Often times, reflecting on a life lost can be a tough chore. Emotions run the gamut of the very good times and how to forge forward with such an enormous loss.
In 1985, I was introduced to a couple through the local chapter of the MS Society. My wife had just been diagnosed with the disease and as happens, reaching out for support meant meeting new people who were also dealing with MS. Mike and Sue Tarle became very good friends.
Last week, Mike Tarle died at the age of 60. I thought I should tell you about this man who was well known in our community, yet he never wanted to be.
I think sometimes the quiet ones are the pillars of communities, they don’t care about the limelight, don’t care to be noticed, make their friends laugh and donate hours of their time. Mike was all of that, he ran his business Tarle & McAllister Appraisals, a first rate land and property appraisal firm known to all the bankers and real estate types in the city and area. Mike’s positive outlook was bolstered by Sue, who was at his side, constantly smiling, making a positive out of absolutely everything. It was common to hear Mike’s deep, slightly raised voice calmly say, "Suzanne" yet deep down, he loved her positive attitude. An attitude that went a long way to making Mike very proud in the spring of 2004, when Sue was named our Citizen of the Year.
We all deal with disease, MS in this case, and most families are touched by Cancer. So, when the late summer of 2009 hit, a slight cough and joint pain didn’t seem too serious. After all, Mikey was pushing sixty. As 2010 rolled along, fatigue demanded a barrage of tests which proved little and by the end of the summer, witty Mike Tarle could still come up with, "imagine, sick as I am, I don’t have Cancer."
To all of us close, what else could it be, no one knew anything and as the winter set in, Mike Tarle was dying before our eyes. At the eleventh hour, in December, when no one figured Mike would make Christmas, a clue surfaced. I remember the call we received, Sue excitedly announced, "it’s not Cancer, Mike has Erdheim Chester Disease." I, like Mike and Sue and all of you, had never heard of Erdheim Chester Disease.
It really wasn’t Cancer, yet reading the fine print proved no less dreadful a prognosis. There was no cure for the disease and very troubling, only handful of people in the world have or have ever had the disease. Low numbers like that do not rate research dollars and people like our friend Mike Tarle were on their own. What the diagnosis did do was keep Mike alive with the help of a drug not yet approved for ECD because no one in government had ever heard of it. It was expensive, yet it bought Mike and his family one last Christmas and a complicated enough way of life to spend eight more precious months with his family.
I only saw Mike a half dozen times since January and saw that twinkle in his eye in June, when at the Annual St. Hubert’s Golf to endMS tournament, Mike was able to spend one more day on the links with his beloved boys and good friends abound. He looked tired as he was then prone to be, yet that day was special, because he, like all of us, was still holding out hope.
Life speeds us by and within three months of that day, Mike Tarle is gone. His dry, sarcastic wit, right on the money and perfect delivery, is now ours to remember and smile for having known the man. Mike read my column all the time and chirped at me often about some of the things I wrote. That was Mike.
To Sue, Tony and Rosa, Bob and Ben and grandsons Cameron and Crispin and to all the Tarle and Gaudet families, the last few years have had to have been unfathomable, yet I know that tough as it had to be, some closure was gained, which will allow you all to carry Mike’s bright torch.
We all know what we have lost and if we begin to see a reason, then believing Mike is somehow in a better place, is the only way to explain the taking of such a rich man, so early. Heaven just got a sense of humour and St. Peter, merely needed to step aside for Mike Tarle, a good man who we will never forget. God Bless, Mikey, God Bless.