The last night I was in DC, I visited Mike in his hospital room. As I entered the room, I tried not to let my face betray my shock at seeing Mike in such bad shape. His scalp was perfectly smooth. He'd lost 30 pounds. The left side of his face sagged and he could no longer walk the result of aggressive chemotherapy. I couldn't believe that this withered bone of a man was the same man who had once flung me through the air with one hand.
One of my fellow students, Ken, was already with him. Ken and I had been friends for 10 years, and that night I was grateful for his presence. It was easier than being alone with Mike.
I mustered a smile and greeted them both cheerfully. Mike sat up in his bed as best he could, and asked me to sit by him. Mike was the kind of teacher who knows his students better than they know themselves. He must have read the discomfort on my face, and even though he was dying, he did his best to make me feel comfortable.
He asked me about life in Michigan, how the job was going, how the karate schools were up there, how's the love life. All about me. Ken, of course, took part in the conversation. So the three of us sat and chatted politely for the better part of an hour. Fifteen minutes before visiting hours were ended, Ken went home, leaving me alone with Mike.