He walked up to the podium with a heavy heart.
“First of all, on behalf of myself and the entire family, I want to thank you all for coming. The fact that there are so many of you here is a testament to the lasting impact that Mike had on the people around him. His sudden passing is hard on us all, but I know that he would have been delighted that we could all come together like this. So thank you.”
He looked up. "Be strong," April mouthed silently from the front row.
“I guess my first reaction upon hearing this terrible news was shock. I mean, sure, Mike had his health issues, but he always seemed the most vital among us. The most fun-loving. The most innocent. Tremendously gifted, unfailingly generous…Mike embraced life fully, and said yes to everything because, to him, just being here on earth every day was a gift to experience and to share. He was, until the end, the quintessential party dude.”
He paused, knowing that the next part would be difficult.
“I know that we can’t help but reflect on some of Mike’s more troublesome years. There was a dark period in his life where Mike partied a little too hard. Heck, most of us were right there with him in the trenches, myself included. For a period of many years, Mike battled fiercely with demons that many could never understand. Suffice it to say that the heart attack that eventually bested him was born out of those battles...battles with alcohol, pills, and of course, his gluttonous overconsumption of pizza.”
Don and Leo exchanged a knowing glance. What fools we had been.
“I can say, however, that in the final years of his life, Mike had found some measure of peace. A peace that was hard won. A peace that would not have been possible without the help of his support group, many of whom are here today. In particular, I want to thank and to recognize those people now, especially his AA sponsor, sensei, and a father figure to us all: Master Splinter. I know that Michaelangelo loved you very deeply.”
The wise old rat, half blind, rose slowly and bowed, his arthritic tail just visible under that red robe that Raphael had come to love. How he must be grieving.
“I remember the first time that Michaelangelo ever eyed a pair of nunchaku. (That’s “nunchucks” to you non-ninjas.) It was shortly after we were exposed to the green toxic ooze that transformed us into human-sized sentient mutants due to abnormally high radiation exposure. Must have been around, say, '87. Right away, Mike was in love. So in love, in fact, that he nunchucked every day of his life from that point forward…right up until he had to stop due to complications from diabetes."
He grimaced, remembering the amputated foot.
"I think the thing I’ll most remember, however, is the crime fighting. The four of us together, in our primes, were a force to be reckoned with. Leonardo taking the lead, Donatello with his machines…myself, always ready with a choice word or two.”
“Or three!” barked Rocksteady. The crowd tittered. He was sweet to fly in from Portland.
“Yes, I may have been a little too cool… maybe even rude. But where I failed, Michaelangelo succeeded. His lightheartedness, especially during those early years - before our sewer lair even had a proper dojo - nourished the group when times were tough. Let's not forget, Mike was the one who first suggested that we go for a cool, teenage, surfer/skater vibe, which was pretty subversive at the time."
He paused, remembering. "And I don’t think he ever got enough credit for that.” A few people nodded thoughtfully.
"As I stand before you today, now a middle-aged Mutant Ninja Turtle, I am truly proud to say that during the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was not a crime-fighting group as talented or as suited to the task of bustin’ bad guys as we four, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Today, we honor not just the life of a ninja, or a turtle, or even a divorced father of 3 – we honor the life of a member of a team - a team who never, under any circumstances, cut that Shredder any slack.”
As if on cue, the doors opened. Shredder. Down the center aisle he sauntered, his cape and bladed armor as menacing as ever. Though the years since their last meeting had been long, the enmity remained fierce. His ninja senses suddenly tingling, Raphael was acutely aware that if a fight were to break out, it would be the first time the turtles would have to fight their old nemesis without Michaelangelo. The thought made him uneasy. Uneasy…and sad.
Mercifully, the arch villain took a seat in the back next to Bebop’s wife Sheila, and the balloon of tension in the room let out slowly. He always knew how to make an entrance. Raph took a breath.
“And so my friends, it is with great sadness that we must say goodbye to our dear friend Michaelangelo. For my part, I know that whenever I see a pair of nunchucks, or see old photos of that goofy yellow turtle van, I'm gonna think of him and smile.”
Raphael turned to the large open shoebox where his friend lay in state. “Cowabunga, you magnificent bastard. Cowabunga.” He quietly replaced the lid.
They would bury him in the backyard that afternoon.