Son, brother, cousin, friend
Born on March 8, 1969 in London, Ontario
Died in Mountain View, California on August 03, 2000
March 8 is Michael Miller's birthday. Family and friends will always get together to mark the occasion but celebration will be tinged with sadness. After a long and very private battle with manic depression Mike took his own life on August 3, 2000. He was thirty-one. We who are left are devastated. Why would someone as accomplished, as intelligent, as caring and perceptive as Mike become so despondent that suicide would seem a logical answer?
Mike was born in 1969. He was a beautiful baby with a sunny and calm disposition. He studied things carefully even as a toddler. One treasured memory is watching him in the bathtub trying to pick up water with his hand. He would scoop the water in his palm and watch it run through his fingers. In the subsequent attempts he speeded up the scooping motion obviously trying to figure out if increased speed would accomplish the task.
He had a great facility with words at an early age. One of his first words was cookie. Later when he wanted a cookie he would always ask for two at a time. If he found himself in a touchy situation with one of his pals he would use his language skills to negotiate his way out of difficulty. Our neighbour referred to him as "the little diplomat."
When Mike's sister Alison arrived he was probably less than thrilled to be sharing the limelight with her. He was far more taken with the tonka truck that his dad bought for him. When I called him from the hospital to tell him he had a sister he replied proudly, "I have a dump truck". He did ignore Alison for the first while, but later they had a lot of fun together learning all the neat stuff, like how to ride bikes, play soccer, swim, skate and ski.
In elementary school Mike's determination and ability to focus was evident. He was an avid reader and could take in and remember written material with ease. I was so touched when two of his elementary school teachers attended his memorial service. Their comment was "some of them you never forget". One of Mike's hobbies in elementary school was building, painting and launching model rockets. We had several rocket launches when relatives and friends would gather at the park for a sendoff of Mike's latest rocket. Mike also enjoyed the regular visits to see his cousins in Alberta. One summer the cousins amused themselves by producing videos. They were very irreverent and poked fun at all sorts of things. In one scenario Mike played the part of a dissipated rock star and his cousins were his adoring fans. On a winter holiday the group put on the silly ski contest. Cousin Sue won hands down but Mike who was very proud of his then cool Varnais shades got the award for the "pukiest, ugliest sunglasses."
Mike was fifteen when his Dad died of cancer. One of the hospice counselors picked up that Mike's grieving was different some how and referred Mike to a doctor who diagnosed depression. After several months and little relief two members of his extended family invited him to stay with them for the summer. With their support and assistance Mike started to improve and regained enough focus that his cousin Pete offered to teach Mike how to drive the car, a perfect activity for a sixteen year old. When Mike returned home in the fall he was ready to return to school. He successfully completed high school and embarked on a university career.
He had a second setback with the disease resulting in some time off from school, an adjustment in the treatment regime and a diagnosis of manic depression. Again he landed on his feet, completed an honours degree in psychology and a masters degree in Health Information Science. But life was not all academics. A friend wrote, "An evening of pool showed Mike off at his best-relaxed, smart conversation alternated with quiet study and clean shots as he cleared the table." One night at the student pub Mike met Alice who became a long time and very special friend. Alice's gregarious nature and sense of adventure was a great balance to Mike's more cerebral approach.
I thought Mike might stay in school forever but a project he was working on led to a job as a software engineer in the Silicon Valley in California. We had a big sendoff party for him and it was exciting seeing him leave on this big adventure. He was good at his job, and well thought of by his workmates. His manager wrote, "I think I'll always remember Mike as a smart, independent thinker and a really good guy. As a programmer Mike was very talented, someone who took on hard tasks and made them look easy. He was passionate about his work. In discussions Mike was thorough, tough to convince when he thought an idea was flawed, and eager to help when he thought an idea was good."
Mike had a brilliant mind, a wry sense of humour and was a sensitive and caring individual. We can only speculate why his disease returned one final time. Why would someone as worthy as Mike become so mired in despair that he would lose all confidence in himself? Why were the medical interventions not successful? Our questions will never be answered. We will continue to honour Mike and include him and know that the world is a better place because of him. At Christmas time we sent messages to Mike via helium balloon. His cousin's message spoke for all of us. "We love you, miss you and will never, ever forget."
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