older man sitting down and smiling

When a Good Person Passes

Why some people’s death hurts so much.

By John Gerstner, VP Insureous Health Solutions

Last week my wife, Shelia, and I came to the realization that the degree of pain you feel when someone dies is directly proportional to how good that person was. Last week, we learned that Mike, a really good person, had suffered a heart attack and died. And we really feel the pain of his death.

We learned the shocking news of Mike’s passing from his son, Paul. In a rather emotional phone conversation we also learned things Mike had never shared with us in all the years we knew him. One was that he and his wife Kathy had adopted and raised 18 foster children, of all nationalities. “Our family photo looks like the United Nations,” Paul, born in Vietnam, said. Another was that he built his family’s 21 bedroom family home himself.  

Let me give you a small window into Mike’s life. First, he was as down home and humble as a person could be, a true unsung hero. He was a lifelong licensed electrician and skilled handy man for all things real estate. He loved farming and antique John Deere tractors, two things we often bantered about. He also served in the Vietnam war.

Because we have properties in the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities, Shelia and I relied on Mike when something needed fixing. He did everything for us, from completely wiring a house we rehabbed that reeked of cats from the former tenant, to installing bathroom fixtures, to fixing leaky pipes, repairing a ceiling, cleaning out gutters, and so much more.

Mike would never say he couldn’t get there until next month as some contractors do. He would always respond with timeliness and his charges were never too high either. Sometimes, when we would ask him how much to send him for a repair or to check on something, he would just say, oh, never mind; it only took a few minutes.

Mike’s work ethic was pure old school. He did whatever it took to get the job done right, even if it took an extra trip or two. He was never sloppy or haphazard. He would tackle the most complicated, dirty and lowly task with a positive attitude and a steady stream of smiles and jokes. Oh, we had so many good laughs together.

And he always took time to ask about how our children were. He knew most of them by name and they knew him as well.

I tell you all this because the Mikes of the world teach us that our purpose is not to gather wealth and material possessions only for ourselves. Our purpose is to serve. Mike was a kind and caring servant for his family and community his entire adult life, and he lived to be 78.

I’m sure you also know some really good people in your life.

Tell them how much you admire, appreciate and love them.

And be kind to one another.

Mike would like that.

Mike Colbrese (1945-2023)