You said “fingers”; Michael Graham said “phalanges.”
He was a 13-year-old boy with a passion for science and math who constantly shared facts about the human body and solar system. Each year he was placed in honors math classes, and recently started solving algebra problems. At one point, he discussed with his mother the possibility of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when he graduated from high school.
Until he recently grew tall and excelled in basketball, Michael’s favorite sport was football. He started playing flag football while in kindergarten, then by third grade moved on to tackle football. Standing at 5 feet, 8 inches, he mastered his basketball skills. Earlier this year, he scored 20 points during one game.
“He was so proud about how big he was getting,” his mother, Sheila Graham, told msnbc.com.
To demonstrate his height, he often jumped to touch the ceiling at home or the door frame at a supermarket. He teased his mother for only standing at 5 feet, 3 inches. For Christmas last year his parents bought him snowboarding equipment and a mountain pass for the school’s ski and snowboard club. An athletic teenager in all sports, he bowled in a league each weekend. His best score was 258, just 42 points short of a perfect game.
Michael lived with his mother in Carmel, N.Y., and stayed for a few days each week with his father in nearby Brewster, where he attended Henry H. Wells Middle School. When new students moved to the area, Michael helped ease their transition by welcoming them into his group of friends or walking them to class. His mother attributed Michael’s maturity, friendliness, and positive attitude to his 7-year commitment to Taekwondo, which combines self-defense and combat techniques with exercise.
“I think he learned a lot about kindness and how to treat people…so he was the kid who would go out of his way,” Graham said. “He didn’t like to see other people being mean to people. …He didn’t like to see anybody alone or in pain.”
Michael died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his father’s house in Brewster on Jan. 14.