Michael McDonell (1989-2013)
Michael McDonnell was my friend and when he didn’t show up at Lougheed Skytrain Station on Monday July 22, 2013, I thought to myself: Michael is always busy. I will take a picture and share it with him later. I didn’t get to share it with him. I only learned later that he had passed away on Sunday July 21 following a drowning accident at White Pine Beach, Sasamat Lake, Port Moody. People say that ignorance is bliss and now I know how true that is. I went alone and enjoyed an event hosted by the Communications Department of Simon Fraser University only because I had not yet known of his death.
I believe Michael was the best of them all. He was a well-rounded guy with a charming smile and thoughtful manner. He shared friendship with me. I was happy every time we met. I believed that our friendship would last a lifetime. Now, with a heavy heart, I have accepted that this never will be.
How cruel and unfair fate can be. To take him away from his friends and loved ones when he was so passionate, so full of life! To think that we had talked about our future just a week before his passing, not knowing what would happen. It still hurts to even think it, though it was not my fault.
Before his death, Michael had planned a summer barbecue. On July 25, 2013, the event took place on Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus in his honor. By having the event, Michael’s friends, including myself, have kept our promise to him and accomplished what he had wanted. It was a success and we were sure he would have been proud. Family, friends, and colleagues of Michael all came to pay respect and shared our memories of him together.
I told his mother, “he offered me a hand of friendship and I took it with all my heart. Now I will remember him until I die.” She hugged me, sobbing against my shoulders. Did I say the right thing? Even two years after, I still have my doubt, but it was the least I could do. There was the mother of a friend whose life was cut short and I didn’t have anything to console her except those short words. I said them because I had remembered the first time I and Michael shook hands. Michael’s hand was firm and reassuring.
We all thanked Michael’s family for being there. However, the mourning was incomplete and we promised to attend the official memorial service that would be held two days later Simon Fraser University Burnaby Campus.
On July 27, 2013, family, friends, and colleagues of Michael McDonnell came together at SFU to fondly remember him and say farewell. For me, the most bittersweet part was his mother’s letter, saying that her love for him transcends time and space and mere death can’t take it away. All people who spoke of Michael also said that they would remember him and that was the essence of that gathering. For My part, I read “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost to express my sorrow and one passage in particular rang true: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, /And miles to go before I sleep, /And Miles to go before I sleep” (13-16).
That was my farewell gift to him, to express that he had given me new determination for life. I still remember him after two years as my best friend and I will remember him until I die. I believe we will see each other again when I leave this world, so our goodbye is only for now.