At Mark’s funeral, a church friend recalled his wisdom. The friend, who admitted to have complained about something trivial at the time, heard Mark say, “Oh, it’s not so bad. We’re just passing through this life!”
My brother passed through this life and left his mark.
Emerging Young Man
Father and Son, riding bikes from Rheems, Pennsylvania to Gettysburg, a distance of nearly fifty miles
Dad’s Helper at the Shop
Helping Hands: with Mother Ruth and Aunt Ruthie – moving house, standing by, walking dog.
The Memorial Service
The Most Surprising Thing . . .
I had no idea how loved Mark was. The revelation of my narrow vision began in hospice where his friends from Bossler Mennonite Church and Gus’ Restaurant came to visit. Their visits were not token encounters. They came again and again: pastor Fred and wife Linda, folks from his small group at church, other members. Many visited repeatedly: faithful friends who sat with Mark around the counter in the coffee shop area of Gus’ café/restaurant. They sometimes brought food for him (grits and special water he liked) and soup or barbequed chicken for us, the family who held vigil. They told us, “He always had a smile; he fit in here.” “He sold me his truck. It still works good.” “I got his stamp collection!”
Of course, I loved my brother Mark too, but in recent years I had concentrated on helping him manage his finances, find an apartment, get new glasses, dentures. Like Anne Lamott expresses in Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, recently I saw him from a different perspective, through other people’s eyes:
She started to learn after all these years that her child was, a strange and friendly man to many people. The more that townspeople share their details with her, the better she could see him reflected in their face, in the great insect eye of the town that saw her son from so many directions. He went from being her loved but ruined child, a loner, to also a childhood comrade remembered from the past, a friend to an old lady . . . (69 – 70)
The Hardest Thing . . .
. . . is losing my brother, my only brother and twelve years younger than I. He was our family’s little buddy, my “practice” baby.
Losing a sibling is unique and it’s complicated, especially if the loss interrupts the normal sequence of birth order. Here is an article that addresses the issue of sibling loss.
The Conundrum of Grief
Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day at numbness, silence.
~ Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace
Have you lost a loved one recently? Perhaps a sibling? Someone younger than you?
What tips can you offer for coping with loss?
If you have memories of Mark, do share them here.
Good morning, Marian. What tender, bittersweet, and touching tribute to your brother. Wonderful photos! He was such a cute little boy. I also really like Cliff’s stool art.
I think you’re realization about your brother as someone apart from being your baby brother is something we often experience with people we know–family or even friends sometimes.
I think the Anne Lamott quote on grief is a perfect description.
Thank, Merril, for kicking off the conversation here ~ and noticing all of this. Yes, seeing my brother through others’ eyes was enlightening to say the least.
What a beautiful tribute to Mark, Marian. Thankfully, I haven’t lost a loved one recently, but my coworker lost her 15 year old son from a sepsis infection. Each day I’m amazed by her strength.
Losing a child would have to be the hardest thing ever. My heart goes out to your coworker. Perhaps she finds strength from her faith, and from a caring friend like you. Thanks, Jill.
A lovely remembrance, Marian. You asked about “coping” with loss; with grief. My immediate thought is that one doesn’t “cope.” One embraces grief, welcomes it as a part of life, in this moment. Your analogy with the lazy Susan is a good one, and new to me. I use ocean tides; grief ebbs and flows. Make no apologies for your grief, Marian. And know you are not alone. Hugs to you.
I think I bounce between coping and embracing. Right now I’m in the embracing frame of mind because Mark has remembered so fondly. I also think of ocean tides is a good analogy. I felt the ebb and flow first with my parents, then Aunt Ruthie, and now with my brother. By the way, the lazy Susan idea is Anne Lamott’s, not mine although I wish it were.
Thanks for the hugs, Janet. I’ll take them! 🙂
Oh Marian. Thank you for posting this tribute to Mark. Great photos (and that lovely drawing). May God continue to comfort your family.
My sister-in-law lost her mother and sister last year. It has been a tough time. But we’re walking through it day by day.
Yes, grief-sharing is a family affair, as you point out. Your sister-in-law is fortunate to having caring souls lifting her up through all this. Thanks for the good wishes, Marie!
Your blog post is a loving testament to Mark’s well-lived life.
Thanks, Lynn. I appreciate blog buddies like you reading and commenting here.
Lovely tribute. I lost an older sister while in my twenties, and most recently a couple of cousins and in-laws. Being the oldest of the six that are still here, I do not look forward to what may lie ahead. But, chances are we will find strength as you did to carry us through when the time comes. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it very much.
