In the early morning hours of Friday April 27,2018 Michael Gordon Murray quietly went home to the God he loved. He was suffering from COPD and other serious illnesses for many years and breathing was increasingly difficult for him. He was taken by ambulance to Lee Memorial Hospital last week and that is where he died. His death is a profound loss to all who knew him-for he was one who cared. And yet, knowing Michael we know that he is fully whole, living with Christ in love and light now. For that, and for his life we are so thankful.
Michael was a member of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community since 2007 and Pastor Judy Beaumont and I had the privilege of being his Pastors. One of our hymns says after the passage in I John, “You shall know they are Christians by their love, by their love, you shall know they are Christians by their love.” And that is how we knew Michael -as one who loved all who touched his life-neighbors,church members, friends,and especially,the family he kept in touch with by phone and held always in his heart. He was known for his caring heart,generosity and easy conversation spiced with humor and laughter.He also loved God’s smallest creatures, the neighborhood cats, and spent his fixed income on carefully meeting their needs.
Michael,known as Mike,was born in Norwell, Massachussets,the third of three boys born to William and Kathleen Murray. He was graduated from Norwell High School and soon after served in the U.S. Army where he was an MP. He was honorably discharged. He attended the University of Massachussets for two years and left to marry and work to support his two sons, Paul and Keith. He proudly talked of Paul’s bands and auto mechanic abilities and Keith’s teaching music at the Berkley School of Music. While Michael was divorced he held his family in highest esteem. Mike and his brother moved to Florida to start a trucking business but after three years his brother returned to Massachussets. Michael worked as a store clerk at Publix until a variety of serious illnesses caught up with him. By 2007 when we met at our Church in the Park Ministry Mike was homeless and battling alcoholism yet the person he was shone through like a bright light. He could be counted on to read the Scriptures at the Park and later in the indoor Services and to help others,including his Pastors and our Volunteers. Mike’s Dad drank heavily after the death of his wife, Mike’s beloved mother, in 1980 and Mike traces his battle with alcohol to that as well. This was a very great loss for him. He noted that the genetic link also “caught him” and the loss of his Dad two years later in 1982 increased his sense of grief and loss. Mike was totally open to working with us toward health and sobriety and housing. He was one of the first four residents at our Joshua House Transitional Living Facility in November 2008. He worked hard in our Program and was accepted into Goodwill Housing for the Physically disabled in early 2009. This is Mike at Joshua House with other early residents Richie Duncan also a Vet, and Carl Palmer.
The following is a picture of Mike with his Pastors and Ben Walden and Brenda Cummings who were also moving, at that time, to Goodwill Housing in Charlotte County. Later Mike and Ben transferred back to Lee County in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Ben also had serious medical conditions and passed away last year. Yet both retained their housing and had a good quality of life over the years reconciling with family and having good friends, thanks be to God.
This picture (below) is Michael’s favorite view of Christ. He said that he identified completely with the man being lifted by Christ. Our church artist Hank Tessandori painted a picture on this theme for Mike who cherished it,and shared his testimony with all.
This is Hank with Mike, the Pastors and some of the men.
On Good Friday our community would walk the Stations of the Cross in the nearby streets. Mike was our Jesus in two different years. He said that he knew about carrying his cross and he wanted to carry the cross for Jesus and to thank Jesus and the community. Mike’s openness about sharing his story and his struggles and redemption was inspiring and moving to all. (The prayer intentions of the community are nailed to the cross).
In an earlier blog I told the story of Mike’s giving his blood to help others and included a picture of Mike and one of his rescued cats standing in front of a patriotic door decoration at Mike’s home. Indeed, Mike struggled but he also gave himself to others and truly loved. We are so thankful for Mike’s life.
There will be a Memorial service announced here when we can work out the details with Mike’s family. Now we commend Michael Gordon Murray to his loving God. (With The Order of Funerals we say:) “Loving and merciful God, we entrust our brother Michael to your mercy. You loved him greatly in this life: now that he is freed from all its cares, give him happiness and peace forever.
The old order has passed away: welcome him now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus your Son, and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.Amen”
WE LOVE YOU Mike! REST IN PEACE AND JOY.
In the Risen Christ, Love and Blessings, Pastor Judy Lee Rev. Dr. Judith A. Lee, RCWP The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers