Sunday, October 20, 2013
The phone would ring, and he'd lift one finger, check the number, and discover his son, Chris, on the line.
"Hold on," Mike would say to me.
"Hey," he'd say to his son, his face lighting up two additional degrees of bright, which was really something for a man already so fully illuminated. Maybe Chris had some news. Maybe Chris was hoping Mike would pick up some ingredient on the way home to complete the meal Chris was cooking. Whatever it was, Mike glowed. Whatever it was, afterward, Mike would sit, talking about Chris and the rest of his family. It was a favorite topic for a famous raconteur, because Mike may have been a super star in the pharma world, but more to the point, and through and through, he was a purely devoted family man.
The world lost Mike Yasick eight months ago to a rare genetic condition. He was with us, laughing one day, parading his bright red pants, and then—suddenly—he was gone. Imagine the largest Catholic church you've ever seen. Then imagine it filled, wall to wall, with friends and family—mourners—most of them wearing Mike's trademark red. Imagine a small blog tribute—mine—read by 15,000 people. That's how loved Mike was.
Yesterday, Chris, just twenty-five years old, was taken by the same terrible disease that took his father. Another sudden passing. Another terrible loss in the world, an unimaginable heartbreak for a beautiful family. I got the news in the dark hours of the morning that Chris was in the hospital. I got the news several hours later that he was gone. In between, I prayed—so many of us prayed—for some kind of miracle.
Chris was a civil engineer, a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. He was a young man on his way up in a job with Skyline Steel. At his father's funeral he was dignified, one of those people you really hoped you'd get a chance to personally know—his face so much like his dad's, that Yasick sparkle in his eyes. So this is Chris, I kept thinking. This is Chris.
Miracles are so hard to come by. Miracles aren't every day. The disease took Chris. But here are two things that all of us who loved Mike, who mourn with and for his family, will always see as miraculous. On the day that Chris grew so suddenly and terribly ill, Mike's best friends were in town. They had come to town specifically to see Chris, to take him out to dinner, to tell him some stories about his dad. They were there when it happened. They were there for Chris—all night in that hospital, they were there for Chris. They were present.
Just as another friend just so happened to land in Chicago, on his way to somewhere else. He checked his phone. He saw a text from Chris's sister, Katy, he changed his plans, he hurried to the hospital, he was there, too. There.
"I haven't connected on a flight in years," this friend, Matt Pauls, wrote to me. "Why last night? In Chicago? Why were his buddies in town? Because Mike made sure Chris was covered."
Mike made sure his son was covered. As other family rushed to town, as Chris's mom got there as fast as the plane could fly, as the doctors did all they could do, Mike, through his friends, was there for his son. A beautiful thing in a most tragic time, and the thing we will hold onto as we honor Chris.