Mary Land — no relation to Mark Land — opens her son’s Facebook page. She scrolls past the pictures of Mike with his high school friends the last Christmas he was alive and past the posts that read, “Mike, we miss you.”
She stops at one in particular, an email she received three years after Mike’s death. It’s from a woman named Laura who worked with Mike at the Bloomington Bagel Company.
A few days before his death, Mike and Laura rode bikes to Target to buy Valentine’s Day candy for Mike’s boyfriend.
“When he checked out,” Laura remembered on the post, “the cashier was clearly having a terrible day, and Mike joked with her and charmed her until he had her laughing and smiling. I stood and stared. When he finished checking out, he looked at me and said ‘Why are you staring at me?’ ... I feel like it’s such a perfect example of what an incredible person Mike was.”
That was typical Mike, his mother said.
“He was everybody’s best friend.”
Mike was 23 when he drank himself to death in February of 2010. He was battling depression and secretly turned to alcohol, Mary Land said. When his body was found, his room was covered in empty vodka bottles.
“At first I couldn’t call it suicide,” Mary Land said. “But that’s what it was.”
“Even if it wasn’t intentional,” said Tom Land, Mike’s father.
On Mike’s death certificate, the coroner checked accident.
Even now, more than four years later, his parents run into people who don’t know what happened.
“I’ll go out of my way to not have to explain if I can,” Mary said. “But usually they say ‘Well what about Mike?’”