Michael Doherty was someone who had the ability to light up any room merely with his presence. As I thought about how to write a fitting tribute to Mike Doherty—my classmate, fraternity brother, and friend who passed away this week—I began to look for pictures. To my frustration, there was not a single picture of the two of us alone, or even of the two of us in a small group of three or four. Instead, all of the pictures that Mike and I shared were as part of a larger group—they were almost all pictures of our entire fraternity.
I was disappointed. Disappointed that I would be unable to put together a tribute that truly displayed how much he meant to me and the hole he would leave in my life. Disappointed that my attempt at honoring his memory would lack that personal touch. But most of all, disappointed in myself for seemingly never having a moment with Mike so special as to deserve our own picture. For never taking full advantage of the amazing person that he was.
Michael Doherty was someone who had the ability to light up any room merely with his presence. There were so many times over the year and a half I knew him, and especially in what would become the final weeks of our friendship, where I would be having a miserable day and walk into the common room of our fraternity, searching for something. Without fail, Mike was there, doing work, sleeping on the couch, or just hanging out watching that show Impractical Jokers that the guys in his class love. On all of those occasions, I found that nothing had the ability to cheer me up like Mike's smile. It was bright and contagious. Most of all, it was soothing and heartening. Sometimes we'd have a personal conversation, sometimes we'd grab a bite to eat, sometimes we'd play video games, and, on a few occasions, we went to play ping pong in a nearby common room. I don't think either of us could've picked out a single occasion in our short friendship as being momentous, but the amount of life that radiated out of Mike on a daily basis never failed to brighten up my day and make me thankful to have a brother like him. I realized it was the little things, the little moments, that made me so grateful to have someone like Michael Doherty in my life.
Upon learning of Mike's death, many emotions ran through me. The first, of course, was sadness. I was devastated. Devastated for his mom, dad, and brother, for whom his presence was a central part of life. Devastated for his best friends, people like John Morini and John Clarke, who spent a week searching for him in Franklin, Mass., and kept 100 people calm with their strength and resilience, all while they were breaking inside. Devastated for the broader Duke community and the rest of the world, who will never get to know the rare combination of unparalleled excellence in academics, athletics, and empathy coupled with beyond-his-years humility that Mike brought everywhere he went. Devastated because it's difficult to comprehend a kid so full of life with so much to look forward to being gone in an instant.
His adorable, smiling face will never leave my mind, and Mike serves not only as a shining reminder of not only how to be a good person simply by being empathetic and optimistic, but also how much doing all the little things the right way can positively impact the lives of so many. I think the second picture epitomizes that Mike could light up a room and improve literally any situation just by being there, even if he wasn't the central focus of the event at hand. It was the little things.
And the first picture? Well, I'm just glad I was able to find one of us standing together, where Mike is, of course, the perfect example of how you're supposed to smile and pose for these kind of things.
Rest in Peace Dohboy, we're all so much better for having known you.
Aditya Joshi is Trinity' 17. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor to remember Michael Doherty, please submit it to email@example.com and include your name and affiliation with Duke.
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