This is part three of a series about Michael who died at age 62 in our hospice center. In “The Dream Team”, we learned about Michael as an athlete; in, “That really makes sense to me!” we learned about Michael as a coach. This week we’re learning about Michael as a mentor. A few months ago I met Michael’s father, Bill, for breakfast at Bob Evans. We reflected on Michael’s life and death. As a high school senior, Michael was being courted by the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins, but Bill encouraged Michael to accept a full scholarship to pitch for Ohio University instead. Bill was second guessing his advice and admitted, “I sure would’ve liked to have seen how far Mike could’ve gone?” It wasn’t the first time I’d heard Bill make that statement.
For the next hour or so Bill shared story after story of the young girls that Mike coached. He taught his daughter, Mindy, to pitch and she won sixty-seven games during her high school career and received a full scholarship and pitched for the University of Missouri in Kansas City. She is now a program coordinator for a local substance abuse treatment center. Her sister, Cindy, was her catcher and Bill stated, “They were Clay High School’s battery”. Mindy received a college scholarship and is now a lab technician.
Bill shared a moving incident that occurred while watching one of Shawnee State University’s softball games: “This couple came over to me and asked, ‘Are you related to Mike Powell?’ You walk just like him. We are Ali’s parents and we just want to thank you for what Michael did for our daughter. Then Ali came over and then her grandparents. Then another pitcher named Kate came over and her parents and they thanked me for what Michael did for them.
But the most moving story Bill shared was about a young girl named Jordan. Here’s Bill: “Michael worked with Jordan since she was thirteen. She pitched a really good game the other day and I complimented her. Then she told me, ‘Do you want to know how I did it? People would probably think I’m crazy but I talked with Mike before every pitch. I hear him telling me how to hold the ball…what pitch to throw.’ Bill continued, “Jordan is graduating from Clay High School this year. I told her I had a graduation present and told her to stop by the house to get it. She stopped by and told me that she hoped she’d win Mikes $1,000 memorial scholarship. She told me it would mean more than any full scholarship. Before Mike died we came up with the idea of a scholarship for an athlete but Mike told us, ‘I’ll agree, but only if its on my terms. They don’t have to be the best player but they have to be a good person.’ Character meant more to Mike than anything. But the family doesn’t have anything to do with deciding who gets it.” In case you’re wondering, Jordan was awarded the scholarship this year.
Room doesn’t permit me to share all the stories that Bill told me that morning. But when our coffee cups were empty and our conversation coming to a close, it was like a light bulb came on and I suggested to Bill, “Bill, I just realized something, it’s yet to be seen how far Michael will go. He’s still living in the hearts of those he invested himself in.” Bill replied, “I never looked at it that way before. That really helps me!”
I told Bill that Michael’s life reminded me of a song by Ray Boltz, titled, “Thank You”:
“Dreamed I went to heaven, you were there with me. We walked upon the streets of gold beside the crystal sea. We heard these angels sing and someone called your name…One by one they came as far as your eyes could see. Each life somehow touched by your generosity…Thank you for giving to the Lord for I’m a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am so glad you came…And I know up in Heaven they say your aren’t supposed to cry, but I’m almost sure I saw tears in your eyes, as Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord, He said, ‘My child look around you, great is your reward’”
I don’t know about you but I would consider it a great compliment if someone told me, “You walk just like Him”.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Loren Hardin is a member of SOMC Hospice, part of Southern Ohio Medical Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lorenhardin.com.