Out of nowhere.
A heart attack.
A fucking heart attack!
That big, funny heart, was finally full to overflowing. It could not hold anymore. It gave way.
And took all of us with it.
Death was sly and cruel in this.
Mike had come through so much and fought so hard. He was finally happy. He had found peace, probably for the first time in his life.
And then, he was gone.
It was impossible.
And so, this brings us back to where we first began this epic essay. With me, sitting stunned and devastated in Ireland as word filters through.
Mike has left us. Five years to the very day after he received his liver transplant.
As the news of his passing spread, the media articles and tributes began to appear.
Well. Sort of.
CBC managed to get his name wrong at first, stating that it had been Mike’s friend and fellow comic Norm Macdonald who had died…Mike would have milked the hell out of that. It definitely would have gotten one of his famous eye rolls.
‘Soooo typically Canadian,’ he would have huffed, ‘WHAT do I have to do…?’
I cannot begin to fathom the depth of Bonnie’s loss, the gaping void left by Mike’s absence. No one can. She knew him better than anyone else in his life except his family. And her agony must be bottomless.
Likewise, the pain of Mike’s family. You can’t help with words. You can’t really offer comfort. Grief like that never goes away. You just get better at living with it.
I have suffered quite a few close bereavements over the last five or six years. All of them have been difficult and heartbreaking, one of them particularly so. I am also one of the few people in my age group who still has both parents living, so I know well that I have a few more difficult loses to come. Those will be crushing. Maybe I will drop dead first.
People keep telling me I had better get used to this, get used to losing those I love because I’m ‘at that age now’ – as if I’m fucking 90 or something.
But I will not get used to it. I refuse to. I resent it.
I resent death when it’s not a blessing.
Mike’s passing has thrown me for a loop. I am finding this one especially hard. That night in Ottawa was indeed, the last time I would see him. A meeting we had planned for the summer he died, now lost to fate.
“Mike MacDonald was a great stand up with an unbelievable talent to perform and generate “A” material at a rate none of us could match. We are Salieri compared to Mike’s Mozart. RIP Amadeus.” – Jim McAlesse
Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase, and the structure would fall. It was clear to all of us – comics and audience alike. Here was the voice of the comedy Gods. The rest of us were just staring through the cage…
Some of Mike’s peers might tell you that they neither sought nor needed his comedic approval.
But if they do, they are lying.
He was the guy we all aspired to be.
I can picture him now, standing before his God – this big, wonderful, man-child, lapsing into pantomime, stomping his foot.
‘I don’t WANT to go now…It was just getting good!”
And then, eyes big as saucers, a toothy grin on his face, ‘Five more minutes!’
St. Peter is shaking his head by the pearly gates, exasperated, ‘I gave him the light half a dozen times already…!’
The curtain descends, but Mike breaks free and emerges, mugging in the stage lights to spontaneous applause and yet another standing ovation.
From the wings a few angels try to drag him off with a huge oversized hook. But they miss, and Mike gets to take one last victorious bow before the band plays him off to thunderous applause and the theme from ‘Sanford and Son,’ with the horn section on their feet.
I clench my jaw to stop the rising emotion from escaping as I write this. I am fighting for control. I don’t know why. To stop it from being real? I clenched my jaw so hard in my sleep the night he died, I cracked a tooth. I am choking on the sadness and grief.
And I know I am not alone.
In spite of the pain, I am grateful.
Grateful to have had the chance to know him, to have him in my life, to have had him call me his friend, colleague, his ‘little sister.’
I am so very, very grateful that he knew how I felt about him. Before his transplant and afterwards, I made sure I left nothing unsaid. He knew how much he meant to me. He knew how much I loved him. He knew.
And then not only does he die, but he dies on St. Patrick’s day, the bastard!
His passing has condemned me. I have become the worst embodiment of Irish stereotypes. Now, and every St. Patrick’s Day hereafter, I am doomed to be the heartbroken drunk in the corner of the pub, sobbing into their Guinness every time some son-of-a-bitch gets up and starts singing ‘Parting glass’ or ‘Carrickfergus’ or God-all-fucking-mighty-not-‘Danny-Boy’….
I bet you think that’s funny, don’t you, MacDonald?
“Ha!” I hear him bark.
(Epilogue to follow)