I wanted to be like Michael Scott.
The news of his sudden, unexplained death on Monday morning
shocked me to the core. The idea that someone I admired so much is dead –
either by his own hand or by someone else’s – is very difficult for me to
Michael called a great number of people “friends.” Unlike
most people in politics it was not because he was playing them along, it was
because, I believe, that he genuinely saw some good in everyone and wanted to
identify with that goodness, no matter who it was.
With that qualification in mind, I think Michael called me a
friend. In my mind, he was more than that. He was a mentor. On occasion he took
time to counsel me, give me guidance, provide personal wisdom and relate his
own life to mine. I had some chances to watch him work and admire his style and
talent. I wanted to emulate him as much as possible – although I lacked his
essential coolness of character.
There are certain people you meet in life that become models
for your behavior. In my clearer-headed moments I would ask, “How would Michael
handle this?” Then I would piece things together and try and be like Michael
That’s why I’m having such a hard time with his death. I
suppose now and then it seemed like something darker lurked beneath his surface
– maybe that’s where his boundless empathy came from – but I just can’t believe
the darkness was bad enough that he felt like he had no options.
That was one of the things about Michael: “Patience,” he
would tell me. “You never know what’s going to come later on down the road.”
Coolness. Calm. Patience. Empathy.
But none of that jibes with suicide.
Then maybe he did kill himself. The evidence released so far
points to that possibility so I have to prepare myself for that. Denying the
possibility of suicide feels like I’m holding on to him a bit more. It is a
temptation: As if I am defending his honor.
But the Michael I knew would shrug his shoulders, look down
at the ground and probably say, “Well, you never can know someone else’s
thoughts.” He’d give words of comfort and suggest we get on with living.
Dammit. I’ll really miss him.