Friday, July 09, 2010

For Mark

We are here today to celebrate the life of Mark Robert Peterson. We are not here today to debate, rehash or reexamine the difficulties, challenges or the personal demons that Mark faced most recently; for that is for each of us to do within the privacy of our own thoughts and in our own way.
In celebrating Mark today we pay respect to the man who was a son, a brother, a husband, a cousin, a nephew, an uncle, a friend and most importantly, a father. All of you are here today because Mark played a role in your life, just as you did in his.
And, in writing this eulogy I’ve asked some of you to share your memories of Mark. I was amazed by how many of the adjectives used by each of you actually overlapped with each other.
Apparently many of us thought that Mark was funny. Mark had a quick wit and an easy charm that never failed him. Mark liked to laugh and he liked to share that laughter with those around him.

My daughter Jenna reminded me of Mark’s unfortunate choice of nickname for her when she was about 5 years old – “pooper”; which she never really understood. Finally, a few later when she called him on it, he replied, “Oh, OK - Peanut” and that became her new nickname. She never understood that one, either but it made them both laugh whenever he said it so she let it slide.
Mark had an easy charm. In fact, “Charm” was Mark’s stock in trade. When he left nursing and tried his hand at medical sales he had to submit a monthly expense report complete with receipts. He was really, really bad at it. Mark’s answer? He became fast friends with the secretaries who didn't mind receiving an envelope of crumpled up receipts from him once a month.
Mark also gave and inspired loyalty. More than a few of you said he was “like a dog” – loyal to the end. Mark would move Heaven and Earth for a friend or loved one. If Mark was your friend then you had a friend for life. This is evident in the fact that so many people have reached out to my family from across the decades to share their love of Mark.
Another word used to describe Mark was compassionate. Mark dedicated his professional career to the needs of the patients under his care. As a registered nurse, Mark found a way to channel the healing hand to others that had sometimes eluded him in his personal life. Martha, Mark’s friend and Supervisor, told me this: “In all of my 32 years in nursing I have never worked with a nurse with whom I have had so much fun. No matter what the day was like, no matter how busy or stressful, he was always there to provide a broad smile and some much needed comic relief. He was an extremely caring and compassionate nurse, excellent at his job, and the patients just loved him. In fact many patients who Mark had cared for in the Cath Lab that have come back to us in the past 3 years have asked for him.” For me, it was nice to see that the loyalty he had always inspired in his friends and family found its way into his professional life, too.
I must point out that some other words used to describe Mark were “stubborn”, “vain” and “egotistical”. From personal experience I cannot disagree. I know that Mark hating nothing more than knowing that he was slowly going bald while I am able to stand here before you with a full head of hair.
Mark was also a fighter, and here is where the word “stubborn” comes into play. My father remembers watching Mark play football against players on the field who were twice his size – and who were afraid of him. Heck, even I was afraid of him because Mark would simply not back down from a fight of any type. Aunt Janice reminded me that a perfect example of this tenacity was the time when young Mark (around age 6 or so) used these blow-up boxing gloves against his cousin Scott – and promptly punched his tooth out. It didn’t matter it was a “game” (and in Aunt Janice’s living room, no less) but Mark did not want to lose. Mark did not do well with “loss” of any type and he took each loss personally.
As all of you know, Mark struggled with the death of our Mom. After she died, and when he needed it most, Mark found a home with Henry and Ilona Mitchell, who helped to put Mark back together again. They have long been the family of his heart. The Mitchell’s did more to ensure young Mark's well-being than any of us were able to do alone. Words cannot express the debt that we owe to them; I can only say that my family will always be grateful to their family.
Mark was all about family; whether that family was his biological one, his adopted families, his family of friends or the families that he himself created with both Rory and Christine. If we can say nothing else about Mark, I think we can all agree that Mark was a devoted father to his children. Mark loved each of them unconditionally and eternally. When he was able to do so, no one was more attentive or loving of his children than Mark was. In fact, the best of times in Mark's adult life were spent in the company of Jack, Caroline, Jake and Matty.
Mark had his faults; we all do. However, when all is said and done, Mark tried his very best to do what was right for his family and those who loved him. And family is why we are all here today, after all – isn’t it? Look at us. We come from all different backgrounds and in all shapes and sizes. Mark, Barbara and I were all adopted by Joan and Cliff; there is not a drop of blood shared between us. As the adopted son of two wonderful parents I can tell you from first-hand experience that blood does not make a family; Love makes a family. In his own way, Mark loved all of us and we have been brought here together today because of our love for Mark. We are a family. We are the family that Mark created. And we are his legacy.
Dr. Samuel Johnson said, “It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives.” As I stand here before you today, I see that Mark Peterson - who was at once a son, a brother, a husband, a cousin, a nephew, an uncle, a friend and most importantly, a father, lived very, very well, indeed. As I said earlier, we are Mark’s legacy. Let us be worthy of this honor.