Family and friends mourn the death of Michael Tufts

Oct 6, 2014

Patricia and Robert Tufts, Michael Tufts’ parents, did copious research online after people going out of a coma after so many years. “We always had hope, Patty more than me. Michael’s recovery was up to him and God,” Robert says on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 in Columbia, Missouri.
Credit Maria Di Bianca / KBIA

Michael Tufts served as a police officer at the New Bloomfield Police Department for four months before he was hit by a drunk driver in Columbia, Mo. He spent the next 20 months in a coma before dying on Aug. 23, 2014.

While Michael’s death was tragic, his legacy lives on through his family and friends. The Michael Tufts Memorial Fund is a way for his family to raise awareness about drinking and driving.

His mother, Patricia Tufts, still feels Michael’s absence. She said she never thought this would happen to her and nobody can expect this kind of tragedy to happen in their lives until they are forced to deal with it.

“I look back now and I’m realizing some of the things that parents want for their kids is, besides getting a job and an education, you always hope they have friends,” she said.

For almost two years while Michael was in a coma, Patricia said she felt the overwhelming love for her son from the community.

“Not only did Michael have a short period of his life getting a job he loved, but he had friends. Lots of friends, and to me, I feel at peace with that,” Tufts said.

Michael loved to come by his sister’s house. He helped her move in and played with his nieces and nephews often. Sometimes he would show up unannounced with popcorn and movies and would become one of the kids again.  

“He really cared about people, he cared about the underdog. Michael loved his nieces and nephews. He was a big kid at heart,” said Patricia.

Michael spent 20 months in a partially vegetative state. His family spent that time hoping for a recovery.

We always had hope,” said his father, Robert. “Patty more than me.”

Robert took photos of Michael in the hospital every day during those 20 months from the moment he was admitted until the day of his death. There were days when Michael was not taking the treatments well, but there were also more hopeful days.

Patricia and Robert would try to engage Michael during his coma. Whether it was making noises, relaxing him by massaging his arms and legs or just speaking to him, Michael would sometimes respond.

“Anytime he would open his eyes, it was like a miracle for us,” Robert said.

Even after 20 months, the Tufts still had hope for their son to survive.  Yet thinking about the next step in Michael’s recovery was a lingering thought in the family’s minds.

“Instead of having us make a decision because none of us wanted Michael to suffer, we had talked about how much longer,” said Patricia. “Michael finally said at the end ‘I’m going home,’ and he did it his way.”

Three weeks after Michael’s death, Patricia said she has felt her son in spirit. Michael’s favorite color was orange, and Patricia feels as though Michael is sending her a message whenever she sees the color.

“I drove home the other day. There was the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in the last 20 months,” she said. “The sun was setting, it was a bright-brilliant orange, there was a grey cloud across the whole horizon. But with the orange rays that shined from the sun. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Hey Michael, what a perfect sunset for you.’”