Thank you for sharing some family history here. We don’t go through life without experiencing loss. I appreciate your caring thoughts, Irwin.
This tribute conveys so much love, memories, tenderness, understanding, and bonding. Love the lazy susan analogy also.
Thanks, Melodie. As you know, Anne Lamott’s writing is rich with analogies. I didn’t realize she wrote so much about grief until reading these last two books. 🙂
A beautiful tribute, Marian. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Jack. I don’t know if you ever met Mark, but you knew some of my family history before I began blogging. Nice to see you here again!
So sad to loose a younger sibling. I lost a brother 7 years younger than me when he was 19. It has been many years now but I still miss him and wonder what life would have been like had he lived to a mature age. This is such a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing the pictures with us. May he rest in peace knowing he was well loved.
Before he died, Mark was well aware of his being well loved. So many visitors showed up that we had to put a sign on the door toward the end, asking for short visits and fewer people in the room.
I am sorry about the loss of your brother. He was so very young ~ my condolences to you, Darlene. 🙁
Thank you, Marian for the wonderful legacy of Mark! This brought back memories
of losing my brother, Jimmy when he was 39 years of age.
Yes, I do remember the pain of losing my cousin Jimmy. He was so very young. Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Janie.
Beautiful tribute, Marian. I, too, lost a younger brother a couple of years ago to brain cancer. I was his caregiver at the end. It was both a heart-wrenching, and blessed, experience. Wishing you comfort as you remember Mark.
Thank you, Nancy. I did not know about losing your brother also to cancer. As a caregiver, you know the road we have traveled during this past month.. I was happy to meet you at Hernley’s one Sunday in May. There are always bright spots. Thank you for mentioning the blessings too.
I love the pictorial life of your brother Mark. He truly was a remarkable human being who loved God and others. So glad you were able to see and hear the impact he made in the lives of others.
When deaths happen suddenly, the family doesn’t get to see what my sisters and I had the privilege to observe. Despite the loss, we feel fortunate.
Thanks for posting here, Carolyn, and being a faithful friend.
You sure did give a lovely tribute to your brother. I enjoyed the pictures and reading what you posted!! I suddenly lost my “baby” brother 81/2 yrs. ago. Although he and I were 9 years apart, the youngest two of 4 siblings, he and I had a very close relationship. I still miss him, but find joy and comfort in knowing that we will meet again some day. On his first birthday after his death, I was missing him so very much and decided to sit down and begin to write memories of him. This was very healing for me and that writing ended up being a “Memory” book that I made and will one day be given to his son!!
Thank you, Mim, and my condolences to you too. I’m glad you mentioned that writing was healing for you and produced a Memory book, which his son will appreciate. I hope others will read this and take a cue for their own family members.
Thank you for posting this great idea and for reminding us of the hope of heaven too. 🙂
Marian — Oh the incredible memories you’ve captured in these photographs. My favorite is the backview silhouette of Mark, framed by trees, as he’s walking a companion animal.
Mark walked Aunt Ruthie’s dog Fritzie and took care of him after Ruthie died, even though he didin’t particularly like her snappish pet. Thanks for pointing that out, Laurie, and for appreciating the other photos too. 🙂
The “practice baby” left invisible but emotionally tactile memories in your heart and soul, Marian. I’m so glad you got to see him from the perspective of many friends and to help care for him in his last days. You must be exhausted from all this caring and losing of loved ones in the last few years. Much love to you as you remember, reflect, and come to this community you have built patiently over many years.
I appreciate the wide scope of your comments here, Shirley. And I’m so glad you are a huge part of this online community, a founding “mother,” in fact, as your blog post inspired me to begin my own.
Yes, I feel exhaustion but also joy that I will meet these loved ones again. 🙂
What a beautiful touching story! I love how you did the pictures with the writing.
I know pictures are your thing, and you always represent the family so well with your photography and customized cards. I appreciate your noticing all this and commenting here, Rachel. Thank you!
I have a “practice” baby as well, my youngest sister. I was 14 when she was born and loved her to bits! I still do. We have renewed our sisterhood in the last ten years when I moved closer to home. I always tell her she will have to bear the grief of losing her older siblings (we are eight) but life doesn’t always turn out the way we think it will.
I love Anne Lamott’s writing and appreciated the quotes. Thank you for sharing from your heart, Marian.
Another thing we have in common, Elfrieda. I’m happy to hear you have renewed your sisterhood with your own “practice baby” in recent years. You are right, loss does not always occur according to birth order.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post including the Anne Lamott quotes. Thank you!
