I’m blessed to have two cousins named Michael. I’m very proud of both of them.
One is a couple years younger than me and is one of New York’s Finest. The other was an OB-GYN practicing in California near Sacramento. We lost him in May in an accidental drowning while he was training for a triathlon. He was 42, married with a 10-year-old son.
Michael, and his twin brother, Tim, are a year older than me. Tom was born a year before his brothers. Together we were the oldest kids of the next generation. As a kid I looked up to the three of them more than anyone — at least anyone not wearing a 41 on a Mets uniform.
Mike — like his brothers — was smart, funny, athletic and did all the coolest things. The highlight of the family holiday gatherings was when Timmy, Tommy and Michael arrived.
But our extended family spread out around the country through the years, as families do. I probably haven’t seen him in 15 years. We exchanged cards and photos at Christmas, and I’d hear about him through my mom and my aunt. It was no surprise that he went on to become a doctor, like his twin. Tom is a computer expert and also is very successful.
I don’t know how many times I thought I should get their e-mail addresses and see how they were doing. I never got to it, always thought there would be time.
So it hit hard when my wife called on my cell phone as I drove back from a Board of Education meeting to break the news. And I was struck that it was hard for me to draw upon a first-hand memory from recent years. I have tons of memories from when we were kids. But I let time pass and the distance grow. I didn’t know if he was like the person I remembered.
The Sacramento Bee has an online guest book linked to obituaries, and I read some of the thoughts expressed by Michael’s patients.
A patient from El Dorado Hills, Calif.: "I was 24 weeks pregnant with twins and having contractions. He put me on bed rest and said he was going to New York but would be back in a few days and then he would see me. I loved him, and knew that he had to be my doctor. Two days later, at 25 weeks, I delivered my boys, Henry, who lived 6 hours, and Zachary who is now 3 years old. When he came back and found out, he immediately came to the hospital and sat with my husband and I while our 1-pound, 8-ounce little boy underwent heart surgery. He cried with us over our loss and was a rock for us. He would come in every couple of weeks to hold our son. He helped us come to the decision to try again and it is because of his compassion, patience and support that we have our daughter, Phoebe, who he delivered after a long day in surgery so that he could be there for the birth and to reassure me. He was an amazing man, father, husband and doctor."
A patient from Rocklin, Calif.: "Dr. Wild was my OB through 2 difficult pregnancies. The first ended at 20 weeks when we discovered there was no heartbeat. I am so grateful that Dr. Wild was my doctor during this time. He was kind and compassionate and helped both my husband and I through one of the roughest times of our lives. Dr. Wild was also there for my next pregnancy which was hard, having had a previous loss. He never made me feel bad for being nervous, in fact he made sure he did everything he could for me. With his help, I was lucky enough to give birth to a beautiful baby boy in January 2004."
A patient from Sacramento: "I made the appointment and got to meet a doctor I will never forget. During my first few weeks of being pregnant, we had a bit of a scare and I needed to be seen right away, Dr. Wild was there to comfort me and put my mind at ease. He was always so kind and caring, his bedside manner was the best. We always had questions and he always had answers for us, he took extra time to sit with us and make sure we felt assured before we left our appointments. He always remembered his patients and always made you feel welcome when you came to see him. He was such a great doctor, a great man and a true friend."
Another patient from Sacramento: "I'll never forget when he walked into the room to be examined or the first time. The look on my face. I jokingly said to him I always wanted my OB GYN doctors to be old, gray and wear glasses. He had a great laugh over that. I had a lot of complications and he would always call me back directly at home to let me know how all of my test results came out and what we were going to do next."
These are from people who knew about the online guest book and felt comfortable writing. I suspect there are many, many more with similar tales of Michael's warmth, care and skill.
None of these heart-felt stories surprised me. As I read them, I’d alternate between getting choked up and smiling.
That’s the Michael I remembered. That’s exactly the kind of person I expected him to be.