As usual, I have no idea how to start, so I’m just going to start typing.
On August 29, I got a phone call at 11 at night or so. I was asleep – I’m usually in bed between 9 and 10. There’s a number of people who have my phone number, and who know they can call me any time, day or night, and that so long as they actually CALL me, and make my phone ring, I will wake up. That they are important. Kia is one of those people, so when I saw a phone call from her that had woken me up, I knew – whatever had happened – it was going to be hard. I had no idea how hard.
I won’t recount the specifics of the conversation, but the upshot was that Mike – Rades – our D&D DM for the Korvosa game, long time Elf Wizard Fabulor in the (now completed) Dar na Theria campaign, the minotaur barbarian Crash in the Pan Flute campaign, and all-around pivotal member of our little community – had died. We didn’t know details then, but we know now that he died of a brain aneurism.
We spent Monday in Discord together, most of us from the Slack of Many Things.
And then Tuesday… life had to go on. It didn’t, of course. Not really? Pix and I ended up making a discord for all of Rades’ friends – and he had many. He was a pivotal member of the WoW Insider and Blizzard Watch community, a long time WoW blogger and part of the Twitter community there, the (now retired) raid leader for TTGF, part of the Overwatch community, a DM for the What Sleeps Below game, a player in at least two other D&D games.
Mike did nothing halfway. He was a pillar in all of those places, a person who somehow shouldered all of them. The Discord gave us a place to come together and talk about him, to discover that he was unequivocally himself in all of those disparate places, and that we all knew the same Mike, even as very few of us knew much at all about his life outside of our interactions online.
Mike was unmatched.
As DM, as a player, as a friend. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered anyone who was so unbelievably brilliant and creative, but whose entire focus as a brilliant and creative person was on finding ways to let other people shine. He was all of our biggest fan. He remembered things, from years ago, and brought them back around later – either to make fun, or to show he cared. Or more realistically, both. I’m not someone who takes being made fun of well, but when Mike did it, you knew it was with the kind of love that said “I’m poking fun at you, but this is a thing we share together, because I think you’re great.”
There was so much laughter – so many jokes. So many things that he remembered about literally everyone he knew. It seems like half of his twitter posts that tagged another person contained a joke, even if it was one that only he and that other person would get.
He brought people in, and he brought people together, and the hole that his death has left in our lives is impossible to measure, even now after all this time trying to think about it. I can try to put words to it – to say that Mike is the first person I’ve lost who I was close to, who was someone I talked to nearly every day, who was a huge part of my creative world, and who died unexpectedly.
But that doesn’t even feel like enough.
I trusted Mike.
I’ve played a lot of D&D – been playing since 1999 or so. A lot of those tables were fun and engaging in their way, but for a lot of reasons I never really trusted either the other players, or especially the DMs. When I joined the Dar na Theria game in 2012, it took me YEARS to feel like I could trust the table with emotional and hard and vulnerable roleplaying.
When I rolled Anvari for the Korvosa game in 2015, I began the process of trusting Mike as a DM and not just as a fellow player. Over the years, that trust expanded, until for the last two years or so, my character has been in the spotlight, and so – accordingly – have I.
I don’t like being there. It’s too vulnerable, there’s too much riding on me and my roleplaying. But Mike never allowed that uncertainty to change the story he wanted to tell with me, and he never questioned that I was capable enough to shine there, as both a player and a creative force. There were hours of DMs, sometimes late into the night after games, of him helping me process what happened. Never giving things away – he was too good of a DM to pull back the curtain – but just helping me see what had happened, see how to respond. Learning how I reacted as a player, and altering future games to make me both more in the spotlight, and more comfortable there.
I trusted Mike, and I loved him.
He engendered trust, I think in everyone he met.
To lose that is unspeakable. It’s to have lost Anvari, in ways that I don’t think I can really put into words except to say that Anvari was as much Mike’s character as she was mine, and I have no desire ever to try to resolve all of those stories without him to guide them. It’s to have watched the Slack of Many Things change, the dynamic never the same without that presence in our midst. (Which is not to say that the SoMT isn’t going to stick around, just that it is different now.)
It’s a million little ways that today, on what would have been his 39th birthday and more than seven weeks after his death, I still struggle to find words and still cry unexpectedly when someone or something reminds me of him.
I miss my friend.
I trusted Mike, and I loved him.
The world is different without him in it, and I cannot bring myself to type “goodbye,” so I won’t.
I’m a Druid and a Priest and an Animist, and there’s lots of things I could say about ancestors and people who have passed. Things I have said at funerals and memorial services. None of them fit. I don’t want them to fit. I want my friend back. And maybe next year, during this time when so many of us talk about those who have died, I’ll be able to think of him that way. This year, all I can do is put my dice bag next to the candles and hope that wherever he is and whatever he is doing – whatever new adventure it is that he’s embarked on – he is surrounded by love and trust and laughter that matches the love and trust and laughter that he surrounded all of us with while we were fortunate enough to know him.
Thank you, Rades, for everything.
The world isn’t the same without you in it, but my gods what an impact you made while you were here.