I can’t believe that I’m writing this today.
When I last wrote about Mikhail Hendricks, it was in the present tense. I’d just seen him at an event, where I placed him at the table with the Rector of the University he attended.
My most vivid memory of Mikhail is his intense energy as he approached you to greet you. It seemed like he reached towards you with his whole being. The smile that captured the attention of the world and made him famous with the RedTieGuy hastag, was definitely infectious.
Ironically, he didn’t want people to remember him that way. In our last FB chat, a week before he would run out of words, he said: “I am very eager to retire RedTieGuy… When people are exposed to that, they fail to see that there is more to me than that.”
Although his close friends and family obviously knew the real Mikhail, he will never get to show the rest of the world what “more to me than that” would have looked like.
I counted myself in the crowd of cheerleaders, watching on the sidelines as he walked his path to greatness. Which is why standing at his coffin was a surreal experience. Everything about it felt wrong. For me, Mikhail was a living character in a living story that was not supposed to end this way.
Mikhail reminded me of another inspirational character, whose story was cut short. Remember Simba Mhere, the Top Billing presenter that the country fell in love with? I wrote a tribute to him after my shock had dissipated: http://bit.ly/2rcmmRY
I loved interviewing him and discovering his journey to the moment that was a culmination of his faith and courage. He too was full of dreams and ambitions and hope and fire.
I actually keep that picture of us in my home office, to remind me of the brevity of life and to not delude myself into believing that I have all the time in the world to do the things I know is within me to offer the world. Now I will add Mikhail’s picture to the wall because I never want to forget about him.
University students like Mikhail is the reason I do what I do. Seeing the hope in their eyes and the passion in their hearts to change the world, even though they’ve had to overcome so much adversity just to have a place in higher education, constantly fuels my own drive to help people actualise their dreams.
The thing that will haunt me the most about Mikhail is that the future leaders of our country carry the burden of responsibility that we should help them bear. Human saviours are fallible. They need encouragement, support, love, mercy and kindness to make it though their journey (all the way to the end), just like the rest of us.
Although I didn’t know Mikhail very well, nor for very long, I was gripped with a deep sadness and pain at the loss of a light burning so bright. At the funeral, the Revered uttered this words which bears repeating: “Darkness doesn’t have power. Light has power.”
It is not God who causes tragedies.
Watching The Shack helped me to get some much needed perspective. A quote worth remembering (full quote from the book quoted here) is helping with the healing process:
“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
I pray that all those who loved Mikhail will discover the comfort that grace will bring them over the months and years ahead. We should never forget the great things that Mikhail wanted to achieve. There are many other Mikhails in our circles of influence that could use a little encouragement, advice and support.
Let’s look for the “more to me” in others than the labels that have been placed on them. I believe that will be the greatest tribute to Mikhail’s memory. May his smile live on in the light we bring to others.