R.I.P. Michael Hitz

I kind of struggle with the idea of ‘sharing’ personal things about my life in this new age of social media, especially if it is something sad like this. There are plenty of sad things happening in the world, and to other people. In the end I felt I would be doing Mike a disservice by not taking the time to write about him. When a famous person dies now, it is everywhere.

My old friend Mike Hitz died of cancer a few weeks ago, at age 46, coincidentally a day before Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose at age 46.

I was told he was going to die within a few days well over a year ago, and I wrote this post the next day, kind of in shock really. Up to that point I had remained emotionally detached I suppose, he had already been diagnosed and  he had already survived past his prognosis(which I wasn’t aware of).  I didn’t really know how I would feel about it until it happened, and I was pretty devastated.

But then something strange happened. He pulled out of it, and I was talking to him on the phone the very next day, and he seemed just fine(considering his condition). When his cancer was discovered it was already in his brain.

Somehow, Mike continued on for over year after that, he was in and out of the hospital, and he was given the “won’t live til the end of the week” death sentence again and again, and he kept pulling out of it. It actually got to the point where I could believe that he wasn’t going to die, and his hospital visits were no reason to panic.

One of the  results of Mike’s perseverance is that I got to know his family, which wouldn’t have really happened had he died a year ago. I also got to spend more time with one of our mutual friends, whose busy family life and geographical location had made difficult. It brought more people into my life, and I ended up understanding Mike himself a lot more. There was kind of  a swapping of stories, me talking about my younger adventures with Mike and our mutual friend Rick, and his parents telling me about his childhood and teen adventures. I got to see Mike from the perspectives of his Mom, Dad, his sister Tracie and  brother Richard,  and find out what interesting people they were.

While I had come to grips with the reality of the situation months ago, and had many thoughts about what it would mean when he was gone, that had pretty much reset itself  by the time he had passed and I am back at that point. I saw Mike take his last breath, but I still can’t believe it.

I was in a kind of daze for the last few weeks, and this last week I was finally able to reflect on what happened and really deal with it. There is a palpable feeling of absence in my mind, in a way our lives had become more intertwined in the last year than they ever were in the time that we knew each other. Things feel unfinished. I never wanted to talk to him as if he was going to die, I didn’t want to say “I’m going to miss you” to a person still trying to survive. I feel I could have done better at that, that my own fear of death was preventing me from facing his. I guess though, it was my job to keep his mind off things, and death makes for a pretty grim conversation, really. Who wants to talk about that?

So that’s it. People tend to only say positive things about the dead, but in Mike’s case, saying he was a great guy is not an exaggeration. I don’t think you could find a person that knew him that would have a single bad thing to say. He was a friendly and gregarious individual with a booming laugh and a kind word for everybody. He stayed that way all through his ordeal, which may be his most amazing feat. Goodbye, Mike.