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I have never met anyone else like Mike. He was, without a doubt, the person that I loved and respected most, and still do, even though he died two years ago.
Mike was a year older than me and a grade ahead when I transferred to his elementary school from out-of-state in the fourth grade.We met in reading enrichment class, and our casual friendship grew from there. Before long, we were known around school as "best friends" ,a big status symbol for a ten-year-old.
But everything wasn't perfect. Mike had cystic fibrosis , a disease that, I'm ashamed to say, I knew little about, but I knew what it was doing to him.
Mike couldn't get overexcited or he'd get sick. Every week he went to the doctor who would pound on Mike's back until he coughed up enough phlegm to satisfy the doctors. He took enzyme tablets to help him digest his food, and every month he entered the hospital for a barrage of tests. He emerged, gaunt and pale, but no matter how he was feeling, his personality remained the same. He was always laughing and having a great time. It's so ironic as I look back and remember that he used to counsel me on my problems! Unfortunately, I could never solve his biggest problem.
I remember the day Mike died. I was sitting in my living room, watching TV and eating potato chips, reflecting on my day at school. I was twelve, and my friendship with Mike was as strong as ever. As I sat there I thought about Mike and decided to call him to talk about our plans for the weekend (we were going to the waterslides) and was about the pick up the phone when it rang. I picked it up on the first ring to hear my friend Sara sobbing. Instinctively, I knew that this was not because of a fight with her parents, or a bad grade - something was very wrong, and her next words confirmed it.
"Mike's dead," she managed. "He's dead."
I remember dropping the telephone. It hit me on the foot, which later became an ugly bruise, but I didn't even feel it.
I felt freezing cold all over and I wondered how the temperature had drooped so fast when just a minute ago it was 85E and sunny. My last memory of that day was standing up and feeling the floor lurch beneath me, spinning out of control, faster and faster. The world closed in on me and the room got smaller and smaller until I couldn't even breath. I heard a scream and a crash, and then I was on the floor, unable to move.
The next few days I slept and read. In the back of my mind, I knew that something was terribly wrong, but I forced it out of my mind and refused to acknowledge it. It wasn't until the day of Mike's funeral that I realized he wasn't coming back.
I never did make it to that funeral. I wanted to remember him as Mike, my best friend, not the Mike that all of the adults would sit around and tell anecdotes about - adults who hadn't even known him, who couldn't have understood what a beautiful person he was. I slept that entire day and through the night, and when I woke up I thought about Mike, and I realized that not once, in the two years that he had been my confidante and closest friend, had I ever heard him complain. He resigned himself to enjoying the few precious moments that he had on earth. He was an extraordinary person, someone I will never forget. I only hope that he knows I love him, and that he misses me too. n
Editor's Note: Ann , the author, and the "I", wrote this story from the point of view of her friend, who knew "Mike."