This eulogy was delivered by Michael Vrtis at the funeral of Michael Morgan.
My name is Mike Vrtis. I am one of Ray's many siblings. I'm the klutzy one who's addicted to playing games.
I only had the good fortune to meet with Michael two or three times. So I really don't have a lot of memories to share with you.
I DO remember teaching Michael and his sister Kristin and Ray and Debbie how to play several fast-action card games. That's when I discovered just how competitive their family REALLY is. (If they had had kitchen utensils handy, I'm sure that many hands would have been impaled as they tried to stop each other from winning.)
What I DO remember best about Michael is his grin. He was often smiling and
laughing. But even when he wasn't smiling, he always wore a grin.
It was what I would call a "Davy Crockett" grin. The type of unshakable grin
"I know the secret! This world is an incredible, wonderful, amazing GIFT! And life is GOOD."
I think that I share several things with Michael.
We both have the same first name, though he was almost always "Michael" while I am almost always "Mike". Either way, it's a great first name, and although Michaels tend to be mischevious, you can't go wrong naming your son Michael.
Michael and I also shared an avocation as "Thrift Store Treasure Hunters". Now THRIFT STORE treasures are not like OTHER treasures. OTHER treasures are found in far-off, isolated areas... hidden from view. THRIFT STORE treasures are found nearby out-in-the-open among thousands of other discarded items. (Debbie told me yesterday that she & Ray had JUST found a thrift-store treasure that she knew Michael would have loved. And Ray laughed and said, "Yah, a pair of plaid, polyester pants from the 60s". Now THAT is a thrift store treasure!)
And in many ways, Michael himself was a thrift store treasure... - an EXTRA-ordinary, irreplacable, one-of-a-kind individual that we found - right HERE, among us, in this very ordinary setting we call home.
A third thing we shared was a love of road trips. There some people who
don't like to travel at all. Home is good enough for them! There are others
who like vacationing in other places, but find they fly or race down the
interstate. They find that traveling is a "waste of time". But those of us
who love road trips understand the words of T.S. Elliot:
"Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time."
For those like Michael, the journey is at least as important was the destination. Perhaps even more so. I doubt that Michael had any specific, rigid agenda in mind for his last trip - just a general idea of which way he wanted to head, and SOME of the stops he wanted to make along the way. I'm sure he made unplanned route changes. And spur of the moment decisions. And made memories and saw sights that he had never expected to see. And I think that Michael, in his journey of LIFE, traveled as well, and enjoyed it as much as he did in his journeys on the road.
When I first heard of Michael's death, I felt a lot of anger and sorrow and confusion. I searched and found some old "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon strips. They dealt with death in an honest and childLIKE manner. You may have noticed the cartoons on display today in the funeral home.
In one strip, Calvin comes upon a dead sparrow. He observes: "Isn't it beautiful? It's so delicate. Once it's too LATE you appreciate what a MIRACLE life is. You realize that nature is ruthless and our very exisitence is very fragile, temporary, and precious."
In the other series of strips, Calvin finds a young, badly-injured racoon,
and tries to save it, only to fail. After it dies, he says, "I'm crying
because out THERE he's gone, but he's not gone INSIDE me."
Then he laments, as I did, "I didn't even know he existed a few days ago, and now he's gone forever. It's like I found him for no reason. I had to say Good-bye as soon as I said Hello. ----Still, in a sad, awful, terrible way, I'm glad I did."
Further on he gets angry, "Why did the little racoon have to die? He didn't do anything. He was just little. What's the point in putting him here and taking him back so soon?"
Finally, Calvin finds some acceptance: He tells his tiger friend, Hobbes, "Mom says that death is as NATURAL as birth. And it's part of the life cycle. She says we really don't understand it, but there many things we don't understand and we just have to do the best we can with the knowledge we have."
In speaking with Ray and Debbie, and Michael's friend Brian, I found that Michael especially loved the beauty of the Southwestern part of the United States.
So I found it somehow appropriate that Michael died at a National Park, on Navajo land.
For the Navajo people, LIFE itself is MOVEMENT.
And the most important life value is "hozho" - which translates as "beauty", but also encompasses harmony, peace, balance, happiness, and the general good.
For the Navajo's, humanity doesn't "discover" beauty, but we are each active participants in CREATING beauty - by bringing peace and harmony into the world, through our thoughts and words and actions.
From what I know of Michael, and from what I've learned from you, Michael was a true follower of this belief - that it is up to US to live in harmony, to seek peace, and to create a world of beauty.
Ray told me of something a Navajo medicine man shared with him
during a Navajo ceremony they attended. It helped me accept Michael's death,
and perhaps it will help you.The medicine man said that according to Navajo
belief, our lives are an onward movement. But sometimes, for no
understandable reason, we are sent "corners". We still move onward,
but we must turn and go in a different direction. Whether we want to or not.
And although Michael's death seems tragic, it has, to some degree or another,
forced all of us to "turn a corner". We continue to move onward but in a
More aware of how fragile life is.
More aware of how precious life is.
More aware of our own final destination.
Michael's death was tragic. He died suddenly. He died alone. He died young.
But what is more important than how he DIED is how he LIVED.
His death was tragic. But his life was joyfilled.
He lived life as if it were the bestest present a guy could ever get. He opened that gift up with a grin on his face. He played with it. He treasured it and cared for it. And he shared it happily and freely with everyone around him.
And I'm very sure that the giver of that gift... (who gives life to each and every one of us) is mighty pleased with Michael right now.... ..and mighty proud of the way Michael enjoyed his gift.
And now it's up to us to honor Michael's journey through life and treasure the memories and learn from his example.