October 14, 2005 9:30 am
Good morning and thank you all for coming.
You are all here today because Michele touched you, or someone you love, in their life. I had the great privilege to know Michele for the last ten years, and the great honor to be her husband for the last eight. My name is Mark Nichols and I thank you all sincerely from the bottom of my heart for joining me here today.
I would like to tell you a little bit about Michele and her life, and then I would invite anyone here who would like to relate a story or say goodbye to do so. Remember that Michele loved a good conversation more than anything else in the world. She wanted to hear your truth, to see your heart, and to share her vision and her heart in return.
Her father, Joseph Daniel McAvoy was born in Glasgow Scotland, and immigrated to Rochester New York when he was five years old. Her mother, Virginia, was born in rural Currytuck County North Carolina, the last piece of land you traverse before crossing the sound to the Outer Banks and Kill Devil Hills, or Kitty Hawk.
Virginia was the oldest of ten children and so at a young age set out for the big city, and started working in the Naval yard in Norfolk Virginia. Dan, who had joined the Navy as a corpsman or medic, was stationed there as well. They met and were married shortly after World War II ended. Their eldest child, Terry Lee was born in Brooklyn New York shortly after.
Michele was born in Long Beach California on Christmas Eve 1949. Her father was away in Korea and didn’t see his daughter until she was about one year of age. Between the remainder of his service career and a shared itinerant nature, Dan and Virginia moved a lot. Before she graduated from high school, Michele had lived in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, and Maryland.
Michele always talked about a small farming community in southwestern part of New York where she lived for about two and a half years. Canestio was one of her favorite memories of childhood. In the fall of 2003 we took a trip to New York and were able to find the house where they lived, the grade school she walked to, and the little town square that held the library and movie theater, both of which she loved.
She also talked of spending summers at her Grandfather Parker’s farm, working in the field, and playing with her cousins. But I think her most cherished memory of childhood was being a member of the Elizabeth City High School marching band. She often spoke of Mr. Calloway, who led the band, and his high standards for his students. More than once she said that he had a profound effect on her life and that she was very grateful to have known him.
Elizabeth City is also the site of one of her greatest regrets. Her family moved to Baltimore the summer of her junior year and despite her efforts to stay with family or friends, her father wouldn’t hear of it. So she lost the chance to complete her senior year with her friends, and never got to play first chair in the band.
After high school her family moved to Florida, near to where Dan’s parents had moved. It was the late sixties and a time of great turmoil and uncertainty in the world, and especially here in the US. Michele actually dropped out for a time, living on the beach in St. Petersburg for about three months. Deciding that she wanted more from her life she moved back home and went to work in her father’s gas station, learning how to perform oil changes, engine tune ups, and general mechanical work. To this day she still loved taking things apart and cleaning them and putting them back together. After a series of jobs she managed to get a clerical position with the Records Division of the Tampa Police Department.
In the first of several instances where she displayed her true courage, she fought for and won herself a position as the first female crime scene technician in that department. She went on to become the crime scene technician supervisor and training officer.
After ten years with TPD, she quit, took her pension money and put her self through college. She earned undergraduate degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology, and a Masters Degree in Counselor Education. With her experience testifying in court and her connections to the law enforcement community, she was able to develop several highly regarded and successful domestic violence, anger management, and sexual offender treatment programs. As a result of her work she was invited to be a part of a task force that successfully drafted new legislation altering the manner in which the courts treated domestic violence participants.
Growing wearing of dealing with one of the toughest populations in psychology, and taking an incident of breast cancer as a sign, she left Florida and moved to Colorado in 1995. She put what would fit into her car, including a reluctant cat, and drove her self to Colorado Springs. She literally started over with nothing. As a consequence of her willingness to move with nothing, I always made sure that I did the packing when we moved. Within three months of arriving there she and I met on America Online. We spent the next year talking on the phone, sometimes for hours a day. In what surely have been fate looking out for us, her long distance bill was mistakenly charged to a large company that didn’t notice until the last month she lived there. As neither of us could afford to fly, we agreed to meet half way, in Salinas Kansas. The two weekends we spent there in 1996 cemented our love for each other and we resolved to be together always.
