60 Days On the Mat — Day 28: Happy Birthday, Mark.


December 23rd:  Today Jonathan’s brother, Mark, would have turned 49.  He passed away suddenly on May 1st of this year.

Mark’s passing is why 2012 is year we would all like to put behind us.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I have no idea what it is like to lose a sibling — but I do know it has forever changed my husband.  If I could take any of the pain on for him, I would, but I know I can’t.  This is hard for a woman who likes to fix things.

I went to the mat at noon and when Ellen talked about setting intentions for our practice; I decided to dedicate my practice to Mark.  I have so few memories with him because he lived in Maryland, but in honor of his 49th birthday — I wanted to remember him.

The beginning of practice was hard.  My back had a really difficult pain in it and I almost thought I was going to have to leave, or spend the whole class in child’s pose.  After a few rounds of plank into downward facing dog, my kinks started to loosen.  My shoulders cracked; the mid-back pain began to dissipate.

My mind went back to the morning of May 1st.  It was such an awful memory; watching my entire family unravel in the chaos of sudden death.  You feel hopeless because there is literally nothing you can do.  You cannot fix it.  Grief is so personal and felt in so many stages — and everyone has a unique process.  All you can do is be available and open.

As we went into our first lunge, I thought about the first time I met Mark.  He was like a bolt of lightning.  Literally.  He and Jonathan were so very different; yet alike in important ways.  We spent the day at Six Flags — he wore a fanny pack and goofy shorts.  Jonathan would not have been caught wearing any of it, ever.  I honestly think Jonathan would walk around stark naked first.  He was laughing at his brother’s fanny pack and white sneakers all day.

He did look like a tourist from central casting — but his energy was infectious.

We road every roller-coaster over and over and over.  Jonathan would quit and Mark and I were still going.  Every time Mark and I were alone, he would say something like, “You’re perfect for Jonathan.  When are you getting married?”  He asked every little detail about my life, my childhood, my parents — everything.

As I was in side angle pose staring at the ceiling, I realized that is how Jonathan and Mark were exactly alike.  They could both talk to anyone, and they were inquisitive.  They were both sentimental.  They were both so sweet.  As I’m thinking about all of these things, I start to cry.  The tears just stroll down my cheek.  I don’t even try to wipe them away anymore — I just keep moving and eventually they move through me.

All I really wanted to get Jonathan for Christmas was more time with his brother.  I wished my in-laws did not have to bury their oldest son.  No one should bury a child, whether they are 8 or 48.  My sister-in-law should not be a window at 42.  It’s not the natural order of things.  I was angry that is was the order of things for my family.

I was angry that is was the order of things for so many families in Connecticut this Christmas.

We go to the wall for headstand.  This is always a good pose to reset me.  After the crying and the bouts of anger, I needed resetting.  Headstand is fairly easy for me, so I was able to stay up for a long time.  When I came down we went to the mat for bridge pose.

I went back to the second to last time I saw Mark.  It was in September 2009.  I spent the night with him and my sister-in-law, Debbie.  It was the first and last time I ever spent time completely alone with both of them together.  I will cherish it always.  The three of us talked well into the morning — and I met a side of Mark I had never seen before, and if he were here, I think he would say the same thing about me.  I wish we had had more nights like that one.  It was a really good night.

I push myself up into wheel and I chuckle a little.  Mark and Debbie were much more religious than we are.  When I first met him, he was pretty extreme; but by the time I was at their house in 2009 we were eating Baja Fresh burritos together.  They had loosened.  I wondered what he would think of me bringing back the Wilcox Christmas?  I actually think if he can see anything that is going on from heaven — I like to think he’s getting a kick out of it.

I briefly wonder if he had the same attachment to the clay bell ornaments Jonathan did?

When I got home from yoga the Fast of Tevet 10 popped up on my calendar.  This is a Jewish observance.  I put them all in my calendar just to try to learn them — there are a lot of holidays and observances.

The 10th of Tevet is observed as a day of fasting, mourning and repentance. We refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. More recently, 10 Tevet was chosen to also serve as a “general kaddish day” for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whose day of martyrdom is unknown.

After reading the day of fasting from food and drink sentence, I realize I have already failed to observe properly.  No fretting here — I opted to have a Dr. Pepper and toast Mark alone.  He loved Dr. Pepper.  We did have that in common.

In the evening we went to my in-laws and shared dinner in honor of Mark. One of many things I love about my Wilcox family is that even in mourning and overwhelming sadness, they do live life forward.  I gain a lot of strength from that.  I know not a day goes by when they don’t think about Mark and wish he was still with us, but since he isn’t — the best way to honor him is to remember all the good times.  Tell his stories.

As I stare at a Mark Wilcox original in our hallway, I vow to make sure when we have children they will know everything I can tell them about their Uncle Mark and what a wonderful artist he was.  And most importantly, what a big heart he had.

Leave a Reply