I promised I’d see him through to the end. He wasn’t there any more, but being a pallbearer was my way of keeping that promise. In case I tripped and fell while carrying the substantial coffin, I asked our friend Ben Stone to be on standby. Ben, “Surprisingly, they’re not that heavy. The important part is gone.”
This is what I read to the group of family and friends gathered at the memorial service on Monday. It is granted to the public domain by its author, Maitri Erwin.
Let me start by saying that if there was anything Michael disliked, it was wasting precious time celebrating and eulogizing the dead. With that said, let’s celebrate and eulogize Michael Stern Hart.
I’ve known Michael for exactly nineteen years. When we first met, I had just moved to the United States after enormous physical and emotional upheaval. The person that Michael came across at that time was smart, different and very, very angry. Smart was good, different was better, but Michael had no use for static anger. I can still hear him asking, “What are you going to do about it?” And it was through Michael that I was re-introduced to my basic humanity and my capacity to do good from a desire to change. Michael Hart helped me change my life.
“When in Rome, be a Roman candle.” Never be afraid to change the circumstances in which you find yourself.
Michael was one big dynamo of an unreasonable person. Can I get an Amen? [Even the pastor didn’t get an “Amen” as loud as that response, by the way.] Well, so am I. The constructive interference of the two personalities wasn’t always … constructive, but Michael and I never parted ways mad because, from the very beginning, we were on the same side, no matter what.
The side which counts success as moving up and on yourself, not pushing others down to look better in comparison. The side which sees wealth in giving knowledge away, not in hoarding it or in money and stuff. The side which recognizes that in order to give knowledge away, you’ve got to work hard everyday to make sure you have more of it. The side of energy, fire, change.
Thank you, Michael, for teaching me how to get the most out of a university, for the hundred Socratic arguments, for the endless frisbee games, for sugar on Garcia’s pan pizza and for seeing me in me.
As for more of Maitri-kind, they’re coming. I’m just sorry that they won’t get to meet you. But, hey, you will make for great bedtime stories.
I’d like to close with words from The Little Prince, which he read to me one afternoon. From the eBook, of course, because it tickled him that I read books on my iPhone.
“Here, then, is a great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep that we never saw has– yes or no?– eaten a rose …
“Look up at the sky. Ask yourselves: is it yes or no? Has the sheep eaten the flower? And you will see how everything changes…
“And no grown-up will ever understand that this is a matter of so much importance!”
I miss you, Michael. Got your back.