UD student who died of COVID-19 complications remembered for sense of humor, love of family and friends

Michael Lang had a quirky sense of humor that most people didn’t understand ― not even his parents ― and some may have thought he was “weird.”

But that didn’t bother the former University of Dayton freshman, his older brother, Matthew Lang, said during his funeral Mass at St. Francis Xavier Parish in his hometown of La Grange, Illinois, on Friday. Instead, he lived his life being who he wanted to be and cared less about what others thought of him.

“That’s something we all loved about Michael, and that’s one of the reasons he was such a unique human being,” Matthew Lang said during a eulogy.

Lang, 18, died of COVID-19 complications on Oct. 22 after a lengthy hospital stay.

He was on the UD campus at the beginning of the semester, which started in late August. But he returned home on Sept. 13 to take classes remotely, the university said. It’s not clear when he contracted the virus.

“What happened to you, Michael, is not fair, and I know it’s going to be impossible for me and (our) parents and all of your loved ones to come to grips with that,” Matthew Lang said as he fought back tears. “The fact that I’m now forced to think back on all of our memories that we had is crippling, because I don’t know where to begin. You were my closest friend.”

The university had planned to hold a combination of in-person and remote learning for the fall semester, but a COVID-19 outbreak on campus led school officials to postpone in-person instruction for about three weeks.

Since Aug. 10, UD has reported more than 1,400 new COVID-19 cases. New daily cases peaked at 167 on Aug. 28. The outbreak was tied to a few small student gatherings or some people not following safety protocols, school officials said.

The university identified those clusters and started randomly testing up to 1,000 students per week, the school said.

During the eulogy, Matthew Lang shared several memories of his brother, including their fights about what they were going to watch on Netflix while trying not to wake their parents.

Two of his most treasured moments occurred this summer. The first is when the younger brother went on a camping trip in Indiana without chaperones, saying it was the best night of his life, Matthew Lang said. The other was a “fake prom” after virtual graduation since their class prom was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The younger Lang loved going to their late grandfather’s house and fishing at a nearby lake, and shooting guns and riding on tractors when they were younger. This summer, Michael Lang had the opportunity to return there for what would be his last time with his friends.

“Now Michael and grandpa can watch over us whenever we come up to that lake and help us catch more bass,” Matthew Lang said.

One of Michael Lang’s greatest passions was golf, which his parents, Paul and Kathleen Lang, started teaching their sons when the boys were toddlers. They often played as a family, and the boys routinely “whipped mom and dad, even though their memories failed them sometimes,” said Matthew Lang, drawing laughter.

Michael Lang was an avid bowler who competed on his high school team for three years, Gary Morrill, his former coach at Lyons Township High School, told the Dayton Daily News. During his senior year, Michael Lang did not make the playoffs, but he was there to support his teammates. At the regionals competition, the team wasn’t bowling well, so Michael Lang jumped on the bus after Morrill had given a talk and motivated them.

The team later won regionals.

“That was the growth of a young man who happened to be a part of something bigger than himself, and took charge when others might have just sat and watched,” Morrill said. “That is the story I will pass on to future bowling teams. Michael definitely left his mark for life with me. It really hurts to realize that I will not see him come back and visit from school as most of the bowling alums do. I love my bowling kids and this is so hard.”

Matthew Lang echoed those sentiments. There are so many more memories and adventures he would have loved to share with his young brother, but he feels cheated.

“I don’t know why God thinks that my family and I are supposed to be able to handle this,” he said, sobbing. “But he’s in a better place now. Peace out, Mike.”

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