The following was read by Mik's wife, Shannon Donovan-Monti, and his daughter, Bridget (Monti) O'Rourke, at Mik's Funeral on December 14, 2019. It explains what we believed happened the day Mik died. For more information on CTE, please visit https://concussionfoundation.org/CTE-resources
In Memory of Michael Anthony Monti - December 14, 2019
Before we turn to the matter at hand, I must take a moment for thanking you all for being with us today and in all the days leading up to this moment. Your presence, your words, your patient ear for our endless stories, the food, the flowers, the tears and the laughter. Every little bit is of comfort and is appreciated. I also want to thank you for all you did for Mik in his life. For being a willing and enthusiastic audience for his rock concerts, an indulgent ear to his stories and jokes, an appreciative palate to his wonderful food. Each was an expression of love from a seemingly tough, but truly tender-hearted man.
I can’t believe we are here, doing this. This still feel surreal, like a play or a farce full of drama and fury but here we are, left with the task of making sense of the incomprehensible loss before us. Today for a few brief minutes we will try to make some sense of what has happened.
Mik and I had just come back from Thanksgiving a little bit early and had stolen a quiet weekend together. It was the weekend of our 25th wedding anniversary and a snowstorm gave us the gift of a quiet Monday for the day of our anniversary. The weekend was perfect. We took a walk around the lake with Noodle, we went to dinner at a new restaurant. We played cribbage and trivia and we talked about the future and the past. We cooked, we ate. We talked to friends and family who wished us congratulations. We pledged our love we celebrated our blessings.
Tuesday morning arrived like a million other mornings. It was time to go back to work. I was working from home just for the morning, Mik was shoveling outside and playing with the dog I could hear her barking and I knew that he was throwing snow up into the air and she was trying to catch it. We talked briefly about a show we watched the night before, he was in and out of the house. I had a conference call. When I hung up, I looked up and Noodle was asleep on the couch and Mik was gone, on his way to make coffee at the kitchen and I headed into the office. It was a busy day that went by quickly so when a Massachusetts State Trooper walked into the office late in the afternoon and told me that Mik was gone and that he took his own life I didn’t believe him. I think I even laughed and said, “Oh no not Mik Monti!” You can tell me anything else about him but not that, not Mik.
As the day unfolded and the mantra of “Not Mik, not this: kept replaying, we asked the inevitable question of why. As we attempted to look for clues a story began to unfold that started to give some sense to what was happening. Bridget and Ryan have been so strong and helpful through this process. One morning when I got up, Bridget explained something to me that gave me a sense of understanding and peace that we want to share with you…
A month before he took his life, my dad was on a road trip in his Orange Mustang something he loved doing more than anything. On a wet, greasy highway in New Jersey he spun out his car and got T-boned and his car was totaled. In the days that followed many people observed little things, Dad was more emotional than usual, he seemed more bothered by little things, lost his perspective more easily. He was a bit more sentimental and telling everyone how much he cared. To each of us they were little things or anomalies we explained away or didn’t take too seriously and through it all he seemed to be looking forward to the future with optimism. Then people started to remember things about Dad’s past. When he was a toddler he had Meningitis, he had fallen off a bar stool at 6 and was in the hospital for a severe head injury. He boxed, he wrestled, he had been in 6 different car wrecks through the years where he was hit from behind or the cars were totaled. Growing up he was a little guy that stuck up for other little guys even when he knew he might not be able to win the fight. He had fallen off horses as a kid and he even fell off our roof one time at Christmas. To me and my mom this was just evidence that Dad was the strongest, most indestructible person we knew. But as I and other friends and family started to research seeking answers we a learned about a condition called CTE. CTE is a disease that is the result of a long history of repeated and severe head injuries. This is what you read about boxers and football players suffering from. In hindsight we realized my Dad’s symptoms, sadly including his sudden suicide with no warning, were a textbook case of CTE. As CTE progresses it will lead to dramatic personality changes, violence and ultimately dementia. There is no cure and once symptoms become severe, institutionalization is often required to prevent someone from doing harm to themselves or others. Though losing my Dad now is incomprehensible and painful, the knowledge that we would have to watch him slowly slip away from us or worse if we had seen this loving man become violent, it would have broken our family in a way that I am not sure we would have been able to recover from.
The relationship that I had with my Dad was unique to say the least. He wanted to teach and show me everything that he knew and thought about the world. He showed me what it looked like to unconditionally love family and friends alike and how to show up for people in times of both tragedy and jubilation. He never tried to shelter me from what might lie ahead, he only made sure that I knew I could handle it because no matter what the problem, big or small, he would be by my side to fight fiercely with me. He gave me the gift of a father who was not only my dad, but my confidant, my partner in crime, my therapist, my own personal Rockstar of a Dad and my friend. Though I know the years to come will be filled with tears and sorrowful nights, they will also be filled with light and joy and fond memories. In the times where I do cry and let myself feel his absence, I know he’ll be somewhere, among the stars, looking down at me saying, “What’re you cryin’ for? I’m still right here.”
Here are a few more things we know to be true about my Dad:
•We know that he believed with all his heart that no movie star or TV show from after 1970 was worth a dime.
•We know that he said shockingly inappropriate things when we weren’t around and even sometimes when we were.
•We know that ‘veganism’ was one of his trigger words
•We know that he was a man’s man who had the patience and forbearance to spend 24 years in the company of mostly girls and women and who was the self-appointed protector of us all.
•We know he is the best cook who ever lived and that food equaled love in his book.
•We know that he loved his new Mustang the tiniest bit more than me and I am OK with that.
•We know that he never failed to make an impression or to make someone’s day a little bit better.
We know he from carefully calculated math that he managed to talk on the phone for more hours than there are in a day making him the master of space, time and dimension.
•We know that he was the best father, the best boss, the best friend, the best son, the best brother, the best cousin, and the best uncle anyone could ever hope to have.
The final thing I know, I learned early in our relationship. We were working at Camp Jewell. Because of my job I had regular meetings/arguments with the Food Service Director who was Mik’s boss. They would always start out bad but inevitably we would work it out. I was talking to Mik about a recent argument that had gotten particularly heated with his boss. As many of you know, I like to tell stories and all good stories start with a little drama. I was at the climax of the story, just as triumph was about to be snatched from sure defeat when all of a sudden, in the middle of my story, Mik turned around and ran out the door. Ran out the door. Dumbfounded, I tried to followed him and managed to see him pick up a rock as he disappeared out of sight. I spotted him through the trees and I suddenly realized that he was running toward his boss’ house and I yelled, “I wasn’t done with the story! It works out in the end.” But it was too late, He went to his boss’s house threw a rock at his front door and demanded that he come out to fight him. His boss! To fight him!
So I learned early on that this man I loved and who made me feel loved every moment I was with him, above all was a warrior who would lay down his life and all that he was in defense of those he loved. He would NEVER let someone or something hurt anyone he cared for. So hear me when I say this, on that last morning a darkness crept into this loving, caring man and took him over and all that was him engaged in one final battle that took him from us.
I will be the fierce protector of his legacy and will not abide any other story of who he was. This was the final act of love from a man who loved us all with all that he was. Remember him, tell his story but remember, he is always the protector, the warrior, the caregiver, the friend, the talker, the joker, the rock star, don’t let his end define him but take the sum of the man and know we were all blessed to have known him.