Monday, November 30, 2009

Mikael and the Pink Duct Tape

by Ang Plett
November 28, 2009

I was thinking of Mikael a lot today as I packed up our household. We're moving from our little apartment to a house across town. Anyway, we are re-using a lot of the boxes we used when we moved to Prince Rupert to Winnipeg over a year ago. A lot of them still have the bright pink duct tape we used to seal them back then.

In August 2008 a group of us ventured out to Morden to attend the Morden Corn and Apple Festival--a favourite annual event from my childhood that many of my city friends had never experienced. I think the group was Jon, Megan, Alicia, Ben, myself, and Mikael. We had such a good day! We sat and watched the parade in the morning. One of the floats was by 3M and they were throwing out roles of pink duct tape to the crowd! We were all enamored with this pretty and unique duct tape and hoped we could get our hands on a role. Well, a role of tape flew through the air right toward our group. I tried to catch it but it ricocheted off my hand and Mikael snatched it from the air. He was pretty proud of himself! I jokingly pouted about it for the rest of the day and tried to convince Mikael that the tape was rightfully mine--I was moving, after all, and felt I was in greater need of tape than Mikael. He didn't budge, though. He was pretty attached to that tape! After the festival the group of us drove one more hour south west to my parent's farm where we sat around the fire and roasted wieners and marshmellows late into the evening. The next morning we made waffles on the outdoor waffle oven and had them with white pudding sauce and fresh strawberries. After the trip Mikael talked about how much he loved being at the farm. My mom remembers him playing with the new born kittens. Anyway, back to the tape. We drove back to the city later that morning and dropped Mikael off at his apartment. When we got home to our apartment, I noticed Mikael had left that beautiful coveted role of pink duct tape.

Thanks Mikael! We're still making good use of that tape!

(Reprinted with permission)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oak Tree for Mikael

We planted an oak tree today in Assiniboine Park in memory of Mikael. It was a beautiful day. I was too weak to stand so I got to sit on a camp chair, facing the river that is splotched with patches of thin ice floating downstream, surrounded by friends and family. The attending park worker was awesome. He said he was honoured to be there. Once the tree was placed in the hole, he put good potting soil in the empty spaces and more on top to create a "bowl" into which he pour many gallons of water. As we were leaving he was putting posts in the ground to which he tethered the tree and used to support a tall, orange, webbed "snow" fence to keep animals and vandals away. It's a scrawny-looking tree, despite it's age of ten years, but it is surrounded by other oaks and will be well cared for. It's in the perfect place.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mikael's Blogs

Mikael kept two blogs that I know of.

The Misadventures of Mikael Chan shares the stories of his various escapades--and he had many.

His LiveJournal blog shares portions from his personal journal.  If you choose to read this blog, be prepared for some discomfort.  He was candid and forthright to a fault.  Guess he got that from me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mikael on the Assiniboine River

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Donations in Memory of Mikael

Mikael was deeply concerned for those who are homeless in our city. He requested that at his funeral there would be an opportunity to donate to this cause instead of giving flowers. The Chan family desires that his wishes would be fulfilled by a memorial gift to Flatlanders Art Space, on the third floor of our building.

Flatlanders is a community of people that live on the second and third floors of this church where people at risk of homelessness can find not just shelter, but a home. Its vision is to be a place of recovery, officially designated transitional housing. Part of the third floor, currently unfinished, has been designated as Flatlanders Artspace; a place where music, dance, painting, pottery, and other arts could be used as a means to recovery, healing, and expression. All money received will go towards developing this room, including a plaque memorializing Mikael's life and passion for the arts. The thirty people who will be living in flatlanders will also share this space for the larger community to teach and share art, and in doing so find new hope, and life, and recovery.

Anyone interested in making such a donation may do so by writing a cheque to "Winnipeg Centre Vineyard" and sending it to:

782 Main Street
Winnipeg MB
R2W 3N4

Make sure to notate on the cheque that the donation is in memory of Mikael Chan. You will be sent a tax-deductible reciept.

To learn more about Flatlanders, look here.
To learn more about Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, look here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Memories of Mikael Vincent Tien Doe Chan

Updated December 19, 2010

Mikael--A Letter from his Dad

November 11, 2009

Dear Mikael, my precious, dearly beloved and missed son,

I miss you so much already! My heart is broken without your earthly presence.