In February 1997 she moved to Illinois to be with me, and we were married in July of that year. Due to my career, and the ups and downs of the computer industry, we moved from Illinois to Washington state, then to South Carolina, back to Illinois, and finally to Kansas. For those of you keeping score, that’s twelve states she lived in.
She delighted in the coincidences between my life and hers. Her father was born in September and served in the Navy. My father was born in September and served in the Navy. Her mother was born in March and worked as a nurse, my mother was born in March and worked as a nurse. Lee, her brother was born in Brooklyn in May, as was I.
Here in Kansas she had started to pursue her third career, as an Adjunct Instructor in Social Sciences for Kansas City Kansas Community College. She loved the atmosphere and the people there. The college is committed to cultural diversity and she was proud to be a contributor to that mission. She loved the interaction with her fellow faculty members, and with her students. She completed a course in, and was certified for online instruction. I always said it wasn’t fair that I had worked for two decades with computers and still had to drive work when she had a job where the commute was to the living room.
Along the way Michele accomplished some pretty amazing things. She was a ranked chess player in the early 1970s, reaching Master status. She was also a member of Mensa’s One percent club. She never talked about these accomplishments because she said they were just a part of her and not the whole truth of her. She was a woman of weight, who had an easy grace with her size. She always said that we all have differences; that the gift of her weight was that she couldn’t hide her difference from others. As a result she learned to be very accepting of others but also determined to help them discover their hidden difference and to come to terms with it.
Michele loved her cats and doted on them shamelessly. She was often moved to tears by great music. Her favorite piece was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, particularly Ode to Joy. She had a wonderful sense of humor and wit, and could tell a good joke. Her laugh was infectious and made you feel warm inside to hear it. Together we shared a love for simple pleasures like making a pot of spaghetti sauce or baking a cake. Her favorite places were quiet corners of nature. She would have liked this garden very much. When living in Colorado she was just minutes away from Garden of the Gods and used to go there every week to sit in the splendor and quiet.
She was hugely interested in the world around her, avidly following politics and social issues. Where I am a liberal she was a social anarchist, fiercely committed to feminist issues. She sent money every month to Women for Women International, where it was used to provide education and employment opportunities to women in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and trouble spots around the world. She was greatly concerned that we were ignoring warning signs about the impact our race is having on the planet, and that ever widening gulf between the haves and the have nots in the world was leading us to disaster.
Her favorite book was Illusions by Richard Bach, and her favorite movie was Harvey. She would always ask people what their favorite movie was, and was saddened when they didn’t know. She loved Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup, plates of raw veggies, and steaks cooked over charcoal. Her favorite desserts involved chocolate. “Why waste the calories on anything else?” was her motto. Even though her Christmases growing up were difficult, she had worked hard to make that time of year magical and filled with wonder and joy.
If she were able to speak to you all today, she would tell you that she had a rock solid belief in the essence or soul we each posses, and of its eternal nature. She believed we each had a purpose, a reason for being here. And, that once we had accomplished that lesson, we moved on. She also believed that we have many lifetimes, for there are many lessons to learn. She cherished the divine in each of us and didn’t like dogma that restricted or took away that essential piece. In fact at the age of eight, she was excused from church for standing up and asking the minister where in the Bible was the hurtful message he was giving his congregation. In the final weeks of her life we were reading a wonderful book called The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur. It had helped her to reconcile some of the concerns she had about spirituality, and I think it eased her spirit.
Finally if she was here today physically, and not just in spirit, I would tell her again that I always loved her and that I always will love her. Michele, I am so blessed to have been your best friend, lover, companion, partner, husband, and love of your life.
I lov eyou Tinkerbell. Goodbye