I guess all I'm saying is that even though things like Holiday Greetings, wishful thinking, and birthday wishes are trivial in today's context, I really appreciated the fact that Michelle was one of the few FB friends (we barely spoke to be fair) that said Happy Birthday to me this year. That was April, and through our superficial interactions (not withstanding constant trolling on my part) I surmised that she was having a rough go of things. Vaguebooking is a term that gets tossed around way too much these days. Even the idea that you can say something on a social media platform without it being misconstrued/summated in one way or another is frankly absurd. And when Michelle would go on a hiatus from her page for a bit, there was always something that I could reference on there that indicated she was terminally ill.
Michelle was some eight months older than me at the time of her death. I'm about to enter my “Jesus Year” (33) and frankly, I hope the grand realizations will cease to highlight all the ways I'm emotionally stunted. But things like people remembering my birthday means a lot to me, and if that sounds shallow and self-conceited, then so be it.
Michelle was definitely not one of these people. Aside from the heartbreaking updates on her condition, I noticed that she was especially supportive of those in her circle, a wide breadth if ever there was one, Michelle exemplified what it means to be a SELFLESS artist. I'll say it again, SELFLESS ARTIST. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Shakesperian character Ophelia was held in such fancy by Michelle. What was it Claudius says to the Queen while watching her in the first fits of maddening grief for her father:
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”
—Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
I'm probably not doing Michelle any justice with that reference, but even through all the medical setbacks, Michelle still carried on and gave what spirit she had to the arts; if it was through her own contributions with the numerous selections of books she published or her tireless efforts as the Poetry Editor at Unlikely Stories: Episode IV, Michelle always did her best to remain positive through it all.
“Been doing a fair amount editing (and binging on Stephen King whenever I take a break) for 3 out of the past 4 days. Though I haven't been well enough to able to write for a while now, it feels damn good to be getting some work done.”
—Michelle, April 2014
I was on my way out the door when Michelle came in as a poetry editor for JP & Co. (Hi Jonathan!), but I remember she was tenacious about the job right out the gate. That's something I deeply respected about her: the work ethic she had. It's so easy in today's age to slack as an editor. Mistakes happen, sure, bad choices abound when it comes to what is accepted at some of these literary mags, but Michelle had exceptional taste during her time with Unlikely. Even separated from what was happening behind the scenes, I could see how hard Michelle worked to put out the best work she could get her hands on. Once again, RESPECT. That's another easy cop-out for editors is to say they have the best poetry, fiction etc. But there's no comparison in quality when you have an editor that takes an undying interest in bringing it to the forefront. I had no idea that Michelle was so intrinsic in keeping Unlikely Stories: Episode IV going, and I certainly can't fathom all the physical/emotional trauma she had to endure through her life.
Here's another cop-out: Shit happens for a reason. It'd be simple to say she was a better person for everything she experienced, that it was to serve a higher purpose, that what we have to endure on this ball of shit we call Earth is supposed to make us stronger in the long run, blah blah ad infinitum. But no, not this time. People like Michelle die way too soon and way too often, and however her death inspires those of us fortunate enough to have known her (no matter the capacity because a brush with excellence is still an excellent moment,) it pales in comparison to what she accomplished with her life under duress.
That's why I'm back Michelle. Your sudden passing has touched me in a way that I didn't perceive was possible for someone I knew so little about. Your life will be a constant reminder to be more SELFLESS.