When I tried to resuscitate you yesterday morning, it was my last embrace and kiss for you, Mikael.

You lived a Godly life, a colourful life, a life that is full of adventures that was beyond human comprehension. What I just said is not a hyperbole; nor is it a metaphor. No one has the will power, imagination, and gumption to do the things you did so daringly well, like riding solo on your bike all the way to Sioux Ste. Marie in 12 days, jumping over tall buildings, kayaking in the Assiniboine in April just after ice-break-up, driving all the way to Kananaskas, Alberta to climb the foothills with your brother, Konrad, and so much more.

Quoting directly from your will, you gave me an exceptional advice on how to live when you wrote, ”A life full of friendships and close relations; a life full of love; a life full of music; a life full of adventure and activity; a life full of contemplation and spirituality. If I can achieve this, and I think I'm living life to the fullest right now, by those definitions, death is welcome at any time.”

I am so happy that you knew you had lived your life to its fullness. You certainly had attained all your goals within a brief life time. I am particularly humbled that at such a young age, you had the wisdom to discern that the things that can be counted may not count, but the things that cannot be counted, count. None of your goals in life had anything to do with fame, fortune, and success as measured by the world.

Kael, you were indeed a superman! Not a metaphor either.

Now, you’re safe and sound, happy and painless in Heaven with God, the three Guys whom you read about and we had talks on after you had finished reading The Shack.

How does God look, sound, feel, and be like? He must be so glorious and an essence of warm tingling love!

Mikael, say “hi” to God for me, and tell Him I am so sorry for all my sins that nailed Him on the cross. I want to be with God, too. But, now, I want to be with you.

Mikael, it must have been a very trying life which you lived. You must have to fight off valiantly, as you did on Saturday night, the lies of the enemy and your heavy self-doubt.

From what I see and where I stand, there IS NO DOUBT who you were and what you did. You were a young man of honour, noble spirit, gentle heart, and deep faith in a loving Triune God. All you did in your life and all you were attested to that fact.

I wish I had written this letter two days before and told you what I think you are… a masterpiece of God, His poema.

Mikael, in the past two years, we had talked and done so much together, including moving you out, and moving you back home. I will always treasure the canoe trip we had together this past August at Caddy Lake, and the trails we walked. You lived your keenest when you were in the outdoors, climbing a hill or canoeing in swift currents.

This afternoon, the Carneys came over to grieve our collective loss with us. We all agreed, one after another, about your zest for life, living to the hilt.

Heather and Sean shared with me your last good-bye e-mails to them. God! Why was I not attentive to catch you before you fell?

Kael, you were a great son, a faithful servant of God, and an inspiration to all!

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24. Your life has been positively impactful, and your death, though tragic, is a call-to-arms to follow God no matter what, as you had so faithfully done.

I love you, son, and I shall always cherish memories of you as long as I live on this earth before I join you on the other side of the Great Divide.

Much love and affection,

Your Dad on earth

[Taken from Tom's blog at and read by him at the funeral.]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eulogy for Mikael

It's 3:13 a.m. as I write this, just hours before Mikael's funeral. I've slept 2 1/2 hours already but when I woke I couldn't get back to sleep. I am so full of joy I have no room for grief. I lay in bed two hours ago, feeling this joy well up into near excitement, undergirded with a peace and contentment that to most people would make no sense. I'm not sure it makes sense to me but I know it's real. God has been so good. He has poured out his blessings on us this week and I feel like we are the most blessed family in the world right now.

I can't imagine life without Mikael. I'm still in shock, running on adrenaline and the drive to give Mikael the best farewell ever and not wanting to miss a moment of the flood of family and friends who have been pouring into our home with cards, flowers, meals, goodies, more meals and goodies, love, prayers and memories. I've been sitting in an armchair where I have a straight line of sight to the front entrance, a complete view of the rest of the living room, nearly all of the dining room, an eye into the kitchen and a window into the family room. I sit here like a queen bee surrounded by the bustling activity of the hive, people bringing me what I need and want and pushing water and food into my hands to keep me well. I could get used to this.

Did I say people were bringing meals? The first day we were brought lunch and two hot dinners. The next day we were given lunch, five hot meals, frozen meals, muffins and treats. I've lost count since then though I've been trying to keep track of who has brought what. I want to remember, when this is all over and the joyous chaos subsides, who has brought or done what. I know I will miss some because they sneak past me and leave anonymously.

