Coffee with Mark.

It's always sad when someone you know passes away. Especially when it happens out of the blue and there's been no time to warm up to the idea of saying goodbye.

This past weekend I went to a funeral service for a friend I met while in college. His name was Mark and he was a goofy, awkward guy who always had a sneaky smile on his face, like he'd just played a practical joke on you, but didn't want you to find out. Kind of the way you'd picture your best friend's pesky little brother. There was more than one occasion when I found myself huffing and puffing for him to leave me alone while I attempted to finish my homework. He was funny as shit- always reliable to say something awfully inappropriate- and I remember having lots of laughs with him.

We worked together in the campus admissions office for two years. Over that period of time I got to see what a sensitive, caring, thoughtful, sincere person he was. And I don't mean that in a blinded, superficial way- like when a girl is talking about her boyfriend who's clearly a jerk, but she insists that he's really a "sweetheart." I mean it, genuinely. Mark was THE "nice guy" and everyone who met him could see it plain as day.

He was always doing really thoughtful things, like coming into work with baked goods that his mom had made. I remember one time in particular, he brought in two loaves of banana bread. One, he gave to the emplyees in our department. The other, he gave me personally, so my roommates and I could have plenty for ourselves.

And when it came to working, Mark gave it his all. Even though we were student employees, he took his responsibilities seriously. My friend Melissa worked down the hall in a different department, and she even admitted to bringing the "difficult" parents to Mark because he had a calming and reassuring way about him. There was one dad in particular who was a real asshole... Mark never even batted an eyelash at him.

After I graduated, I didn't see Mark anymore. We never ran into each other around town and it had literally been years since we'd been in contact. Randomly, two months ago, Melissa ran into him at Target. They caught each other up on stories related to people they both knew, myself included. That same day, I found a message in my Facebook inbox. The message said "Ahhhhhhhh-HAAAAAA! Found you." Of course. It was Mark. We messaged a few times back back and forth. And although my initial reaction to seeing the message was "Pesky Mark again..." it was actually a really nice surprise to hear from him. I had always remembered him as being a funny, sweet guy, so it was nice to hear the same goofiness come across in his emails. Upon finding out that I was unemployed, he quickly sent me advice on how to find paying blog gigs. He had also caught himself up on my personal blogging efforts and said that he was happy to hear about my "new butt."

In one of those messages, he mentioned the possibility of meeting with him and his girlfriend to catch up over coffee.  I dismissed it, thinking it was just polite smalltalk. Looking back, I wish I would have taken him up on his offer.

His service this weekend was a somber event and any attempts I would have made to hide my sadness would have been pointless. I imagine that after crying for the past hour, my puffy face and melted makeup looked like a cross between Jocelyn Wildenstein and Joker Cat. Soon enough, the time had come for guests to give their condolences to his family. I didn't really know what to say, as I was sure that pretty much every other person there meant more to his family than I did. When it got to my turn, I gave my condolences, introduced myself, and told them how I knew Mark. His parents seemed genuinely happy and even said "Oh! I know you!" when they learned who I was. They said that Mark would have been very happy to have me there. I don't know if that was just the polite thing to say in a situation like that, but it made me feel good. I was glad that I was able to go to this event for Mark and I was glad that I had the chance to meet his family.


I'm sharing this story not to get sympathy, but as a reminder of how fragile, and sometimes unfair, life is. And knowing that Mark was a fan of writing and storytelling, I think he would truly appreciate this post.

I know he is in a better place and I look forward to the day when we'll get another chance to catch up over coffee.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and am glad you can take comfort in such pleasant memories.

Unfortunately, I'm hearing of these untimely losses at an alarmingly frequent rate these past few weeks. It puts things into perspective. Hugs to you XO

Anonymous said...

Ugg heart breaking and I have tears in my eyes now... I am so sorry for your loss, and the world's loss of what sounded like a really amazing person.

Sara said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and Mark's family and friends. This is a beautifully written post and I'm sure he would have loved it. Thinking of you...

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for bringing tissue to the memorial and offering more as mine turned into tic tac sized rags. I heard Phil Collins on the radio yesterday and thought about the letter that Mark's twin brother read. In expressing his feelings about his childhood friend that had succumbed from a lifelong illness he used words to help process his charged emotion and grief. It is remarkable how much detail he remembered from their childhood (and later encounters) i.e. Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel albums that were in his bedroom. Mark rarely made direct eye contact, however he was a keen and thoughtful observer with a photographic memory. He loved you as a friend and a person. I think your daft humor was very much aligned with his. I liked what you chuckled at during the photo montage. The music that Mark played on the guitar was sad and cinematic. It was hauntingly perfect with the happy photos of his childhood and slightly distant photos in his older years. The funeral director made a comment about him perhaps playing a happier tune now. I think not, unless it is a happy song with sad lyrics or happy lyrics with a sad melody. I know Mark is somehow smiling at the fact that he is featured in your blog.

Richard Razo said...

Sad news. I worked with Mark too at CSUCI Financial Aid and I remember him being funny and a good worker. Nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Losing a friend at a young age is terribly difficult! My thoughts are with you during this sad time! Hugs to you, my friend!

Jenny said...

What a beautiful tribute to my brother. He would be SO proud of you and this blog. You are an amazing writer, Thanks for capturing the essence of Mark in such an honest way. It was really great meeting you. And no, what my parents said was not just a nice thing to say. He really did tell us about you and stories about working with you. I remembered your name after all these years.

Carolynne said...

Life really is too short. We need to enjoy every minute of it and take advantage of everything we can.

glutton4punishment said...

Thanks for writing this, Sasha. It was a beautiful post and you clearly knew my brother well. I'm only sorry I just now got around to reading it. Please keep in touch. - Chris

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