When I look at this picture, it’s so far away – nearly nine years ago. Everyone in it still has some paunch – only a couple years removed from college – more hair too, no grays. Just starting out in the adult world, we’re all so bright-eyed, so exuberant, so full of life.
As distant as the picture from 2011 seems, it’s yet so close at the same time. Like the beginning of The Sand Lot where you see a picture you haven’t seen in a long, long time, and you reminisce fondly, reminisce about friends then, friends now, and all the memories.
The memories you didn’t realize you were making at the time until you had forgotten you had made them rush to you, taking you back to that time in the past when life was as simple as 30-racks of Bud Light, a round of golf, a bus driver who has to pull the bus over multiple times for wildly offensive language, questions of who’s sleeping in the golf cart or who’s getting kicked out of the bar or who wet the bed – not questions of when the funeral will be held, what’s the soonest flight you can catch, and where will you stay. These are the new memories that meld with the old, these that now flow through you like the wind blowing through Hingham town as you’re waiting outside a church – not a funeral home, an entire church – to wake your old friend.
The priest at the mass said there were 1,300 who came to pay their respects that night, but I think that was a low number. This was someone who knew everyone, who had a story with everyone, and it wasn’t because he was full of shit; it was the opposite, rather – he actually gave a shit.
Never have I met someone who sucked the marrow out of life like Mike did – I could recount wild nights spent chasing daylight and running with lions and tell as many tales of debauchery as reflective conversations on sports, betting, family, and his consistent urging to quit smoking cigarettes, all of which I’ll sum up with he enjoyed himself always. He was the life of every day, of every night. He was the life of every mimosa party or hurricane party or Halloween party or holiday party – he was the life, period.
Yet, he wasn’t just someone who knew how to eat well and to drink well – he knew how to treat people well. He understood people. He cared about people. He went out of his way for people. He made his world better for other people.
You could have seen him yesterday or three years prior, the reaction was still the same. A full smile, a hearty hug, a ”Chattin’ with, how ya been?” And not because they’re social customs and general pleasantries – he actually was listening, even if he was ordering a beer and checking a bet on his phone at the same time.
When you meet his family, you begin to understand his humanity. They are the ones people want to talk to because they want to talk to you. They have such gusto for life. Kindhearted, benevolent, charitable, they imparted their genial nature onto a son who shared it with all.
It’s too bad that it takes utter, unfair tragedy to appreciate someone truly. There are no words that can quell a pain that likely will never leave his wife, his parents, his sisters, and relatives and all the many others who loved him – just a dull smoothing over time, to quote Randy Ribay in Patron Saints of Nothing, “Like a stone rounded by the waves, the ache might soften over time but it will never go away. Not completely.”
Yet, at the same time, I can say that people who had seen each other the week before and people who hadn’t seen each other in a decade raised glasses in celebration of a life, a light, extinguished far too early.
For a singular instance, though, our time in the past came to the present. We were all in the same place again remembering better days and filling in all the good we have done in between: families, careers, kids, successes in spite of the unthinkable.
Even if it was just for a moment.
For the only person who could bring so many dissimilar people together.
For the only person who could remind us all just how lucky we were, and we still are.
Disregarding how cliche it is, I can say with certainty that everyone who knew Mike Reilly will carry him with them because he absolutely did leave his mark on all whom he interacted.
So, old friend, I say good journey until I see you again.