Mike Sloan passed peacefully at 1:25 pm EST via MAID. He asked me (@bobsmith55) to let you know. I was with him at the end, holding his hand. He thanks you all for your support on this journey. His last words were, “Tell Chub I love him.” – 1:29 PM · Jan 20, 2020
Mike Sloan has left us.
It was a moment we all knew was coming. Sure, we occasionally tried to convince ourselves that his remarkable journey would continue for many more months. Years, even.
He had lived well past the four-to-six-month window that typically accompanies his stage four anaplastic thyroid cancer. In fact, the inscription on his memorial boulder in Lakefield, Ont., listed his timeline as 1969 to 2019. As he wrote in an Aug. 13 tweet, “I just can’t get anything right. My boulder is done before I am!”
Then again, what’s 20 days among friends?
It was Sloan’s self-deprecating humour and extraordinary ability to remain positive that endeared him to countless people. No matter how much darkness he faced, he refused to ignore the powerful light that guided him to see the good in people from all walks of life.
I, like many others, met Sloan on Twitter. He was prolific on social media, focusing on issues that gave him passion and purpose. They included poverty, homelessness, mental health and, unsurprisingly, politics.
Although he bantered with some people online, I never witnessed it. His tweets were intelligent, thoughtful, amusing and well-constructed. From the first day I communicated with him to the moment he drew his final breath, this perception never changed.
According to former London Free Press reporter Chip Martin’s in-depth September 2017 profile, Sloan faced enormous hurdles. Sexual abuse by his own father, post-traumatic disorder, an inability to work and decades of survival on nothing more than a small pension.
Nevertheless, Martin poignantly described him as the “Sloan Ranger” because of “his passion for truth and justice and for speaking up for those who cannot.”
That was one facet of Sloan’s persona. The unexpected diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer last year unearthed something new and different.
The sadness and anger he had experienced was shelved, for the most part. He decided to enjoy the remainder of his life on this mortal coil and became something of a Twitter sage – or social media soothsayer, if you like.
Sloan was an open book with every pertinent detail of his remarkable journey. The highs and lows, the positive and negative experiences – and the pure joy he felt from each additional day on God’s green earth.
He didn’t fear dying. Rather, he accepted his fate with an eloquence and bravery that many would hope to achieve – but few will ever attain.
He also used humour as a source of wit and wisdom. Some memorable tweets this month included:
- “If global warming is real, why is my apartment so cold??”
- “London watering hole chatter: ‘Mike hasn’t been around in five days, check the obits.’”
- “I don’t like mixing Rx drugs and alcohol, but, what is it going to do. Kill me?”
- “Having nurses/nurses aides here 24/7 really does call for an ironclad farting policy.”
Many of us in the public eye noticed.
I wrote about him last June, followed by Martin’s second profile several days later. The Telegram’s Juanita Mercer wrote about his planned trip to Newfoundland – which, due to health complications, never materialized. Charles Adler, Arlene Dickinson, Lorrie Goldstein, Roy Green, Warren Kinsella, Jason Lietaer, Rick Mercer, John Moore, Alex Pierson, Evan Solomon, Mark Towhey and others followed his exploits. CBC, CTV, Global and Citytv interviewed him, and he wrote an opinion piece for Sun News.
There were certain things he couldn’t fix, including the strained relationship with his immediate family.
In a remarkable twist, Twitter adopted him as its favourite son. The online community’s love and friendship that filled a void in his life was something he never quite understood but fundamentally appreciated.
The fate of his beloved cat, Chub, was also a constant source of concern. Even though a new home had been found for his feline companion with a neighbour several months ago, he still worried about his future.
Sloan’s final words were for his four-legged friend, who stood by him through thick and thin, good and bad, and happiness and sorrow. Poetic justice had indeed been served.
We’ll miss you, Mike. But we’ll never forget your grace, charm and humanity – and the personal journey you allowed us to accompany you on.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.