Gregory Curtis Michel
“How do I make sense of the death of my child, of my son?”
Basically, Greg’s family, my family, our family left every civilized, decent, well organized and safe place they found for the challenge and uncertainty of unknown frontiers. Greg was highly intelligent, strong willed and independent. He was also kind, patient and thoughtful. I admired his quiet strength and his ability to persevere through difficult times. And he was an iconoclast who didn’t ready accept or adopt the thoughts, ideas or values of others. In this trait he joined a long line of ancestors. One was Baron Robert de Caux (1106-1168), a Norman knight who’s forefathers left a comfortable life in Normandy to take part in the conquest of England in 1066. Baron Robert De Caux was the keeper of the forests in Nottinghamshire and responsible for Sherwood forest at the time it was inhabited by the legendary Robin Hood. Another was Sir Richard Empson (1450-1510) a Minister to Henry VII, High Steward of Cambridge University and Speaker of the House of Commons. He pursued the king’s rigorous and arbitrary taxation policies so effectively that he became extremely unpopular. He literally lost his head in 1510 on Tower hill after Henry VIII took the throne in order to appease outraged taxpayers. Greg’s Great Great Great Grandfather was Reason Elliott Lovejoy (1841-1934) who fought in the civil war, on the wrong side, as part of an Alabama infantry regiment. Lovejoy surrendered with Lee at Appomattox, but refused to take the required pledge of allegiance to the United States for almost 60 years. He only relented in the 1920s so that his family might have his pension. Greg’s Great Grandfather was Fritz Kaminsky (1895-1973) who volunteered for WWI but during basic training started to have second thoughts about the war after reading newspaper accounts of the horrors of trench warfare. When his platoon leader asked if any of the recruits could type his hand went up and he was assigned to headquarters well behind the lines. He never learned to type but he did survive the war by slowly pecking out regimental leaves and orders. Greg’s Grandfather was Frank Curtis Michel (1934-2014) with whom Greg shared a middle name. Curt went to Caltech at 16, earned a PhD in physics and flew jets for the air force. He was chosen to be one of the Apollo Astronauts. A tree commemorating his life is planted at NASA in a remembrance grove near that of Neil Armstrong. But Curt like so many others in my family marched to the beat of his own drum. He found the work of being an astronaut boring – and famously quit to pursue an academic career. Greg’s family line is made up of Germans, and English, Norwegians and Swedes, and a Few Poles and a few unknowns and many more unknowables. Family lore reports a great great great grandmother who was Cherokee. And many of Greg’s ancestors were Norse – peoples from Scandinavia - who settled, conquered and pillaged present day England and Northern France. Norse culture saw life as a river down which members of different generations passed through similar currents, rapids and obstacles, sharing a common bond and experience. Some might be smashed on rocks early in the journey while others might expire near the end floating quietly in still shallows. Norse warriors thought it shameful to die in bed of old age and infirmity. For them, death in action, as a young man was preferable and they were known to actively seek death in battle. Seeking active death strikes us as very odd today, but it is found in cultures world-wide ranging from the Japanese to the Inuit peoples of the arctic. And it is the thought of a death actively sought leads me today to speak today about a very difficult subject, one that stands before all of us as we gather here, and one which I would like to address head on. I want to talk about Depression. Like many members of our family Greg suffered from major Depression. He did everything that one is supposed to do – seeing professional help and receiving the best available medical care and therapy. He exercised and stayed involved in our lives. As a family, we spoke openly and honestly of his hopes, fears and darkest struggles. Greg came to weekly family dinners and spent time with friends. Greg did everything he could to recover. Greg loved his family and he loved his friends. He even loved our grouchy, old, arthritic and foul tempered dog Gyro. And in return, he knew that he was loved by all of us who are gathered here today. We are not responsible for his death. It is important to understand and accept that there was no potential word spoken, nor any action taken could have saved Greg. His destiny lay in his own hands not ours. It is important for us all to understand and accept that Greg did not die from a lack of love, care or attention. If he were with us today, I am sure that he would want everyone to know that he loved and cared all of us. I am certain that the last thing he would want would be to cause pain and suffering for others. Greg would be genuinely embarrassed that all of you are here today are spending this beautiful Saturday mourning his loss. But depression is cruel. It is a disease of the mind that causes severe anguish and pain. Depression leads many to lose faith in themselves and their futures. It claims the lives of millions of people world-wide each year and is just as prevalent among so called advanced societies as it is among the poorest. It does not discriminate based on age, sex, race, or social economic status. And there is no cure. But we are not helpless in the face of depression. And I would like for those of us gathered here today to pledge ourselves to love, support and accept one another and to be there for one another in times of need and despair. Together we can form a strong, unified community of love and support for one and all. Andrea, Brent and I want to thank all of you for being here today to remember and celebrate Greg’s life. So how do I make sense of the senseless death of my child, my son? I will remember and cherish the life we shared together. He will live on in my heart. And I will remind myself that the length of one’s life whether measured in days, weeks, months or years is not a measure of that life’s quality or value. To Quote Benjamin Franklin: Many people die at 25 but aren’t buried until they are seventy. It is for us the living to make sure that we live.
We will remember and cherish the life we shared together.
He will live on in our hearts.
— Jeffrey, Andrea, and Brent
“As a child, Greg had invented an alter ego he called “stinkercat”. Stinkercat could be unpredictable and outrageous. He played pranks and served as a mask behind which Greg could overcome his natural reserve and shyness.”
— Jeffrey Michel
“But we are not helpless in the face of depression.”
Gregory Curtis Michel Obituary