“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”
No phrase from Shakespeare resonates so beautifully in the hearts of Ignatians than this one spoken by King Henry V as he ponders the fate of his outnumbered forces as they prepare to go to war with the French at the Battle of Agincourt.
Not every battle is waged against an army, and the battle so courageously fought by Mike Ginley ’77 against the cancer that had invaded his body ended in victory last Saturday morning. On Thursday we gathered at St. Raphael Church to celebrate Mike’s victory and to remember just how important it is to be a part of the Ignatius band of brothers.
On the altar for the Mass were three Wildcats - Fr. Dan Schlegel ‘79, Fr. Ray Guiao, S.J., ’82, and our classmate Fr. Ben Jimenez, S.J., ’77. Mike’s brother Jim ’78, with whom Mike played football at St. Richard, St. Ignatius, and Kenyon, gave the eulogy. Dennis ‘89 served as a Minister of the Eucharist and Kevin ‘85 placed the pall on Mike’s casket at the beginning of the liturgy. Classmates and teammates Dave Presley ’77, Dennis Sullivan ’77, and Jim Mazella ’77, who also played with Mike at Kenyon, were among the pallbearers. Kevin’s son Owen ’10, the first student of mine to be the son of a student of mine, read the prayers of intercession.
During Jim’s eulogy he thanked all those who cared for Mike at Metro Hospital, at the Metro Rehab Center, and most especially those at Holy Family Hospice. In particular, Jim noted staff at Holy Family who had not only cared for Mike, but, back in 2009, had cared for their father Bill ‘52. The band of brothers in that famed Class of 1952 reads like a “who’s who” of Wildcat graduates, but Bill held a special place in that pantheon.
When Bill was honored for his decades of service to the school by being awarded the Founders Award in 1977 his son Mike was graduating from our famed Alma Mater, and 45 years later that same son was honored with the same award. From his bed at Metro Hospital Mike watched the event, surrounded by those family members who were not at the ceremony to accept the award for him. Three rows of Mike’s classmates made sure that Mike heard their appreciation for him when the award was presented, and earlier that day Mike’s room seemed like Grand Central Station as classmates rolled through to give their congratulations and to see Mike one last time.
My last time with Mike was the next Monday at Holy Family. His body was greatly weakened, but his spirit was as strong as ever. Mike had made the decision to battle on using only the strength that God had given him rather than rely on any palliative medications. Several times during our visit he would clench both fists, fighting off the pain that was trying, unsuccessfully, to defeat him.
A week before this, at Metro, Mike received a visit from Fr. Ben, our Jesuit classmate. Kevin and I were witness to the beautiful event of Mike’s anointing and reception of the Blessed Sacrament at the hands of one of our band of brothers. When associated with the sacrament of Anointing, the Eucharist is called Viaticum - food for the way - and this food nourished Mike throughout the rest of his earthly journey, giving him the strength to fight and not to heed the wounds.
As several of us gathered at the luncheon after the graveside prayers we spoke of our times with Mike, of what a great example he was of what it is to be an Ignatian man, a true Man for Others, and we again looked over the picture-boards chronicling Mike’s life. Some brought laughs, some made us misty, but they all were reminders of our shared lives, the lives of Ignatius Men Forever. The lives of we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
Mike, our great friend and brother, may you rest in peace.