Michael Antcliffe had a profound effect on my life months before I ever met him in person.
My first encounter happened when a friend from elementary school shared a note that Michael had posted on his wall. It was titled, “You’ll Never Guess Who’s Dying From Cancer.” I immediately started wondering which of my friends had been stricken and it was in near-panic that I clicked on the link.
I quickly discovered that I had never met Michael before, but his note was so eloquently written, and contained surprising bits of humour despite the tough subject, that I quickly hit the add friend button. That was in April 2011.
For the next eight months I read all of Michael’s notes as they popped up, going back to catch up on any that I’d missed periodically. By December I was thoroughly amazed by his eloquence and writing style and after reading a note he posted on December 11, 2011, I found myself wiping away tears and saying out loud to myself “Man, this guy can really write.”
Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote that day that I read out loud at this year’s Relay for Life, held by the Canadian Cancer Society on June 14th of this year:
I’m pretty much done with expectations. Expectations, I’ve found, can be greatly built up and then dashed with a single dose of reality. Expectations can be basic falsehoods from their inceptions. Expectations can predict greatness and joy, and then disappear with the most minuscule amount of knowledge. Expectations, once they are laid bare in their essential nature, often amount to no more than smoke and mirrors. Hope, on the other hand, I have found to be far more durable and resilient. Hope is never false when had with good intentions. Hope flies in the face of reality and often in the face of objective truth. Hope can predict the return of greatness and joy long after they are gone. So from here on in . . . I’m with Hope, my de facto wingman. We showed up together and we’re leaving together. Because once you manage to find it, once you learn how to appreciate it, and once you learn how to squirrel it away for when you need it you realize that’s the kinda stuff Hope does for you . . . I hope that my words and this Facebook page can become a place, a community if you will, where people can come and share; a place where people can both give and receive support from one another; a place where questions can be openly asked and answered. I hope that many of you can find strength and solace in this, as I have. I hope for a greater appreciation of family and friends, and all the truly important things in life we pay attention to after the bills are paid. And, of course, I hope we can still find a bunch of people to owe me ten bucks. When you really get down to it . . . I Hope. That’s it; that’s all I’ve got.
After I realized that Michael was a true writer and philosopher at heart, I also realized that I had the power to help him get his words out into the world. I had self-published a novel in 2009 and I knew that putting Michael’s words into book format would not only give people something tangible to look back on after he was gone, but also help him in his goal.
Michael had a goal to raise $1 million dollars to help people who were walking their own paths with cancer. He was asking people to not only add him as a friend on Facebook, but to also pledge to owe him ten dollars after he died. The ten dollars would go to either the Northern Cancer Fund or the Canadian Cancer Society. It seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to help with such a worthy cause?
The thing is, I’ve never dealt well with death. By offering to publish his book, I was crossing the line from having Michael as a virtual friend online, to someone I would get to know and care about in person. I really did put a lot of thought into it. I wondered if I would be able to handle it if Michael died (it took me a very, very long time to use the word when). I decided that it was something that I had to do because it felt right.
My journey with Michael was amazing. I was devastated when his journey ended, but I will never say that he lost his battle. Michael gave me Hope. He gave me hope that people will realize how important family and friends are and how invaluable the time is that we spend with them. He taught me not to sweat the small stuff and that there is always someone else out there with bigger problems than my own. Michael taught me how to love my friends unconditionally and how to tell them how much I value them at every opportunity.
Michael’s book is going to be launched on August 19th, a day after the anniversary of his death. It will be available through all major bookstores and online in both paperback and eBook formats. Profits are going to the Canadian Cancer Society to help Michael to reach his goal.
To help with promotion, his publisher is giving away a free paperback and two free eBook versions of Michael’s book. You can enter below. They are also giving away a Kindle on launch day.
You can find more information about Michael's book at the following links: