the celebration of Max’s life

Sunday, September 7th, 2008 by Deb Schwedhelm

First, I can’t even begin to describe how amazingly beautiful and touching the celebration of Max’s life was. I’m going to try and share as many details as I can. The celebration took place on a grassy patch in Del Mar, that overlooks the beach. It’s a place where the Mikulaks spent a lot of time and holds many fun memories as a family. There were chairs set up in a center area, with many tables around the perimeter. In the front was a podium and two enlarged photos of Max. This table held photos of Max, throughout his seven years, and pages for guests to create for Max’s scrapbook (in place of a guestbook).

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 This was the main table, with two beautiful orange bouquets of flowers, The Angel In the Sky photo, and bagels and water for guests.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 And the Mikulak family didn’t miss any details. Every vase at the celebration was filled with Legos (in the place of stones, jewels, etc.).

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 The Mikulaks had numerous Lego tables set up for the kids. The kids quietly played with the Legos throughout the ceremony, just the way Max would have wanted it. After the ceremony, the children were able to take home any Lego creations that they made. Even the big kids had fun with the Legos.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 A table, with all of Max’s favorite things. It was so beautiful how they had the blanket, with the words love isn’t love until you give it away. Max gave us all so much love. And his spirit and goodness continue to live on in all of those he touched.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Andy, with three incredible people:

Dr. Giselle Sholler. Max’s doctor (from Vermont). She is a pediatric oncologist that has lead research work for the new and promising drug, nifurtimox. Max was a participant in this FDA trial, which Dr. Sholler leads.

Pat Lacey. Pat, has a four-year-old, battling relapsed neuroblastoma (diagnosed at age 7 months). he keeps a wonderful blog on Will’s progress. and Pat is such a fabulous writer.

Margot Hutchison. I actually met Max and his family through the Hutchisons. Kiele and their son, Sam, went to the same elementary school. Their son, Sam, is also battling relapsed neuroblastoma.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08

Kevin, Melissa’s brother, who they referred to as the ring master, started off the celebration and was such a great speaker.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08

I love this photo! Andy and Melissa smiling, while listening to Melissa’s brother share a story about Max. Hannah holding Papa’s hand. And one of Hannah’s closest friends, Hersheeta, with her arm around Hannah. Earlier, I saw Hannah playing with Hersheeta’s ponytail. It was so sweet.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Bree, Max’s cousin’s wife, read the book, where the wild things are.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Randee, Melissa’s sister, also spoke fabulous words about Max’s life. Randee has also been instrumental in making the sale of the angel in the sky print happen.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08

Ms. Weitz, Max’s kindergarten teacher, spoke and shared some wonderful stories of Max. During her time, a train went by. This is part of why Max loved this location so much. You could play at the park and see the trains all from the same location.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max’s first and second grade teacher, Mrs. Sturt. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Sturt and seeing her in action, with Max. She is such an incredible soul and her speech was beyond words, sharing her love for Max and some incredible stories of her time with him.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Then Hannah’s brownie troop sang this most beautiful version of You Are My Sunshine.

You are my sunshine
My special sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

The other night, Max
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I saw your smiling face
But when I awoke, Max
I knew I’d miss it
But now you’re in a better place.

You are our sunshine
Our special sunshine
You make us happy
When skies are gray
You’ll never know Max, how much we’ll miss you
Please don’t take our sunshine away.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Hannah, with the support of another one of her closest friends, Jenna, read the book MAX. Her parents were so proud of her.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Den leader Steve, and his Cub Scout wolf den, were up to speak next and they had a special thing prepared, which Andy was unaware of. At the last meeting, with the hopes that Max would be able to attend, Steve had planned that the Cub Scouts would make model airplanes. Unfortunately, Max was not able to make this meeting because he was too sick. Steve told some wonderful stories about Max and then, the boys did a missing man formation with their planes.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Melissa’s brother-in-law, Mike, also spoke some beautiful words and prayers.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08

We weren’t sure it was going to happen because of the clouds, but they cleared enough that they were able to fly…. two vintage WWII aircraft. It was so awesome and special. Kevin, the ring master, said that he knew Max was going to be right there with the planes and that if we saw him, to give him a wave.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 And then they had a raptor hawk, from the Wild Animal Park. The plan was that the raptor flew down the middle of the chairs; however, I guess there wasn’t enough room and the raptor diverted to a nearby tree. It was such an incredible sight.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 Throughout the ceremony, it was so great to see Andy and Melissa smiling, listening to the many wonderful stories shared by friends and family, about Max.

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08 After the celebration, I went to Max’s school, to capture the orange ribbons that had been tied to every tree and every fence post surrounding the school. Such a thoughtful gesture on behalf of Max’s community. This is another photo of one of the trees at the school (also a photo in the previous post).

Max Mikulak's celebration of life 09-07-08

 

complete album (391 photos)

the celebration of Max's life(c) Deb Schwedhelm

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10 Responses

  1. thanks Deb for sharing the beautiful details of this special day with those that couldn’t be there…

  2. What a beautiful celebration and what a special memory Max left. Thank you for helping us realize how precious life its and to always believe!

  3. Carolyn Wing says:

    Thank you for sharing these amazing photos of an amazing family with us. Carolyn Wing grandma to Laura Stage IV neuroblastoma carepages.com page name Laura VDB

  4. Shannon says:

    Thank for capturing such beautiful photos of Max’s Celebration Ceremony. Max would have loved it all…the friends, color orange everywhere, the legos, the WWII planes, the hawk…all of it. We will miss him dearly.

  5. “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

    Kahlil Gibran quotes (Lebanese born American philosophical Essayist, Novelist and Poet. 1883-1931)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this. As someone who has followed yours and the Mikulaks blog but did not know Max, this was very helpful for me to see what happened. I really thought about the family all day on Saturday and I really wanted to be there, so this does give some kind of closure. Thank you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Deb,

    Your photos are wonderful… you have always captured Max’s sweet spirit so perfectly. Thank you for the photos of Max’s Celebration of life–I can really see the love and devotion of his family.

    Shirley
    NJ

  8. Jen says:

    I am sitting here crying looking at these photos of such a wonderful “celebration of life”. There are no words, these photos capture everything, and then some. I am a new reader of this blog, but I am so glad I got to know Max, even if just a little bit, through it. Thank you.

    Jen Edgerton

  9. myla kent says:

    What a beautiful tribute to such an incredibly special young man. I’m moved beyond words, Deb, truly.

  10. Ann Podeszwa says:

    Beautiful !