Tonight we were mostly family in the house and a few, close and comfortable friends. My sisters had washed and dried my dirty clothes and Mary Kosta was ironing. Some of the boys and their cousins were in the family room playing Rock Band with drums, guitars and microphones. My mom sat on the couch with Agnes, Tom's brother's wife talking about faith. Tom's brothers, my sisters and my cousin Roy were clustered in the dining room catching up with each other's lives and talking about a variety of things. Others were in the kitchen and still more up in Tom's study. I was able to sit in my chair, soaking it all in and yet free to not have to interact. I sat with my computer connecting with some online friends and exchanging e-mails with people about the service today. This is what heaven will be like.

We've started to tape the sympathy cards to the wide door frames in the house, and will print off every online greeting we receive and add them to the doorframes and walls. Even when everything dies down, we will be surrounded by your love.

The house is quiet now. The girls are sleeping in the family room, the boys tucked into their beds, with Konrad in Mikael's (no, we didn't change the sheets) and Tom is hopefully sleeping in the sweet bliss of peaceful dreams. I sit here embraced by the love that has flowed through these rooms in the past four days (today, the fifth, has barely begun). How do I begin to talk about my son?

Mikael was the third of four of the most awesome sons a mother could have. I have been blessed.

His entrance into this world was quick--one hour. He was the dream baby. He hardly cried and was happy and content. He was so easy to take care of. If only all births and infancies could be like his! He climbed, nearly before he could walk--scaling the walls when he was two, hiding the spare key to the house in the upper branches of the spruce behind our house as a preteen and reaching second or third-floor "entrances" to abandoned buildings whose first floors were impenetrable. He probably found a way into the yellow warehouse next door to this church and he especially loved the remains of the Ogilvie Mill on Higgins Avenue.

Mikael's brilliance was demonstrated as he learned to talk. His grandmother called him the little wise old man because of the things that would come out of his mouth. His earliest friendships were with Michael Lazaruk from Church of the Way, and Sarah Spiers and Jaquie Pharaoh from across the street. He and the girls entered into numerous escapades including his backyard wedding and first kiss to Sarah when they were five. Simon Bickle-Tapper and D'Arcy (I'm sorry, my foggy, sleep-deprived brain can't remember your last name) were his best friends at Montrose School.

He loved to learn and grasped every opportunity with gusto. At Westgate he loaded his schedule with every musical class he could and learned to excel with the oboe under the instruction of Julie Trottier and mentorship of Vic Loewen. He won a trophy at the Manitoba Music Festival one year. He was jealous that all his brothers got a year or more of home-schooling so he spent grade five at home pursuing topics that engaged him that year--old cars and horses. Together we read every Black Stallion book the library had.

Mikael embraced all genre of music, singing, playing and listening to it. He also composed music using only the computer keyboard and scoring software. The music you heard as you waited for the service to begin was his. The same CD will be playing while we visit and enjoy each other’s company after the service. You will hear Bassoon Concerto, A Renaissance Affaire, March to the Kremlin, Midnight Romance, Concerto for Oboe, Strings and Continuo, Preludius Maximus and Sinfonia in G Minor and more.

Grit and determination are two words that describe Mikael. This can't be better illustrated than pointing you to the several years, beginning at age nine, that he got up at 5:00 a.m. rain, shine or blizzard, to deliver the Free Press to his customers on our block. He didn't want his parents accompanying him despite their fears for his safety and boldly ploughed through snow that sometimes seemed deeper than he was tall. He saved his earnings and, at eleven, bought the pine captain's bed with bookcase headboard that he wanted.

He loved books and read the likes of Dante, Dumas, Richard Foster and obscure authors I'd never heard of before. One book he faithfully read was the Bible. In the last year of his life, his mornings began with him at the dining table or computer, Bible open on the one hand and a hand-bound journal of his own construction on the other. His print was miniscule and his favourite pen was a space model he received several years ago that writes under water, at forty-below and at heat that would turn the hand holding it to cinders.

