greatest asset – his brain -that his brain had always been his best asset. It was true. He was a good, not great athlete, but he had as sharp a mind as any youngster I had ever been around. His sharp, dry wit could cut someone to pieces. He had a confident personality, bordering on cocky sometimes, but hey he was a teenage boy with his whole future ahead of him. How many bright, athletic, teenage males do you know that aren’t, at the least, bordering on cocky?

         I remember that Michael had rough days after the accident, but who wouldn’t? The thing is you almost never saw it. He always had a smile or a joke to share with people. He always was thinking about others despite the fact that he could have understandably wallowed in self-pity.

I remember that Michael got on with things. He didn’t look back. He eventually enrolled at UK and, despite physical setbacks that kept him in the hospital for long stretches, he got his degree. He worked for the Cats’ Pause magazine covering his beloved Wildcats. I remember stories from people at UK who had been touched by getting to know him.

I remember that his little brother stepped up big-time and took on a prominent role with Friends for Michael. He has the same quick, sharp wit as Michael.

I remember seeing Michael at a Friends for Michael meeting and thinking he looked healthier than he had since the accident. I remember this was just weeks before he suddenly passed. I remember feeling gutted like so many others. I remember the grace and strength and dignity of his mother. She is special like her sons.

Why am I remembering so much about Michael these days? Because it is that time of year. The anniversary of his accident, the events that are held by our group every year to help those who, like Michael, have had abilities taken away that the rest of us take for granted.

I remember because it is the time of year when I begin to feel stressed that I can’t get the job done. Too much time, too much effort. And then I remember Michael and I am embarrassed by those feelings.

Michael is gone, but then I remember Patrick, Kasey and Hannah and all the others in our area that still need help. If I remember Michael then maybe others will too.