When my only grandchild, Michael, was about four years old, I called him as I did every day. His mom answered the phone and we were chatting. Then we both heard a blood curdling scream from Michael and we both thought he was hurt. She walked out on the front porch and he was crying so hard, as children do. When he caught his breath enough to talk, he told his mom, "My caterpillar is gone." She told him, "Michael, that is ok because he is now a beautiful butterfly." He then continued crying and said, "I loved him just the way he was," and he did. Michael would go to the front porch railing and pet the caterpillar every day, but that morning he was not there. Although she tried to explain that the caterpillar was okay and had transformed to a butterfly, it did not mean anything to him because he did love the caterpillar just the way he was. I was so surprised by that, it made me speechless. I thought about it quite a bit and I thought, this is God stuff. It is so God-like to love us just the way we are.
The night he died, that story was one of the first things that popped into my mind and heart. I love Michael just the way he was and just the way he is, and forming and developing Michael's Caterpillar Inc. is my way of honoring the sweet soul he is. Michael was loving and unselfish even as a child.
Michael's friends were important to him, and he loved many people from different walks of life, young and old, rich and poor, various backgrounds and ethnicity, was intelligent and had a smile and a laugh that was contagious. What he did not have was the ability to fight the disease of addiction. He reached out to others in pain, always there when people needed him and did many things for other people that he never talked about and we didn't find out until after his death.
Michael would want us to be happy, to help others, to love one another. Michael loved the caterpillar just the way he was. That is the legacy he left us. They are his gifts to us. Michael was in pain, but hid it well until it was so bad, he did not choose to reach out for help any longer. Michael lost his battle with addiction on February 8, 2013 at the age of fifteen. He was always the first one to befriend a new child at school, helped the ones that were weaker and needed someone to defend them. He had an impact on so many lives in his fifteen years and continues to have an impact even after his death.
Michael’s life taught us that young people need a place to go where they are safe and cared for. A place where resources are provided, but above all a place of comfort, security and assistance. A place where they can be themselves if there is a trauma or difficult situation at home. Having a place to go can make a huge difference. Youth at risk, youth in pain deserve compassion, education, support, friendship, community and a reason to press on. Sometimes they need a mentor, maybe guidance, direction, a hobby, an after school program that would interest them and keep them motivated. They need a place where they are allowed to express themselves in a safe environment.
For the sake of the many other boys and girls that struggle with the disease of addiction, often without their parents knowing it is happening, it is my hope that Michael's Caterpillar can be that resource for kids, their families and friends. It is my strong desire that they do not turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their pain.
You left me