Photo Credit: Rachael Heffner

For those of us who had the honor and pleasure of knowing Mike Fryer, this time is very tough, needless to say. But for those of you who never got a chance to meet him, perhaps this story will shed some light on the truly selfless, generous and kind person he was in life, and no doubt still is in spirit.

Mike was the very first person I met in Las Vegas, outside of those at the local television station where I’d landed a job. I was moving from Missouri to a completely new place—the first I’d ever lived away from home—and I immediately felt lucky to be moving in next door to this friendly, extremely hospitable man I met within hours of arriving. He told us to come on over for a beer whenever we were settled in, and thus began one of the most treasured friendships of my lifetime.

He took my boyfriend and I to countless events around the valley, helping to both introduce and acclimate us to our new environment while also giving us a place to feel welcome and at home: his kitchen. The three of us spent hours upon hours laughing, eating, drinking beer and bonding. He quickly became family, and someone to talk to whenever either of us needed a mentor or confidant.

I already treasured what our friendship had become after a year of living next door, but Mike’s colors shined especially bright when it came time for me to move out, and I hit an extremely low point in my life. My boyfriend of 9 years and I had decided to part ways a few months before, but we still lived together until the end of the lease. Within a month of making the painful decision to separate, our treasured 14-year-old dog had multiple strokes and we had to put him down. We also got the painful news that one of our friends back home in Missouri was murdered, and we were unable to be with friends and family who were also mourning his passing. I felt like I was living in a sort of twilight zone, as I found myself unable to process the shock of it all. Nothing seemed real, though I was only able to live inside of that illusion temporarily—until the weekend of the move finally arrived. My ex was moving in with coworkers and I was moving to Henderson, and for the first time, everything was going to start really sinking in.

There are no words to adequately describe the despair and anguish I experienced in those two days of moving. Suffice to say they were the worst two days of my entire life, and Mike was literally the one bright light that kept me going as the sun went down that Sunday night. The electricity and water had already been shut off, so Mike turned on as many lights as he could direct my way to help me see while I emptied out and cleaned the last few rooms of the house in darkness. My garbage and recycle bins were eventually overflowing, but because I still had more to dispose of, Mike pushed his bins up against the back fence and left the tops open for me. “Fill ‘em up,” he said. “And go ahead and leave yours out, and I’ll take them all to the curb on trash day.” I cannot even tell you what this meant to me in one of my darkest, most hopeless hours. But then he went further. He came out with a beer, then made sure I would be around long enough for him to whip up some chicken soup for me. I didn’t cry in front of him, but I bawled when I got back inside. He didn’t realize how badly I’d needed that, as I had not been eating due to depression and subsequent lack of appetite. On top of the moving stress I was carrying, I was weaker physically, emotionally and mentally than I’d ever been, and a little chicken soup for the soul was going to go a long way for me.

In my haste to finish up at the house, I made many more messes than I’d planned on cleaning up (especially with no running water), every one of them further fueling the despair I felt, as I started counting the hours of sleep I wasn’t going to get before work the next morning. I began throwing glass dishes into boxes without any padding, breaking a few in the process, and stacking many others way beyond what the walls of the boxes could hold and protect. When taking one of these overloaded boxes out to my car, a wine glass fell out and busted on my front doorstep. And then it happened; I hit my own breaking point. I dropped the box of dishes where I stood (to the sound of more glass breaking), walked to the middle of the living room, collapsed onto the floor and let out a long, defeated scream. I didn’t care that the front door was wide open. I didn’t care that people could hear me. I didn’t care about anything in that moment. I just wanted out of it.

I don’t know how long I sat there crying before peeling myself off of the floor, but when I went out to my car, Mike was waiting for me. He said he had something he wanted to give me before I left for the night, so I finished cramming the last boxes tightly into my car and walked over to his house. In the kitchen, he presented me with a cloth grocery bag, saying its contents would better serve me than him. I reached in and pulled out four plastic wine glasses.

Somehow, impossibly, he’d made me smile. And laugh, even. I cried as I hugged him tightly, telling him I would let him know when I got settled into my new place so we could get together. In the time since that night we’ve become best friends, even calling each other family and agreeing that he would come to Missouri with me sometime soon and see my old stomping grounds, favorite Irish pub and frequented restaurants. We may not do that together physically, but the next time I do go home, I know he will be with me when I say cheers to his memory, and retell some of his famous stories from Southeast Asia to my own friends.

There is nothing I can say in words that will feel sufficient enough to honor the memory of someone so treasured. But what I can say is this: The impact Mike Fryer made on my life was immeasurable, and I look forward to the day I get to see him again, and hear him crack one of his quick, witty jokes that make me keel over. Mike, thanks for the laughs, your friendship and all of your support—especially that night when I needed it the most. The painting of my life is forever changed because of the beautiful colors you splashed into it. I’ll never forget you, and I’ll love you forever.