What to say about my brother, Mark?
Well, we aren’t in church, so I can skip the part about telling you all what a Saint he was, because that isn’t the first word that comes to mind when thinking of him.
Everyone who knew Mark saw something different, I’m sure.
Over the course of his life, he was a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle and a friend.
I used to get frustrated with Mark’s inability to be tactful in his dealings with people. Rory pointed out to me that Mark did not HAVE that little switch in his brain that most of us have; the one that tells us to keep it to ourselves or stay silent when we should. Mark was so brutally honest about his opinions and his feelings that he was unable to keep anything to himself. I truly believe he felt that we all NEEDED and WANTED to hear every thought, good or bad, that he had about us. He wouldn’t feel true to himself or those he loved if he wasn’t being “straight-up” 100 % of the time.
One of his frequent complaints to my Mom when he was growing up was “Why am I always in trouble and SHE never is?” And my Mom would reply “She knows when to keep her mouth shut and you don’t.” Mark never learned that skill….ever.
He loved us all, with his whole heart for EXACTLY who we were at EXACTLY the moment he knew us. He took us flaws and imperfections and all and loved us not despite our flaws but loved the flaws just as much. The flaws to Mark were what made us who we were.
One of Mark’s greatest traits was his generosity and his amazing ability to forgive those who had wronged him.
Oh, don’t get me wrong- he had a hit“list”. And he usually referred to it once a year at a family gathering and would ask if any of us had anyone who needed to be added that year.
Mark hated to hear of stories of injustice occurring to regular folks. If any of us shared a story with him of someone we knew being wronged in some way, he was the first one yelling for someone to find his keys as he was going to go “make it right!”
And over the years, I watched him charge blindly into situations, some of them terrifying to me, without a thought for his own safety or personal freedom…he just knew someone needed his help and he knew if he didn’t deal with the situations, no one would.
So, he made some enemies along the way, but there is no one who will ever be able to say that my brother was a coward who sat back and did nothing when someone needed his help.
Mark was the most loyal person I have ever known in my life. That is something our parents taught us from a young age. We could beat the stuffing out of each other daily (and we did as kids), but God help the person who came after either of us if the other one was around.
I will miss that now and also his incredible memory. It just isn’t fair that someone that put that many foreign substances into his body should still have a memory like an elephant!
We spent a lot of time in the last couple of years reminiscing about the past. I think he knew his time was limited and it felt good to relive some of his favourite memories all over again.
He told me, during one of our chats (when he was actually trying to prepare me, saying goodbye and telling me he was so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old & grumpy together as we’d always planned), that he believed he was going to a better place.
He had such a child-like wonder and inquisitiveness about what he would find on the other side…like it was going to be his next great adventure or trip. We had endless discussions regarding spirituality, morality and different belief systems. He wanted to know where he was going and if it would hurt at the end.
When the topic would become too much for me emotionally, he would throw in a joke about how chances were that I would die before him anyway, as I was such a shitty driver and also clumsy, so I could fall down the stairs any time. He was aware of his health problems; I was a ticking time bomb of clumsiness and crappy driving!
I have regrets that during those dark times for him I could not fully go as deep into the depths as he needed me to go. No matter how many times he told me during my life how strong I was, I couldn’t allow my heart or my mind to go to that place where someday he wouldn’t be here. I can barely do it now that it is a reality.
What I learned and take away from his illness, is how much was still left after so much had been taken away.
While he slowly lost physical ability, endurance and strength, he seemed to grow immensely emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It was almost like he had to shed his old skin in order to be prepared with new tools when the time came for him.
Exactly two weeks before he died he was telling Rory they were going to be in the Okanogan in the summer jet skiing, while also making plans for a winter cruise with Cal and I.
I still don’t know if he was trying to remain optimistic for everyone or if he truly thought that if he had things planned, dying would have to wait.
The memories of Mark that seem strongest for me at this time are:
Mark as a typical pain in the ass little brother- always wanting to go everywhere I was going; me being held responsible for his safety. Removing slivers, wood ticks, leeches, bee stings, and trying unsuccessfully to remove his tongue from the clothesline pole the January he was 7 after I told him they tasted like cotton candy. He lost some skin that day but at least it prevented him from telling on me.
The two of us together in a room alone at the funeral home looking down at our Dad when we were younger than my boys are now. The absolute silence and togetherness of that moment and the strength we gave each other.
Waking up in the hospital room in the dark after my first son died to hear quiet crying and looking to my side to see my brother in full Gene Simmons make up with tears running down his face. My Mom had contacted him right in the middle of a hell of a Halloween party with the news, and he had come straight to the hospital to see me. We actually didn’t say a word to each other- he just held my hand and cried for me as I was too sedated and numbed out to cry for myself.
Mark on his wedding day- so handsome, so happy, so in love. I think that may have been one of the best days of his life, all his family and friends in one place celebrating their marriage and also the opportunity for a kick ass party when the formal stuff was over.
Finding $100.00 bills all over my house after he had been to visit one time when the boys were babies.
In their piggy banks,
in the cookie jar,
in my coat pockets,
stashed in my car.
I even found one in a box of tampons in the bathroom. He had obviously noticed that I was struggling financially and knew I was too proud to ask for help. So he helped and just went on his way without us ever talking about it again until I tried to pay some of it back.
He told me to shut up about paying it back.
Said he didn’t need it and he knew I spent it on something far wiser than he would have.
Hugging him close to me days before he died, in the middle of an acute episode of pain, hearing him cry for the first time in twenty-some years. He was hurting, he was afraid and he was finally allowing me to be the strong one again after years of him doing it. It was full circle back to our childhood with me rubbing his back and “shhhshhhing” him, telling him everything was going to be alright, and that I would make everything better. Just “shhhhh.”
I always knew in my heart that my big strong brother would not wither away. I told anyone who would listen that he would go on his own terms and his own timeline, which he did.
Watching as his life slipped away in the hospital that day, surrounded by his nephews and Gary and Jack, I was so very grateful that he had such strong loving hands upon him to ease his transition.
At the moment his spirit left his body, I physically felt it fly straight through me like a shattering burst.
It hit me hard enough to send me to my knees if Cal hadn’t been there to hold me up.
That energy was my brother’s soul impatiently dropping what he didn’t need any more- that tired, failing body and blasting off like a shooting star to whatever is out there- his next great adventure.
He took a huge chunk of me with him that day but also left so much of himself in my heart that will forever be with me until we meet again.
Safe travels, Muck – love you forever – Yaya XO