It’s nice to see all of you here today.
So many people from the different eras of our dad’s life
here to pay their respects to Mike Miller
…and glancing around to see who might be next.
Well, they say every cloud has a silver lining.
If you own a Mike Miller original,
the value just skyrocketed.
There’s a very good possibility that you’ll leave here today having had
more laughs than you think you should have at a memorial service.
All I can say is, we hope so.
That’s exactly what dad wanted.
Actually, he wanted a couple things:
One, for all of us to laugh when remembering him.
Two, for heaven’s housekeeping to get his room ready YESTERDAY.
He was an impatient man.
Ever since that first day he was diagnosed with cancer and realized the end of his life was going to be much sooner than originally thought, dad started planning for this very day. And of course, it was only hours later that Mr. Quickdraw came up with the idea of the final experience he wanted to leave for all of us. But once he’d finished the job, he endured the most difficult thing he has ever done.
He had to wait.
Up to the very end,
Mike Miller hated to wait for anything.
During his last days, we served him some ice cream and he got sick from it.
I said “We should check the expiration date.”
So we very gently asked, “Dad would you roll over a minute?”
As a family, thanks to dad, during these past months, we have laughed more than we have cried. And he taught us never to be ashamed of it.
As difficult as it is for me to stand before you here today remembering the life of our dad,
it’s a piece of cake compared to having had to watch the slow fade to black of this wonderfully impatient man named Mike Miller.
We all spent the last months of his life talking openly about this day and all those that preceded it after he was first diagnosed. We talked with him and with each other about death, life, this memorial, arrangements, the plans for mom, the plans for everything that would be affected by dad’s passing. And through it all, I don’t think we have ever laughed and joked in such morbid, horrible ways ever before. That’s how he taught us to think about most everything.
There were more quips, quotes, puns and sight gags about his death and dying than anyone could ever understand and still respect us as a family. Most were private between us and they’ll forever stay that way. Others have leaked out in passing conversations during his declining days.
Like when Todd and I were in his garage with him going through all his paintings and he got tired and sat in the chair. He had some gas and Todd and I grimaced a little and told him that there’s no way we were gonna have an open casket if that’s what cancer smelled like.
Another involved the question: So, now you’re going through it, Pop…do you think it’s best to know that you’re going to die soon or do you think it would be better to just get hit by a bus? He said, I think it’s best to know for a couple months and THEN get hit by a bus.
You see, I suppose for some people, to know you are dying soon is necessary if you don’t have your affairs in order. By affairs, I’m not referring to picking out your casket or plot, planning for the distribution of your leftovers or the remains of the day.
Those tasks were just great opportunities for jokes for him and for us. Again, we laughed hysterically about all those necessary kinds of things easily because…well…because they were superfluous details and we all knew it. Dad knew where he was going. He’d planned his entire life around this day.
As the cards, emails, calls and letters came in from the people of his almost 75 years here, the content rarely included lauds and applause for his accomplishments, awards and talents. Sure, there were some, but overwhelmingly, they were about times, events and circumstances of his life that spoke of his character, his integrity and the less tangible of influences on the lives of people he touched within the industries he lived and worked.
Pop didn’t need all the months of fading that he ultimately endured. There was really nothing that needed fixing. No relationships he was compelled to mend. No apologies to be given and no wrongs to right. He had no enemies, didn’t live a life of lies and cheats, and did no harm to anyone.
Of course, he was no angel.
At least not then.
So in trying to find an explanation for this long lingering these final months, he and all of us talked many times about how seemingly unnecessary this was. Why wasn’t he just hit by a bus?
Only at the very end of this time did the answer finally come to all of us.
On more than one occasion, he expressed his embarrassment that while everyone knew he was dying he wondered if maybe they were saying “alright already, when’s this thing gonna happen?”
We concluded that these last several months of his life were given for us, not for him.
Selflessly, he gave us time to recall and time to laugh.
Even during his last days in that hospital deathbed, in and out of lucidity,
he’d wake up or turn his head and add a punchline to the quiet conversations we thought we were having while he slept.
If you ever get the chance to die very slowly,
I hope you are able to make good use of it, and not have to waste it thinking about what might have been, could have been or should have been. Because if you’ve lived your life right, what was and has been will be more than enough.
None of us are ever promised a bus.
During my last visit with him, we had the talk between father and son. At the end, he said “I wonder what that final moment will be like, ya know?” I said to him, “Remember last night when you woke up and I came over to you and the TV was on and you asked me to turn out the light, pop? I think it’ll be like that. You’ll just wake up and ask someone to turn out the light and they’ll just say, “Sorry Miller, this one doesn’t go out.”
He looked at me, smiled and chuckled at 3am.
He thought that was a good answer.
It’s a very strange thing, cancer. It gives you a certain amount of time to prepare, reminisce and say good bye before it takes you. Getting hit by a bus might have been easier and I think it would have been dad’s choice had he had one. But if so, we would have missed so much.
Now I’ve been to many memorials of people who have passed and will likely go to many more before my own. And quite frankly, I’ve been disappointed. Let me explain.
It seems that memorial services like this are times when everyone eulogizes about the greatness of a person, their devotion, character and all the positive things they will leave behind.
Now if I were to be perfectly honest, I knew better of some of those people. And to my recollection, they didn’t always live up to their eulogies.
I wrote my own eulogy many months ago on my website, life means so much dot com, which, incidentally, was named after a popular Chris Rice song and entirely inspired by my dad. And because of his influence on my life, I was able to be completely honest and open about myself, both good and bad.
I didn’t want any surprises or questions about the kind of man I was or have become.
Having completed it, I realized I am very much, and very proudly, Mike Miller.
Unless there is some rogue bastard child in the audience today
A hidden mistress
A shady business deal
A dirty browser
A bad habit
A dirty secret.
If you really knew Mike Miller, you know there are none of these.
I have only one wish left.
I wish that everyone here today who has somehow been painted by the brush of the man we called Mike Miller,
can someday be eulogized with the clarity of conscience and character we all have offered here today.
And if not, that in walking away from this event, driving home, going to bed and to work tomorrow, that you will ask yourself some very important questions while you still can.
You see, from the very moment he was informed he would surely die within the next few months, he spent no time mending fences, righting relationships or confessing secrets for last minute absolutions. He just went on living the best he could until he could live no more. I’m sure he searched deep during these months but found no demons or death-bed confessions. Surely he had a case of the woulda-shoulda-couldas like all of us, but he just lived and laughed through them knowing that what he’d gleaned and left of this life was more than enough.
Unless we meet that bus, most of us will come down sick at some point, faced with our own mortality. We’ll get suddenly sober and spend our last days getting right and making amends. What a waste of precious time that would be.
I think most of us, given a few months left, would want to spend the time doing things that were both meaningful and enjoyable, to the extent they could be enjoyed.
Dad did just that.
Living with Mike Miller has been awesome.
Patiently dying with him, not so much.
So, our family is now missing the capital F. We are missing him horribly.
But he left us all we need to get through this.
Live right and die laughing.
And at the very end, like Mike Miller, you might also be able to say…
“My God, it’s full of stars!”
And you will be among them all.