Out of a Milwaukee Police Band Concert comes a story of love, loss, memories and butterflies. The event was dedicated to fallen officer Michael Michalski.
It was a bittersweet occasion. For the first time in years, Michalski, a beloved volunteer, was absent. He lost his life July 25th of last year trying to arrest an armed felon.
"It was just awful! it was horrible, I cant even explain how bad it was. It was the worst thing I've ever endured in my life, and having to watch my sister in so much pain... I cannot say enough how much that hurt me!" said Karen Dubis, Michalski's sister-in-law.
Dubis is a retired Milwaukee Police Lieutenant and has been conducting the band since 1999. Michalski's 19-year-old son John sings in the choir. Music is a Michalski family tradition.
"I know on my phone I have several songs my dad and I would listen to in the car, or his truck or whenever he picked me up from school. I listen to them because that's memory of me and my dad," shares John Michalski.
During the February 9th concert, the band played Officer Michalski and his wife's favorite song as a tribute. On the screen above the band, images of their fallen hero were displayed.
After the moving salute, John MIchalski took to the stage to sing.
"Just him being there was what made me comfortable, made me feel grateful for life, made me just happy that I had a dad," recalls John.
Assistant Chief Steven Caballaro shared a poignant story with the audience. He talked about a butterfly that landed on several officers the day of Michalski's funeral.
"It was a blue butterfly...talk about symbolizing the thin blue line. God works in mysterious ways," said Caballaro. Pictures of that butterfly made the rounds on social media. The image touched thousands.
Dubis admits, "For the first time in my life I did something I said I would never do. I have a blue butterfly tattooed on my shoulder. That's my way of saying Mike will always be with me."
So what would officer Michalski say about all of the tributes to his life? John Michalski laughs and says, "He'd say 'come on guys, really? This is a little much.' He'd say the same thing about the funeral too. He'd be like 'guys, chill out.'"
Memories of Officer MIchalski leave family members with a smile.
"He never cared what he put on, he would be wearing a plaid shirt with plaid pants. "We'd be like Mike, could we switch you up a little bit? You know, put a solid somewhere on you?"
John will never forget the last words he exchanged with his father.
"I'm glad that on the last day I saw my dad, and the last conversation I had, we both ended on 'I love you.'"
John believes we should all remember to let our loved ones know how we feel.
"Tell them you love them, you appreciate them show them that you care about them, because you don't know when they might be gone and out of your life forever."
As the family works to heal through music and memories, they know the voice of a great man will never be silenced.
Dubis gets emotional when she says, "We'll miss him forever. As we go through life we will be remembering the memory, and will always keep that in our hearts. We will never ever forget Mike."