Mikael wanted to be authentic and often struggled with his faith: Why did he follow God? Was it for the right reasons? How could God possibly accept him with all his failures and short-comings? Yet he had a driving passion to know God more. He was a pre-schooler on holiday with his family, sitting on the boardwalk of a north-western Ontario bog on a bright Sunday morning when he committed his life to Jesus. His involvement with Church of the Way included faithful attendance, helping in the nursery, Pioneer Club, singing in the choir, and eventually becoming youth pastor for a short while.

Friends at church included Jonathon and Nathania van Kuik Fast, Paul Prowse, Christine Man and more that my brain can't recall. Together with their youth pastor and his mentor, Ken Warkentin, they watched movies, ate pizza, explored faith, ideas and issues, tobogganed down Garbage Hill and took short mission trips to Chicago and Vancouver. Paul was the one to save Mikael's life when he tried to take it last year. Together they wrote the words to the song "Duct Tape," which Mikael then put to music and layered his own voice for the many harmonic parts. Listen for it after the service as a CD of some of Mikael's music will be played in the background. Paul, if you have a copy of the words somewhere, I would be grateful for a copy.

Other friends he's had during his high school and young adult years are Robin Dalloo who was a classmate at the School of Music and Tyler Braun, with whom he took many adventures including the time they headed to the mountains for the weekend in his dad's Thunderbird. When the fan belt broke just past Swift Current, they created their own until, after the car died on them several more times, a tow truck came to the rescue. There wasn't room in the truck for both Tyler, Mikael and their younger brothers, so Mikael and Tyler's brother rode back to town while Tyler and Konrad began the long trudge back on foot. Tyler can correct me if I'm wrong but I seem to remember a taxi or limousine being sent to pick them up. Since they were travelling on a shoe string, they got permission to spend the first night in the car at the mechanics shop but it seems to me that people in the town rallied around them and took care of them. Mikael said they knew everyone in Swift Current by the time they left two days later.

Aliesha was his best friend the year before this last, until she moved to Spain. Together they cooked many gourmet meals and he was able to pour out his heart. Very close to him at the same time, and moving away from Winnipeg on the same weekend, are a couple whose names I can't remember. When Konrad announced his wedding plans for the January just ahead, Mikael wanted to combine the wedding trip to Vancouver with a side trip further north to visit them.

Willow has been designated my honourary daughter. She and Mikael were thick as thieves in many adventures. This spring as the ice was breaking up on the Assiniboine River they saw a partially submerged but grounded canoe. When Mikael suggested they try to retrieve it, Willow's response was, "Totally!" They began to plot how they might do this and rigged some contraption to throw out to the canoe and reel it in. Sadly, they were unsuccessful. Willow knows the best places to get the best deals on fabric and they often went together to find some for one project or another. Mikael admired Willow's talents, diversity and quirky rebelliousness against convention.

Sean Carney was a Westgate classmate for several years and a close friend. Sean, are you the one who found the steering wheel from the Thunderbird at a scrap yard you were scavenging in and bought it for Mikael's birthday? He used it as a tie rack and loved it.

The Thunderbird, by the way, survived the aborted trip to the mountains but died in another adventure of Mikael's: When he decided to cycle across Canada and then got sideswiped by a car on the first day, Tom came to his rescue in the Thunderbird. For reasons I don't remember, instead of returning to Winnipeg that day, they drove on to Falcon Lake but the car was in severe distress and puttered and choked its way along the Trans-Canada highway, annoying the heavy trucks it was slowing down until it gasped its last breath at a Falcon Lake garage. They tied the bike to the roof and had somehow tied the doors closed so they climbed out the windows. Tom was so disgusted with the car by this time, that he gave the vehicle to the garage owner (who quickly rushed to get a piece of paper on which to record and seal the deal before Tom changed his mind). They got a ride back to Winnipeg with a friend.

Sean's sister Heather, was a very special friend of Mikael's, going out two or more times a week for dinner and a movie, studying together at the university and generally enjoying each other's company. He hoped she would be his girlfriend.

We weren’t aware that Mikael was in a serious mental health state until a year ago September, when I received a phone call from Viola Prowse, Paul’s mom, to say he had been at their home for the past couple of days. Viola and Dan met Paul and Mikael at Emergency the day he tried to take his life and stood in our place, being the parents he needed then. They didn’t call us immediately because they wanted to honour Mikael’s independence and I appreciate that.

