Mikael Vincent Tien Doe Chan
Eighty robust years packed into twenty-five.
After a valiant and hard-fought battle with mental illness, Mikael took his life the night of November 9, 2009. His passing was not painful for him. He overdosed his medications, wrote two farewell letters, then lay on the couch and fell asleep. He was found early the next morning.
We are grieving but we are also celebrating his life. Mikael packed more into his 25 years of living than most do in 80. He lived life with zest and purpose, loving adventure and never afraid of danger. At age two, he was literally climbing the walls of the front stairwell at home.
At five, he ran a lemonade stand, undercutting the competition across the street. At seven, the two outfits merged into a joint profit-making venture, selling lemonade at the end of the block
At nine he took over his older brother’s Free Press route, getting up at five every morning, regardless of weather, trudging through deep snow pulling a sleigh of papers that was heavier than he was.
As a grade nine school assignment Mikael committed to helping in the church nursery for several weeks. The kids loved him so much, he continued to work with them for several years.
He hated his short stature but there was nothing small about him. He excelled with the oboe and won a trophy at the Manitoba Music Festival. He was heavily involved in the music program at Westgate Collegiate, his school for grades 7 to 12, and loved to sing.
In the summer preceding grade 12 he convinced the school administration that he could teach an elective course in Creative Music Composition. He designed the curriculum, jumped through all the necessary hoops to get it approved and taught it.
He composed full-length concertos and sonatas for a variety of instruments, a requiem and a large, miscellaneous assortment of pieces with titles such as “Duct Tape,” “A Space Parody,” “Elegy for Harp,” “Midnight Romance,” “Keystone Kartoon,” “Scream,” and “Preludius Maximus.” His only tool was the computer keyboard and necessary software.
He was listening to Peter, Paul and Mary the night he died, and went to the Manitoba Folk Festival every year, but his taste in music was eclectic and included jazz, early rock, classical, heavy metal, electronica, Gypsy Kings and Steve Bell. He sang in the a cappella group, Mindset.
He spent the last year writing a novel very loosely based on the brother of one of his Norwegian ancestors, researching details on the culture of the locations and time period. He read avidly from Alexandre Dumas, Ernesto Che Guevara, Dante and others but enjoyed John Grisham and Michael Crighton as literary “junk food.”
A photography buff, Mikael was president of the University of Manitoba’s photo club for one year and later turned his bathroom into a darkroom.
Mikael’s love for the outdoors was immeasurable: hiking in the wilderness, canoeing, kayaking, cycling—in the winter in shorts, snowshoeing, skating. He eschewed other forms of transportation and predicted he would die young in a cycling accident (“Paint the bicycle white and lock it to a post where it happens, please!”). He was an urban adventurer, exploring places he should never have been and proud of the resulting battle scars.
He loved winter camping and took his grandmother to join him, trekking through the wilderness and building a quinzee for overnight accommodations. He attempted to cycle across Canada alone and persevered even after being sideswiped by a car on the first day. Only with reluctance did he agree to return home when he reached Sault Ste. Marie. Father-son bonding on an overnight canoe trip this summer leaves sweet memories.
Jobs he held included working at a day care, educational assistant in schools, program coordinator for an inner-city children’s ministry, youth pastor, and building a slip-form cement grain elevator.
During the year he lived alone he was determined to be independent even when he had no job. He bought a 50-pound bag of potatoes for eight dollars, carried it home on his shoulder and found creative ways to live on potatoes for a month. He ordered raw cocoa beans and made his own chocolate. He made his own cheese, bread, pasta and gourmet foods. He has left behind more teas that most tea stores carry, his favourites being yerba maté and Earl Grey—loose, not in bags.
He loved the homeless and often shared food, mittens, jacket or whatever was needed. He was not afraid to invite them to stay the night in his apartment. He went on several short-term mission trips to the inner cities of places like Chicago and Vancouver. He caught the heart of the elderly widow next door who he loved to help and visit.
Mikael was born (September 11, 1984), raised, lived and died in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was predeceased by grandparents Chan Kam Tin (Hong Kong), Chan Ho Siu (Winnipeg) and Mons Haughland (Starbuck, Manitoba); step-grandfather Jake Wollmann (Winnipeg); Aunt Susan (Haughland) Trefz (Taiwan); step-uncle John Wollmann (Winnipeg); step-aunt Marion Wollmann (Winnipeg); half-uncle Raymond Haughland (Hamilton, Ontario) and half-aunt Willene Haughland (Hamilton, Ontario).
He is grieved (all in Winnipeg unless otherwise noted) by his parents Tom and Debbie (Haughland) Chan; three brothers Mons, Erik and Konrad (fiancée Bena Ting); grandmother Dorothy (Howard) Wollmann; uncles Philip (Agnes) Chan, Roy (Anna) Chan, David (Mei Ling) Chan (Hong Kong); aunts Kathy (Steve) Johnson of Saginaw, Michigan, Barbie (Neil) Adams of Courtice, Ontario; half-uncle Daryle (Suzanne) Kantor; step-aunts Martha (Barry Chapman) Karagiannis, Bertha (Keith) Monrose of Burlington, Ontario, Sarah (Keith) Maines, Maryanne Wollmann; step-uncles Ruben (Christine) Wollmann, Sam (Amy) Wollmann; cousins Paul and Andrew Chan (Calgary, Alberta), Chan Wei Ming (Hong Kong), Jonathon “Lee” (Nancy) Trefz (Vancouver, B.C.), Michael Mahoney (Saginaw, Michigan), Bradley (Kara) Adams (Ooltewah, Tennessee), Brooke (Justin) Holland (Ooltewah, Tennessee) and Bobby Galovics (Saginaw, Michigan); half-cousins Raymond (Joanne), Todd (Candace), Alyssa, Casey and William Haughland (all of southern Ontario), Melissa Kantor (China); step-cousins Tasia (Brant) Bell, Melina Karagiannis (Switzerland), Alex Karagiannis, Christopher and Stephanie Wollmann-Olson, Shania Wollmann, Mathew Monrose (Hamilton, Ontario), Joshua, Jordan and Lucas Wollmann, Brandon and Tyler Maines, Demetri Bell; special friends Heather Carney and Willow Dekker and his pet iguana, Sophocles.
Thank you to his doctors R. Hayward, J. Gordon and G. Levin, his pastors John Botkin and Elton da Silva, his mentor Ken Warkentin, Pastor Nathan Rieger, River Elm School staff, Christian Family Centre, and all the many people who are showering and embracing his grieving family with phone calls, cards, e-mails (and other online condolences), mountains of food, flowers, love, hugs and presence. You are and have been a blessing.
A special thank you to God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. God is good. God is always good. It doesn't matter what happens, God is good. As Job in the Bible said, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." His mercy and compassion never fail.
Instead of flowers, donations may be made to Winnipeg Centre Vineyard’s drop-in, room-of-the-arts, a future part of the Flatlanders’ transitional housing for the homeless.