Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Angels - Part III

Mike worked for a building supply company for 13 years before he got sick. He considered his co-workers his family. He spent 12 hours a day at work and another 1/2 day every other Saturday. Suffice it to say, he saw his co-workers more than he saw his own family. These people were at our wedding, Mike's parent's funerals, the children's baptisms and birthdays.

About 2 weeks before Christmas in 2000, Mike came home and ran upstairs to the bathroom. This was unusual, so I became concerned and ran up after him. He emerged about 10 minutes later with a hand written note. This note explained to me what he couldn't - he was "let go" from his job. He was devastated. Bear in mind, he had been to a few doctors in the previous months because of our concern about his memory. Now he felt like a failure. He couldn't even support his family. I panicked, not only short term, with 2 small children and Christmas around the corner, but long term, "how was I going to keep the house on one salary?"

Imagine my surprise that after this happened, I had not heard from anyone from his company. With the exception of one man, no one had called or checked in after he was dismissed. I kept telling myself that there was NO WAY these people did not know there was a physical problem with Mike. To this day, I do not now the grounds for his dismissal, but anything was possible at that time. I know in my heart, nothing he did or didn't do, was out of his own free will. Mike was the most loyal, hard working, honest and kind hearted person anyone has ever met. He was almost perfect to a fault.

It hurt Mike and I terribly that after he left, after putting 13 years of his heart and soul into the company, no one kept in touch. It was a sore spot for us. Imagine my shock then that after our appearance on The Oprah Show aired in 2004 (3 1/2 years after he was let go) I got a call from the office manager. Apparently she had seen the show and just couldn't believe how bad things were.

To this day, I say that it took alot of strength for her to call. Many people, after not having been in touch for years, would have been too embarrassed and not called. Instead, they went into high gear.

Over the last 4 years, Mike's old company has been TREMENDOUSLY supportive and helpful to us. They have arranged a few fundraisers that have pulled us out of a few desperate situations. A contractor that Mike knew well put in a ramp and deck for us (at no charge) and another re-did our front room to make our "bedroom" when Mike was no longer able to negotiate the stairs. They have kept in touch and have visited often. One co-worker even came to our home a few times to shovel snow (and he does not live close). The list can go on and on, but I probably wouldn't have enough room. They have been a Godsend more than once.

These people that became Mike's family through work, have remained our family through his illness. They show what true caring can accomplish. Not only the company, but many contractors and builders that knew and loved Mike have been generous in so many ways.

The biggest gift they gave was not in money or material though. They had a trade show where they had a table set up as a fundraiser for our family. The children and I went and got so much more than we expected. So many people came up to me and the kids, telling funny and caring stories about Mike. Courtney and Brandon were only 7 & 9 when Mike was diagnosed. They were too young to really know their dad. These people made it a point to go up to them and tell them what a wonderful father they had. It made my heart swell and the pride they left with was far better than anything they have ever been given.

Thank you Strober Building Material, especially: Jeanne, Harry, Richie, Mike, Brian and Thea. Your big hearts and generous gifts have NEVER been forgotten and you will continue to be a part of our family.

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