My friend Mike Levy died a few weeks ago and his memorial was this weekend. I spoke at the funeral and this is what I said.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kelly McCullough and Mike was one of my closest friends. My designated job today is to try to lighten the mood a bit, because we all know Mike would have wanted there to be smiles and laughter here along with the tears and the mourning. Wherever Mike went he carried his wit and wisdom and a profound sense of silliness. He was a man who brought light into dark places—a sort of human phial of Galadriel if you will allow me the reference.
That is the thing I would like us all to carry away from this celebration of his life today, light, wit, silly joy. I can’t imagine anything that would make him happier than to hear his friends and loved ones laughing as they remember him. Over the sixteen years I knew Mike he was a frequent presence at the small gatherings we often have on Friday evenings, and he was always a merry one. Even when he was feeling terrible, and that was too often over the last few years, he was always quick with a joke or a smile and he always wanted to be in the circle where merriment was happening.
There are two pictures of Mike on my social media that I loved more than any others. In one he is standing in my living room with one of my cats on his shoulder and a huge smile on his face. For me it’s the perfect image of happy, kind, Mike, taking joy in communing with a silly little cat. In the second, he and our friend Jonny are both in my kitchen wearing stuffed turkey hats with their arms thrown wide, greeting each other like they were brothers in the International Order of the Turkey—silly Mike in all his goofy glory.
He could be serious too, of course. A scholar, a reviewer, a teacher, a man of words and deep thought who was loved by so many for very good reason. I want to touch on that too, if more briefly. Mike and I have had a number of good natured debates over the years. One of them involves my work.
For the last decade when Mike taught his yearly science fiction course, one of the assigned books was always my WebMage. Every time he taught it he would invite me in to speak with his class about the work, which was invariably a pleasure. Now, I think of myself as a commercial writer first and foremost and that is how I generally talk about my work at places like Mike’s class. But it’s not something he was ever willing to let pass unchallenged. When he spoke about my work he would argue for me having a great passion for politics and ethics in my writing, a tendency to slip deeper topics into light books, and even my literary merit. He always took my work more seriously than I do, and believed in it in ways that I am not generally willing to. My gratitude for that is boundless.
On another matter, though, I have a minor bone to pick with him. I am a fitness buff. I lift weights, run, and do various other things to keep in shape. As I’ve grown older, Mike was quite vigorous in warning me that I need to learn to be gentler with myself, or that one of these days something was going to go pop and stop working. I, on the other hand, have maintained that I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s been a gentle tug of war with no resolution until quite recently. Coincidentally, the same week that he went into the hospital for the last time, I was doing pull-ups when, sure enough, something went pop in my shoulder and stopped working. As was too often the case in arguments with Mike—as I’m sure you all know—it turns out that he was right. It vexes me deeply that he didn’t get the chance to give me that sly smile and gently and kindly say I told you so in a way that made me laugh at myself.
He was a good man and a funny one and I will miss the laughs most of all.