My older brother, Mark, passed away on March 1, 2014 following complications with a kidney transplant. I wanted to write something to read at his funeral as a tribute to him and for me as a way to say goodbye.
A Tribute to My Brother
My earliest memory of my big brother, Mark, is when he came to live with us in Florida after his car accident. I can vividly see him in his security guard uniform. He and I were driving down Hillsborough Avenue in his big blue van. I remember the weight of the heavy metal door as I climbed into the van. I remember sitting up high in the front seat. The windows down. My brother driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand out the window resting on the side view mirror. I can see his face so clearly and how he looked at me with such joy and contentment. I felt so safe and so wanted as I went on an adventure with my big strong brother in his tank of a van.
You see I’ve come to realize that Mark possessed one of the most extraordinary gifts ever……..the ability to make people feel his love and feel wanted.
Not only was this trait so innate to the core of who he is as a person but it was unconditionally authentic. His natural ability to authentically love others and make them feel unconditionally wanted is such a rare and magical gift.
Whether I was a little girl sitting on the beanbag in his room playing with his coins, whether I was 15 years old crying to him about my first boyfriend, or whether I was an adult asking him for advice he always made me feel loved and like he genuinely wanted us to share these moments together no matter how mundane or how significant.
As a young girl growing up and now as a woman raising a child of my own, I realize how influential the gift of expressing and receiving unconditional love truly is. My big brother Mark and my Dad taught me that.
Watching how Mark treated his wife Susan, his daughter Sarah Ann, and feeling that love myself. How thoughtful and expressive Mark was with his love showed me growing up and even now how a man should love a woman. These lessons and gifts that Mark gave to me I hope to give my son and future child.
Over the past 20 years, I have not only watched Mark’s love, but I have also watched his struggles, both medically and emotionally. I have bared witness as the medical concerns slowly took from him. With each growing medical struggle another piece of him was taken.
Each time it took away a piece of his energy, his patience, his tolerance, his physical movement, and his ability to enjoy his hobbies. Piece by piece it began to steal his joy. To steal the sparkle in his eyes.
But NEVER did it steal his love for others. That’s the strength of my brother’s love. It is and always will be so pure and resilient that no illness, not even death can take t away.
His joy of being with his family will remain steadfast and timeless. So when you think of Mark I hope his authentic love will bring you peace as it does me.
So, when I catch myself in the grief of not being able to hear his voice or see his face. Or when that feeling of emptiness makes me breathless and creates a pit in my stomach, I will choice to imagine Mark how he is now.
For me, that image is of him surrounded by those he loves. When I imagine Mark now, I see him as strong and content just as my first memory of us driving in his van. He is embraced by Grandma DeNome and he can feel her soft cheek upon his face. He is talking coins and playing cards with Grandpa DeNome. He is visiting with Dolly and Uncle Frank. All of the pieces that were taken from him are returned. HE IS WHOLE. The sparkle in his eyes is bright and all of his joy is overflowing. This is MY truth for Mark and it brings me warmth in my stomach and a playful smile to my face.