The day I learned he was there, he had a previously scheduled visit with his psychiatrist so I picked him up and together we went to see the doctor. He agreed when she suggested he be admitted to the psychiatric hospital and we drove there directly from the doctor’s. Thus began one of the more difficult years of our lives.

While he was in the hospital, we moved him out of his Broadway apartment back home. When he left the hospital, the safety plan we agreed upon was that we would both have our cell phones with us at all times and the moment he began to feel like he might harm himself, he would call. We were on suicide watch for several months, me clutching my phone, wherever I went, so I wouldn’t miss the vibrations of etiquette mode.

Slowly, he began to improve. Tom spent a lot of time with him, especially this last summer when they did things like their mid-week canoe trip in the Whiteshell. These excursions and times together bonded the two in a deeper way than before and Tom is grateful to have those memories.

But his medications had caused an 85 pound weight gain in just a few months. This was very distressing to Mikael who had been so active and fit until his time in the hospital. He hated himself for being so large even while he knew it was something beyond his control. He was pleased and excited when the doctor told him that they would change medications. As the change took place, he began to lose—I think it was close to 25 pounds. He also enrolled in two university courses for the fall term—Evil in Religion and Death in Religion, not good choices for a young man battling depression—and was embracing life with new vigour.

Unavoidably, finding the right medication and dose for mental health patients is often by guess and by golly. The process of doing this created chemical and thus emotional and mental instability and we were once again on suicide watch.

Last Saturday, Heather and Mikael spent the evening together playing games. When it was time to go home, he insisted he walk despite the long distance. Near a major intersection, empty of traffic because of the hour, seven early-teen "hoodlums" called out, trying to provoke him. When he ignored their several attempts, they jumped and attacked him. He proudly told me later how he managed to fend them off, get the pocket knife out of the hand of one and, when they ran off, peeved (he used a stronger word) at what they had done, chased after them, caught two, called the police and hung onto the two until help arrived. He was pumped about this when he finally came home, excited with his victory. ("I didn't want to call you, Mom, because I thought you'd be sleeping.")

Monday morning, Mikael spoke to Heather and he sounded good. He was planning to spend Remembrance Day with her, watching a marathon of war movies--a family tradition I started when the kids were young, so they would grasp the meaning of the day. He had told us about these plans as well.

Monday evening he was feeling like a failure with all the accompanying negative thoughts and emotions. He’d missed two or three weeks of school because of insomnia and then, as the medications were adjusted, non-stop sleeping. Dr. Gordon was wonderful, keeping in touch with him by phone on the difficult weekends and seeing him more frequently during the week. Not only had his sleep/wake difficulties kept him from exams and writing papers, he was coming down with a cold and was feeling physically miserable—meaning more days away from school. He didn’t want to quit, wasting the money he’d paid for tuition and books but he could see no way to succeed in the courses because of all the time lost to illness.

We sat at the dining table discussing the problem, both Tom and I encouraging him and brain-storming possibilities. I suggested that we could call the university to see if they would give him a partial refund if he withdrew for medical reasons and to contact the disability services to find out how his needs could be accommodated so he could finish the courses. He asked me to make the necessary calls in the morning. Everything seemed settled and when he got up from the table to go to his computer in the kitchen, I thought to myself that he was doing well.

During our conversation, he told me that it would be good to do bed-checks that night. He wasn’t feeling safe so after fifteen or thirty minutes of him in the kitchen, I went in to see how he was doing. I could see he was writing something on the computer and when I asked, he told me it was an e-mail to Heather. I went back to the dining table and my computer. Not long after, I saw him move into the family room, turn on the TV and lie down on the couch. It wasn’t too long before I could hear his soft snoring.

“Oh good! He’s going to get some sleep,” I thought.

Wondering if he’d be warm enough, I got up to cover him with his favourite green blanket, careful to not wake him up. He was in an awkward position with his head bent at a sharp angle and one leg draped off the couch and onto the floor and I thought of fixing that, but I didn’t want to disturb him, so I returned to my computer for another hour or so. With the hopes that he’d have a good night’s sleep, I went to bed. It was 1:30 a.m.

