I was honored to read author Michael Gershe‘s book The Magic of Life: A Son’s Story of Hope After Tragedy, Grief and a Speedo. Michael is a professional speaker and comedian who has been presenting an impaired driving prevention program for over 20 years to schools, colleges, military bases and courts. As a survivor of a drunk driving crash that killed his mother and nearly himself as an infant, he has dedicated his life in trying to prevent other families from going through the same tragedy. Michael’s program combines comedy, audience participation and his own story for a powerful and inspirational message. In 2015, he founded The Magic of Life, Inc a non-profit organization that helps fulfill his mission in educating others about the dangers of impaired driving. Proceeds from his book will go towards The Magic of Life Foundation.
Hit by a drunk driver that killed his mother and nearly himself as an infant, Michael Gershe founded The Magic of Life. Despite breaking almost all of his bones in the car crash, he went on to become a collegiate swimmer, comedian, college educator, author and professional speaker. Michael dedicated his life to preventing impaired driving so others don’t go through the same pain. His book, The Magic of Life details how he overcame tragedy, grief and depression as a child through adulthood. Even though he lost his mother, he and his brother were raised by his father and an incredible Jamaican woman who stepped in to fill the mother’s role. Michael shares his life about loss and how he finally addressed his grief in his life with a blend of humor and inspiration that anyone who has gone through grief can relate to.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading Michael Gershe’s book, The Magic of Life. The subtitle, A Son’s Story of Hope after Tragedy, Grief and a Speedo was enough to peak my interest. The book starts by painting a picture of a loving family starting their lives in rural New York. A family video shows Michael’s mother holding him lovingly as relatives gather around. Unfortunately, this is one of the few memories Michael has with his mother before his family’s world would tragically change forever.
Early in the book, Michael recounts that fateful day when his family’s car is hit by a drunk driver killing his beautiful mother and leaving him with almost every bone broken. He writes that his father described his body being like “Jell-O”. In fact, the doctors who treated Michael had no idea how he had survived.
After the accident, Michael endured years of grueling therapy. Caregiving and supporting his family became overwhelming for Michael’s father. Enter Dolly, a Jamaican-born guardian-angel, who becomes part of the Gershe family as Michael’s caregiver. Dolly’s caring, support, dedication and love for Michael, his brother and their father changes the direction of their lives in ways they never thought possible. Michael writes, “Dolly supported our dreams, defended us, and most of all, loved us as her own children.” As a reader, you can feel the love for Dolly permeating through every single page of the book. It’s no wonder she became a forever part of their family!
Now if you were wondering about how the “speedo” fits into the book, it is reflective of Michael’s love of swimming. Not only did swimming help Michael’s body to stay strong, but it taught him how to set goals. This is how he learned to be responsible for his actions. Setting goals at such an early age has been instrumental in helping Michael achieve the successes he has experienced throughout his life.
In the aftermath of his mother’s death, Michael also experiences the deaths of his grandparents, best friend, father and aunt. These losses and the longing to meet the mother he never knew almost leads him to suicide. Twice. This admission is difficult for anyone, but Michael puts it out there with dignity, grace, and extreme candor. Not understanding his feelings associated with these losses, caused Michael to build a wall around himself and his heart. Michael writes later in the book, it wasn’t until after his father’s and aunt’s deaths, that he was able to start tackling this wall piece by piece. Unfortunately, he had to hit rock bottom first.
The Magic of Life is a book for anyone who has suffered any type of loss in their life, is feeling stuck or who may have lost hope. It is a loving tribute to how the bond between a mother and son transcends death. It is also about perseverance, forgiveness, triumph over tragedy, and most importantly finding hope even in the darkest moments. Michael’s journey is not only inspiring, but is filled with honest, humorous, powerful and heart-wrenching moments that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Was his life easy? No way. But somehow despite all the challenges and difficulties, Michael Gershe was able to use his enduring determination and sense of humor to find the magic in life again.
Some of the quotes from The Magic of Life include:
– “Somewhere along the four years, I discovered I never wanted to go through what my father went through in losing my mother. I had built a wall around me to protect me from hurt like that. I hid my depression when I stopped swimming and also hid my thoughts about my mother’s death deep within me. All that pain was stuffed into a corner, like my father had done. People knew me as the “happy go lucky” guy who could make them laugh, and that is the image I portrayed. But that was just the outside. Inside, no one knew I was a tortured soul.” (Page 149)
– “My “enthusiasm” for life was waning. Things were going fairly well, but for some reason, I started to think about my mother. I remembered what someone told me when my grandmother died; that one day I would see her again. But hits time, I wanted to meet my mother. This led into a slight depression. I thought about survivor’s guilt and my own existence again. I portrayed an “everything is fine” appearance, but mentally something was wrong. The pain washed over me. It was overwhelming…I had no painkillers for this pain. It had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my soul.” (Page 168)
– “The irony of being a comedian is that I’ve spent my life making people laugh, but the one laugh I never heard was my mother’s.” (Page 246)
– “Dolly has always been so strong for everyone else, but it was my turn to be her anchor through this difficult time. If I could get her to laugh, then helped reduce a little the stress for her. Her worry and concern were insurmountable.” (Page 286)
– “Throughout my life I have been good at a few things, like making people laugh, and pushing people away, especially in relationships. I didn’t have the necessary tools to cope and thought it would be better to be hated by breaking up with someone, rather than being mourned if I did something stupid. I had built up such a huge wall around me. I was driving people away that cared about me. I am not saying it was right, but it was what I did. No one was getting over this wall. No one!” (Page 332)
– “Initially sad, but ultimately an uplifting story told with passion, humility, and a fair amount of lightness. Despite a heart-wrenching family tragedy that touched many lives, the author picked himself up, and decided to share his life with others, with the hope and intention of saving people from the devastation and pain caused by (inconsiderate and negligent) people who risk everything getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when they shouldn’t. A must read for new drivers, individuals who contemplate driving even though they might be “only slightly buzzed,” and/or those who have already made the ultimate mistake with dire consequences. The Magic of Life is an organization that deserves everyone’s support in order to get the message out before it’s too late.” AMAZON REVIEW
– “This book tackles the losses of family and friends in a brutally honest manner that is both powerful and at times overwhelming. There are a lot of things that can be taken away from this book. What I took away was that in the darkest days and worse times, sharing these experiences with others really gives you hope that things will change and can get better. Well done!” AMAZON REVIEW
HOW TO ORDER
The Magic of Life is available on Amazon and on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. If you’d like an autographed copy sent to you directly, please email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Proceeds from the book will go towards The Magic of Life Foundation.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!