Leadership Insights From Mike Pitcher

Yes, Superman Dies

Yes, Superman died.

You see, Superman was my older brother, Danny Francis Pitcher.  And yes, it is Danny, not Daniel. He valiantly battled terminal cancer in the form of a glioblastoma brain tumor. My brother passed away peacefully a few months ago with his wife and son at his side in Colorado Springs.

He was my Superman.

There were three Pitcher boys. Robbie, the artist, taken at 51 with multiple myeloma. Danny, the fun-loving, gregarious musician, and me, the businessman. When Danny was diagnosed in 2017, we launched what I called the Power of Positivity tour, with T-shirts, affirmations, and constant messages of the power of the human spirit. While a stage 4 glioblastoma diagnosis tends to carry an 18-month life expectancy (for a 70-year-old man), Superman fought for almost three years. His spirit was both inspiring and indefatigable.

My brother was every doctor's favorite patient. When asked about how he was feeling, it was always the same response, "I feel great." He laughed and told jokes to doctors and nurses and always thanked them for their "excellent care." He knew them on a first-name basis.

His signature attire was tie-dye: tie-dye t-shirts, tie-dye socks, and even some tie-dye underwear. He wore a tie-dye silk tie to one of my daughter's weddings. Decades ago, he committed to wearing tie-dye every single day until there was no more war in the world. He died wearing tie-dye. There was no big "S" on his chest, simply tie-dye.

My big brother was always there for me. He helped me through a painful divorce. He helped with our aging parents when our mom had a stroke, and my dad had Alzheimer's, and later passing from a return of cancer. He talked me through career decisions. Big, smart, lovable, and larger than life.

I was there the day his doctor discussed moving from active treatment of the brain tumor to in-home hospice care. She explained the difference and the fact that there was nothing else medically she could do for him.

She asked, "how do you want to go?". Actually, she was asking him would you prefer to die in a hospital or at your home. Danny responded, "I want to go in style." The doctor was stunned, and she stated, "I've asked that question hundreds of times, and no one has ever said, "in style." Superman said, "I want to go out in style with my family around me."

The next day the doctor came in for his discharge wearing a tie-dye dress, and we all cried together as we said our goodbyes. As he was placed on the stretcher for an ambulance ride to his home, he held the doctor's hand and said, "don't cry. You kicked ass and did everything you could." Superman always thought of other people's feelings first.

He fought the brain tumor for six additional months, six months of COVID.  He missed out on seeing hundreds of his friends, and yes, I do mean hundreds.

You see, I am the businessman, the successful sales guy, then the Vice President, and later the President and CEO. Superman was really proud of his little brother, and several times when I visited, he would introduce me as "my little brother, the millionaire." There was never any jealousy in his tone or comments, simply pride.  

He never once realized that I was the one that was envious of his riches, as Danny was the richest man that I have ever met. His life was rich with hundreds of people that loved him deeply and that would be at his side through every step of this journey.

When he could no longer walk, his friends that shared breakfast every Tuesday for 30 years would pick him up and carry him into a restaurant. When it was difficult for his wife (his true soulmate) to get him to treatment, multiple friends would offer to get him where he needed to be. When it was announced that he was going to do a return engagement with his band, Danny and the Fried Shrimp, hundreds of people packed a local bar for his last gig. He closed the night with a new tune, "Fuck Cancer," and yes, people cried and cheered.

His superhero strength was JOY. He brought joy and laughter to any place that was blessed with his presence. He never met a stranger. Within minutes of being on a plane, at a party, or simply sitting in a restaurant, Superman knew your name, where you were from, what you did for a living and where you were going. Along that road, you were always a little happier because you got to spend a few minutes laughing with Superman. He made the most of every trip around the sun.

Why would I post this? Why would I write about something so personal?  Because Superman died. We all die. But in these strange times of COVID, political unrest, and economic uncertainty, there is a constant: Family.  

Life offers no guarantee that you will see the sun come up tomorrow. There is no certainty that later this month, you will gather around a dinner table. Let's love on each other. Let's share how we feel. Let's leave nothing unsaid and no unfinished business.

During my many visits to see my brother over the last three years, we enjoyed many deep and meaningful conversations. Nothing was left unsaid, and we knew that we loved each other deeply. Make sure everyone in your family knows how much you love them. Life is an amazing gift. Live it. Learn from it. Love throughout it.

Today is Superman's birthday.  I miss him.

Mike Pitcher

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