In the morning, once Tom was ready for work, he went to check on Mikael as was his habit. It was just before 7:00. When Mikael didn’t respond to his greeting, he got worried. He tried to resuscitate him, called 911, came frantically into our bedroom to tell me Mikael had taken his life and I refused to believe him. But when I saw him lying in the very same position he’d been in when I saw him last, I began to realise that this might be real. His hands were cold. The paramedics tried to bring him back to life but it was probably more for our sake than for Mikael’s. His body was already in rigour.

As I’ve pieced together the last hours of his life, I believe he took the overdose soon after he went to the kitchen. He called a few friends but no one was answering. He sent an MSN message to Willow but she wasn’t there. After he wrote his e-mail to Heather, he wrote another to Sean but he cut it short because he was beginning to lose consciousness. That’s when he lay on the bed. When I covered him over, he was dying but I didn’t know it.

Willow called me when she saw his MSN message two hours later. “I just saw a message from Mikael. He said he was committing suicide as he was writing. Is he okay?”

“Yes!” I replied. He’s sleeping on the couch. I can hear him snoring.”

Mikael had plans for the next couple of days. He’d also spoken of hope to attend seminary once he had his degree. Did he take the pills thinking that we would catch him in time to save his life? We don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that we have a good God, a God full of mercy and compassion. Mikael had spent the last year (and probably longer), tortured in his mind and heart. We don’t know what was in store for him had he lived. Would he have gotten worse? Would his entire life have been tortured with mental illness? We don’t know. God could have kept him from dying. There were a multitude of opportunities—the phone calls, the messaging, coming to me in the next room—but God, in his goodness (because God is always good), chose not to. I like to think that this was an act of love from God to both Mikael and his family. Mikael no longer suffers. He has been freed and I am grateful to my loving God who has made that possible.

As Job in the Bible said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Konrad's "Thing" for Mikael

I don't know how to start. How does one start a speech for his older brother's funeral? Should I address the audience? Should I address Mikael? Should I address God? What should I do Mikael? I can already hear you say, “France, what should your MOM do?” No, my name is not France, nor is it Frances, or Connie Francis like the singer, just Konrad thankyou very much. Some day from the past my Dad made the connection and called me Connie Francis. Mikael then mutated this otherwise inconsequential incident and started calling me Francis from that day on. It further mutated to “France”. It bugged me, and I'm sure that was his goal. Memories of him saying “hey France, wanna play impulation ball?” or “that was just uncalled for, France,” still make me annoyed. I feebly tried combatting his tactics, so he'd call “Hey France,” and I'd reply “yes Germany?”

On a side note, for those of you who don't know Mikael's abomination of a game, the game impulation involves tossing a 4-foot plastic pipe in the air and catching it without being impaled by it, gaining points depending on the number of mid-air rotations. He took the game a step further with impulation ball where someone pitches a baseball to the pipe holder who hits it and scrambles to gain as many rotations as possible at a life-threatening speed before the pitcher retrieves the ball.

During these past few days, the whole family along with friends reminisced all the crazy shinanagins Mikael committed, and I often found myself part of. Mons and Erik called me his disciple and commissioned me to continue his legacy. Thinking back, all I can remember is him nagging me to join him bike to Grand Beach or play one of his many dangerous variations of impulation and me wussying out. I would chastize him for doing irrationally adventurous things, and find myself adrenaline-pumped the next day biking to UofM after a snowstorm. I've always wanted to live with as much reckless abandon as he did day to day.

Me and Mikael... sorry Dad, Mikael and I were more than just playmates and rivals, we were spiritual brothers. I remember when I was 4 years old or so, sitting in church and snacks being past around. In me and Mikael's shared bedroom that night I asked Mom “why can't I have crackers and juice at church?” She replied “because you need to be a follower of Jesus,” “Is Mikael a follower of Jesus?” She asked Mikael, “are you Mikael?” He nodded. I said, “Then I want to be a follower of Jesus!” From childhood to adulthood we sticked together in faith and grew in our walk with God. I remember I was about 10 years old and he was about 12, he asked me “are we supposed to believe in Jesus so we can save ourselves? Isn't that selfish? What should our motive be?” He sincerely searched for truth and was very honest, never cutting around the bush. I remember him last year after attempting his life, vividly describing to me what went on in his mind, uncencored. I first felt hurt by his lack of sensitivity, but honored to have heard such honest words.

