I share in the grieving for my friend Michael Rankins at the loss of his wife KJ two days ago at the age of 44 after a 3+ year battle with breast cancer and liver disease.  I ‘met’ Michael via my friend Damon Owens, both art collectors who became my two most-prolific clients ever.  But that wasn’t what impressed me the most.  It was their sincere respect, courtesy and consideration.  I have never met truer gentlemen in my life….although I have never actually MET them as correspondence was striclty online and later with a couple of phone calls.  Michael is a true renaissance man with natural ambition to match.   From Michael’s Swanshadow blog:

“So… who is this SwanShadow guy, anyway?

I’m a husband, a father, a writer, a speaker, a voice actor, a professional raconteur, a teacher, a pop culture analyst, a baseball fanatic, a trivia maven, a student of comic book history (especially Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age superhero comics), a collector of original comic art, and a second tenor in a world-class a cappella chorus.

I was also an undefeated champion on Jeopardy!, back before some guy named Ken Jennings made it look easy.

The regulars here call me Uncle Swan. Feel welcome to do likewise.

In fact… just feel welcome!”


And welcome did I always feel reading his posts and having conversations with him.  Another talent he has is a natural wit that never failed to make me howl, and he displayed that charm and comic skill online even as KJ was deteriorating, raising his friends’ spirits when he was often in pain.  A somewhat private man (which is why his wife and daughter are known only by their initials), Michael shared the occasional update to his friends on his blog and his Facebook page, to my perception holding back much of the details and agony he was feeling.  His latest post on his blog is as follows:


Posted July 6, 2010 by swanshadow

Not to get all depressing on you, but I need to tell you something.

At 11:49 p.m. on Monday, July 5, 2010, my wife of 25 years — and my relationship partner of 29 years — departed this life after a lengthy, hard-fought battle with metastatic breast cancer and a progressive, degenerative liver disease the doctors were never able to fully diagnose.

She passed from this world holding my hand, before taking the hand of One greater and stronger than I, who welcomed her into the next.

KJ (as I’ve always referred to her in this space) was 44.

I will write much more about KJ, and our life together, in the days and weeks to come. But right now, my emotions are summarized by the words of this song, written by Tristan Bishop and recorded by one of KJ’s and my favorite a cappella groups, the House Jacks:

And now you’re gone
Somehow you’re gone
You were my midnight
You were my dawn
You were the shoulder that my life leaned on
You were my world
You were my song
You’re everything I could depend on
And now all you are is


I grieve for Michael and the woman he loved and shared a life with. My thoughts, prayers, and love are with him.  Feel free to share your condolences at his blog or Facebook page.