Hello from Mike and Bonnie
September 15, 2005 was the most life changing, mind altering, and humbling day of our lives. It started out very normal, eating my breakfast before work, talking with Michael J about the days big event – today’s Central Cabarrus soccer game with local rival JN Robinson HS, as Bonnie listened in. Then in a flash the bus arrived, time to go. “Be sure and come see us before the game”, I said. “I will Dad,” then out the door he went. We hardly considered that that would be one of the few promises he ever broke, as we would never see Michael J. alive again.
The varsity soccer team at Central had a tradition of going to a team mom’s house for a pregame meal. Even as Bonnie and I sat in our seats at Viking Stadium, watching the JV play, waiting to talk to MJ before the big game, did we ever imagine how events would turn. We noticed he was one of the few varsity players standing under the scoreboard who hadn’t returned yet, and as a medical helicopter whizzed over the stadium, we never thought it meant anything scary. It did; it was heading toward MJ, holding on to life, on fire, in the passenger seat of a car that would never make it to the stadium. Somehow, we were directed from our seats to stand by with police, who were talking about a wreck. After a short eternity, we were told to go to the hospital. The highway patrol was waiting, and we would be reunited with our kids. “I hope he’s not hurt bad”. I thought. Still calm and unaware of fate, we made our way to see MJ, worrying mostly about the other parents, who might not be calm enough to drive.
At the hospital, no Michael J. Martin had been checked in; staff tried to usher us to a “Room” as I tried to wrestle Bonnie from insanity as she hollered, “This can’t be good, something’s wrong. Where’s my Michael J?” “I still could not panic; I still had one job to do as a father, a duty to my son from birth, to make sure he would rest in peace with God. I summoned for a priest.
After what seemed like forever, in a room with other players and our other kids, Father Grey returned, and let us know Michael J was with God, and helped us all in prayer. Later, two troopers confirmed the facts and offered their condolences, as did the coach and faculty from the school. We asked father if we should go see Michael J, but he sadly shook his head not. Unable to find the strength to stay at the hospital, as two of MJ’s other friends fought for their life, we knew it was time to go, but where? The principal had asked, “If there was anything he could do.” There was. I said, “Please don’t have me arrested.” “Why would I have you arrested”, he said. “Because when I leave here”, I said, “I’m going back to that stadium, and I don’t care if I have to climb the fence to get in, but I need to go back to my seat and sit there until I realize what has just happened. That was where I last waited for him. “Would you like lights on or lights off,” he said. “Light’s on, I guess.”
Arriving back at school, the stadium was lit and the gates were open. Returning to our seats, still quiet with shock, I remember sitting down with Bonnie. As we looked across the field, towards the visitor bleachers, we watched as the biggest, most beautiful full moon arose. And we stared at it, and it stared back at us. MJ said, “Don’t worry Dad, I’m here with God, It’s a beautiful place and I’m fine. I’m here for you and mom, I love you.”
Many of Michael J’s siblings and kid friends wanted to know “where Michael played.” I pointed towards the end zone. Finally trying to speak, struggling to grasp a big dose of reality, I was finally able to phone my mom and others about our tragic day. “He’s gone, but I know he’s ok.” As the night progressed, the stands filled with family, friends, and others who came for support. I could never have imagined such a beautiful crowd. I remember talking with the principal, who had kept a soldier’s vigil, about his newborn son. I told him about mine and Bonnie’s special relationship with MJ, and how we told each other our love, and how we valued each day together, knowing now that tomorrows are not guaranteed. All the while Michael’s moon looked down on everyone, giving me and Bonnie comfort, and helping us find the strength to go on. We had such a beautiful son. Thanks be to God!
I don’t think anyone, who was there that day, will ever forget that night, that moon, or our son Michael J. He left us, but he didn’t leave us alone. Surrounded with so many friendships, of the legacy he left behind, now it’s time for us to give thanks to God; to help others, especially young people, under the light of Michael’s moon. We hope the rest of our lives will be a testament to the helpful, happy, caring and selfless person he was. We know where he’s at. Now hopefully we are on our way and you will go with us.
As We Move On – A Tribute to Our Son
Our mission began almost immediately after Michael J’s passing. The night after his death, sitting outside our house under the light of the moon, we were as lonely as two parents could be. Bonnie’s cry finally broke the silence, “Mike what are we gonna do! I don’t think I can handle this!” I said, “I don’t know what we’re gonna do – but I have noticed one thing, he didn’t leave us alone… All the kids he left behind- I think he wants us to be there for them.”
Standing alongside the Central Cabbarus soccer team the day after the funeral, our mission began. “Maybe being there with them, knowing how hard it must be for us to stay strong, will give the stundents a reasaon to go on.” It has for us. Our journey has led us to concieve “safety concerts”, athletic scholarships, and help out soccer kids and soccer camps. We taught Michael J to never quit, and his example spurs us on. Hopefully now the sky is the limit. Please help us do all we can to support kids, families, and do everything we can, to make the world a better place – like it was when MJ and Andy were here.