Since Mikael took his life, the past few days have been a whirlwind for me emotionally, crying, laughing, and being surrounded by old dear faces, and dear old faces. Only last night before I wrote this speech did I manage to get my thoughts and prayers off my chest and on paper. I started by reading Isaiah 25, the passage that touched Mom, the first verse:

O Lord, you are my God;

I will exalt you and praise your name,

for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things,

things planned long ago.

This is what I wrote:

Mom keeps saying that in Mikael's desperate act, God in His mercy let him succeed so Mikael would be free from his suffering. Also the fact that Mikael lived a full full life has been emphasized this week. Now, having lived fully, God not only rescued him from his daily suffering, but brought him home, to shake off this “tiresome body,” as he put it, and have his faith become SIGHT, his faith that he fought to hold onto through bombardments of doubt.

God, Father in heaven, you are good, and you are good in Mikael's death. You have been faithful to Mikael all his life and you love him dearly, I know. Bena and I agree, you have been present miraculously both when he failed to take his life as well as when he succeeded. When he lay dying last year in his apartment, you sent Paul Prowse to his rescue, calling Mikael and rushing to his apartment. And when he decided to take his life by pills, and even though Mom was here in the next room and he messaged Willow and called his friends, you didn't stop him from dying. It's hard to understand, but you were loving him and showing him mercy. You had his death in mind long before, and it is a marvelous thing, bringing him to fuller life, REAL life. Praise your name, God.

Germany, don't think this will get you out of writing my bestman speech.

Erik's "Thing" for Mikael

From the heart of your brother, Erik; via the vocal chords of your sister, Willow:

Probably the most entertaining and "unique" person I have ever known -- Mikael. The last time we spent together was some of your last hours, and I'm honoured, and proud to have with you forged that memory. Forged heartily, as Thor's mighty hammer, Mjolnir, of mystic iron and golden hair of boar.

We were watching The Big Bang Theory -- it was the episode where Sheldon gets afeared of Penny and Leonard's bickering and runs away to claim sanctuary in the hallowed bowels of the local comic shop. You said it was a "meh" episode. Aside from asking if I'd downloaded the latest of episodes, one of the last things you said to me was, "If you and Jenn watch Gargoyles, please don't leave me out." We don't plan to; we are going to marathon the whole series in your honour. I'm sure you'll be watching when "the castle rises above the clouds" -- ha! Get it?? 'Cause.. from... the show.....


Planning your funeral the other day -- laughing more than crying to be sure -- correlated with the quirkiness to that of Pheobe's mom's (from Friends) where they handed out 3-D glasses. I think you would be stoked to know we aimed for a comparative air. You'd also prolly make fun of my superfluous words right now and say I sound like dad.

I always admired you and was proud to have you for my brother. I would always brag to people about your... "individuality"... How many times did I spam for you, "mikael's-misadventures-dot-blogspot-dot-com"? You brought me kayaking in the creek when you first bought what we now honour you with as a personalized "casket". I got a big blister on my thumb and you called me a wimp. We skated on the river a ton in the winter and we helped each other learn how. You always had valuable advice with which ingredients to make the best potions and the four-tiered magical properties that they maintained. You really, really liked Boggle. Was it your favourite game? I know you [eccentric-ly] played it alone, you enjoyed it so much. I think you beat me every time, but Willow always beat you, and I always beat Willow. How does that work? We started a fun tradition for a while there of going to cheap movies at Cinema City and then bouncing over to East Ocean for some mouth-watering A15. Oh, the salivation-induction of delectably savourable A15. Let us never forget the hairy wad of skin you gifted the restaurant's rustilly-nailed fence in an aerobatic maneuver that was characteristically unnecessary. Literally in the flesh, a part of you will forever linger in the sweet, sweet vicinity of our favourite Chinese restaurant.

Despite our indominable sillinesses, I love you, and hope that you know that. I don't think anyone else was in on this [typically] nonsensical joke of ours, but as we deemed this phrase to 'trump' all -- and was likely the last words between us -- "Your passport, my passport", Mikael... "Your passport, my passport."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mikael Chan--Obituary

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.

Funeral details

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Son Mikael

My son, Mikael, took his life last night. We found him this morning.

Thank you to those who have written, phoned, visited or showed in some way that you care. Funeral will probably be Saturday early afternoon.

I want you all to know that God is good. God is always good. It doesn't matter what happens, God is good. I say with Job in the Bible: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."