Charlie McMichael aka “Frog” slipped quietly from this life to the next early on Saturday morning in Slidell, Louisiana.
Cathie (Ted’s cousin who grew up with his family and who he considers a sister) called us Friday afternoon to say that Charlie’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse a few days before, and Hospice had been called in. Ted and I struggled with whether one or both of us should drive or fly to New Orleans to try and see him, but Cathie urged us not to make the trip. She said Charlie was heavily medicated and resting comfortably. We were still talking about going when Cathie called the next day to say he had died peacefully. He had waited for their daughter Ashley to rush home with her family from Arkansas, where they were vacationing, and the entire family was with him at the end.
Charlie and Cathie visited us the summers of 2009, 2010, and 2011. They drove to the Island from Slidell (a suburb of New Orleans) each year and stayed 10 days each visit. Charlie was a Vietnam veteran and served his country proudly in the U.S. Navy as an aviator. After returning home from Vietnam, he flew passenger jets for Delta Airlines until he retired.
Shortly after retirement a rare type of virus almost cost Charlie his life. It left his respiratory system severely compromised and necessitated he have a permanent tracheotomy tube. In order for Charlie to talk, he would cover the trach opening. It was bothersome and occasionally caused incidents in restaurants when he became choked, and servers would rush to the table to see if they should perform the Heimlich maneuver. Charlie would always calmly motion that he was fine, and once his throat had cleared he’d say something extremely funny and we’d all howl with laughter. That was Charlie.
That first summer (because his breathing wouldn’t allow him to walk for very long) Charlie spent much of his time on our sofa, reading book after book he had brought with him – then devouring all Ted’s books as well. It became a tradition for him to bring his used books with him each summer for Ted, and Ted would save all his for Charlie.
The second summer we talked Charlie into renting a scooter for a whole day, and suddenly he was able to go everywhere we went. Instead of staying in the condo – with trips to town on taxis for restaurant food and Pink Pony visits with Ted – Charlie could “scoot” along with us and see all of beautiful Mackinac for himself.
He was so excited to be able to get around with the rest of us that he bought his own scooter during that next winter, and when they arrived in 2011, his beautiful red “can do it all” scooter came with them . . .
Charlie and Cathie attended Little Stone Church with us, and he and Dr. Vince Carroll (a Vietnam Naval Chaplain) became friends rapidly. Ted, Charlie and Vince would talk often, and had lunch together on their last visit. Vince talked about Charlie this morning from the pulpit.
A week before they were to leave for the Island for their 2012 visit, Charlie received a diagnosis of lung cancer. They postponed their trip for surgery and radiation. It was a hard, hard summer and winter, but his last report this spring looked promising.
Through this blog, Charlie had became close to Lowell Greene, and he and Lowell would use the comment page to chat back and forth with each other. They wanted so much to meet in person here on the Island during Lowell and Faye’s visit, but at the last minute, his health just wouldn’t allow them to come . . .
After Cathie called to say Charlie probably had only a few days left, I emailed Lowell with that sad news. He said he’d be praying for an improvement, and if that wasn’t to be, that Charlie’s passing would be an easy one. I told Cathie Lowell’s words when I spoke with her yesterday a few hours after she’d called us to say he was gone. She said, “Please tell Lowell he must have powerful prayers, because Charlie simply took one breath, and then did not take the next.”
Charlie was a wonderful father to Ashley and Tad, a doting grandfather to their children, and Cathie’s loving husband, becoming her caretaker and supporter through her struggle years ago with breast cancer. When it was Cathie’s turn to become the caretaker, she researched medical websites and books, consulted with dozens of doctors, and fought tooth and nail for something to help her Charlie. These two together were a truly dynamic duo.
He was Ted’s buddy and my dear, dear friend.
Until we meet again, sweet Charlie. You fought your formidable battles with humor, with dignity, and with courage.
Love you, Frog.