Thursday, February 26, 2009

Departure: Michael Wieser

I have spent most of this evening deciding whether or not I could write this entry in a way that would not come across as seeming in some way disingenuous or coming across as trying to insert myself into the life of an acquaintance who had surely not had a thought about me in years. I guess all I can say is that I will try my best to honor the memory of one who has just passed.

First, I probably need to give a little biographical information as background for what is to follow for you readers who may not know me well. For the sake of brevity, I grew up in a small town in the southeast corner of Minnesota called La Crescent. Every town has its faults, but for the most part La Crescent was a pretty good place to grow up. Being a small town, you knew just about everybody in school, including in the grades above and below you. While I wasn't necessarily an outcast, it probably could not be said that I was popular. I also should admit that the title of this blog would be a fairly apt description of myself if I'm being totally honest. While I can get along with people all right, I wouldn't say I like that many.

I liked Mike Wieser.

Everyone liked Mike Wieser.

Mike was the best athlete in La Crescent. Of the few locally legendary athletes that donned the uniform of the Lancer, I think most people would agree that Mike Wieser was the most gifted, certainly of the male athletes. As a junior, he was awarded Coulee Region Player of the Year in basketball by the La Crosse Tribune. Within the conference, there was a 6'11" fellow junior who was given a scholarship to play ball at the University of Kentucky. Southall was six inches taller, both were post players, but Mike Wieser was the better player. He was the star tight end on the football field. He was so good that he went on to be Div. II All-American at North Dakota State and was invited to the NFL Draft Combine.

Since his success as a college athlete, Mike moved out to Las Vegas where last I heard he was working as an entertainer. He was extremely fit. Like professional athlete fit.

Now, what I left out while briefly talking about his college football career was that in 2001 he had to briefly leave football to deal with an illness he had been diagnosed with--Wilson's Disease. This accomplished athlete fit enough to not need CGI or PEDs to look like a cast member of 300 was suddenly afflicted with a genetic disorder.

He was uninsured because the astronomical costs of health insurance were unaffordable and the Wilson's Disease he had was a pre-existing condition. To make matters worse, Nevada lost its donor program last year, leaving him in a state that was unable to treat his condition if it were to worsen.

His Wilson's Disease flared up again this year. He was eventually stabilized enough to be flown to the Mayo Clinic where a liver for transplant had finally been procured, but his condition could not be stabilized enough for the surgery to take place.

He died yesterday, Wednesday, February 25th at 7:33 pm.

Obviously, the senselessness of the entire situation is beyond rationalization. I could focus on the beyond-fucked nature of the health care system, but that would be a politicization of someone's life that I do not really want to do here. A piece taking that angle is available here, by another La Crescent alum.

Mike was a great guy.

He was one of eleven children, all adopted by the eternally generous and caring Dick and Sheila Wieser. He was a three-sport star athlete in high school, was arguably the most popular guy in high school, yet he was one of the most humble, down-to-earth guys you would ever meet. I don't think I ever saw him say anything mean to anyone. With the degree of success he had, he could have gotten away with murder, but he was beyond reproach. He was certainly a much better person than I could ever have been.

So despite the fact that I could count the times I hung out with him on a remotely personal level on my hands, I have been oddly affected by his death. I say 'oddly' because other acquaintances have died young. I think I began to rationalize my affection by attributing my abnormal reaction to the ironically-wrought tragic nature of a man in such great shape having his body give out on him with the politically-tinged insurance issue adding complexity to the issue. Most of the other people I knew who died perished in vehicular accidents, which is certainly tragic, but young people die in traffic accidents all the time. Initially, I thought my remorse and sorrow over the death of someone I knew in the past was simply because of the unique circumstances of his death, with those circumstances setting him apart from those others.

But then I realized that was not the case. The tragedy is that Mike was such an exceptional person. He was such a nice guy. That is not to say these other people were not nice or decent or good or had other redeeming qualities. They were and did. Mike was different, though. I don't want to feel like I am valuing his life in death more than others', but in the end I think he did live his life in a genuinely better way than most with his kindness exceeding that of most others.

He was a great guy. Mike Wieser will be missed, even by people like me, whose lives he only touched in fleeting moments.

1 comment:

Weibel said...

That was a great entry...Josh...I think you honored his memory here. Much better than my "Go" story.

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