This was beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss.
Thank you for the acknowledgment, Sue. It’s lovely to see you here. I hope I can make it to the next gathering of colleagues. I have missed you all!
Blessed be the ties of memories that bond….
Well said, Conrad. You may have known of my sisters, but perhaps not of my brother since he is quite a bit younger. Thank you for reading and commenting here. It means a lot to me!
A beautiful tribute to your brother Marian, and I couldn’t even imagine losing one of my siblings. I always say grief has many faces and every loss is suffered differently, particularly; a child, a sibling, a parent or a spouse, would each evoke a different kind of grief.
I’m glad you got to know your brother through the eyes of others who cared for him. I hope you’re managing alright since he passed, 🙂
Grief has many faces and facets of emotion, as you say. Yes, I’m glad I saw my brother through others’ eyes. It changed my focus entirely during the last weeks of his life. I’m managing all right; some days are better than others. And as you can imagine, writing is healing. Thank you, Debby!
🙂 Writing is a savior for many.
Each of your books in its own fashion illustrates that point. Thank you! 🙂
Thank you. There’s a little of all of us in all our works. 🙂
What a lovely tribute to your little brother, Marian. I can see how special he was to a lot of people and he comes across as a loving and caring man.
I have lost numerous members of my family in recent years, including 2 brothers to cancer before they were even 50 years old. So cruel and I felt so angry with life! The pain comes and goes. It never disappears, but I am lucky because I still have a large and caring family and we remember them together.
A big hug to you and your family. ❤
Hello, Fatima! I’m glad you can pay ttribute to your brothers here. Fifty seems a very young age, and my brother’s passing at 64 was young (by my standards) too. You are fortunate to have a large and caring family that shares your history. Hugs back to you! ((( )))
You have given us all a gift with your post here, Marian. A gift of reflection and love; a gift of realizing and remembering and reflecting on your brother’s wise words: “We’re just passing through this life.” A gift of stopping and thinking of our loved ones, and how much we know them, but also, how much we don’t. Stopping and looking at them through the eyes of others.
Your brother was so fortunate to have you for an older sister; you were so fortunate to have him as your “practice baby” (cute thought). I have no idea how to “get through” grief of such a momentous loss. I like your analogy of the ocean’s tide, grief that goes in and out as your realize that your brother is now pure love, and that when he lived, he spread that love far and wide.
This is beautiful, Pam I wish I could read it to Mark. Maybe on some level he can feel the love float up!
Your “how much we don’t” really resonated with me too. My sisters and I were overwhelmed with all the love and attention he received during his last weeks. Yes, love is the answer ~ thank you!
You have some beautiful photos Marian I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your brother…I think it was lovely that you could spend time and care for him which enabled you to see how others loved and cared for your brother.,we often with our busy lives don’t see that side of our siblings…I don’t think pain eases we just cope better and I am sure you have lots of memories to share and remember your little brother for and at some point may make you smile as you remember 🙂 xxx
I’m smiling now with pleasant memories, sometimes through tears though. Yes, I’m indeed glad we could see another side of Mark that other’s saw more than we did: his gentle spirit and kind heart. Thank you, Carol!
Your photos of your brother made me smile. Such a lovely tribute to who he was and how he’ll be remembered. I’m sorry for your loss and hope that you find some joy in your memories of him.
Many days I can focus on the joy . . . just not today as I’m closing accounts that were meant to sustain him into the future.
He is in a better place, though, and free of pain. That makes me smile. Thank you, dear Ally.
Hello Marian, I have no tips for coping with loss and grief. It’s the hardest thing to bear and it must be done in your unique way. There is nothing linear about grieving. It goes sideways, down/up ways, every which way and can knock you off your feet. Your supportive community and knowing how well he was deservedly loved, and your faith in God’s timing may provide some comfort at times, at other times not. Your love for him is clear – I remember your writing about him in times past and what a kind and helpful man he was. He will be sorely missed. Thank you for sharing his life – and death – with us. May you be comforted knowing he was dearly loved by all. His death may evoke feelings of your mother’s death and/or Aunt Ruthie – ❤️
Your describing the erratic path of grief hits the mark exactly. The love of friends and family and our faith binds us together in memory. Still, some days it’s hard, really hard.
And, yes, you are right: We have had three family deaths close together, and they all seem to merge as fresh with Mark’s passing. Thank you for your compassionate comment, Susan.
I hope you are enjoying your vacation time and break away from writing.
What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your beloved “baby” brother, Mark, Marian. I feel like I’ve met him in person through your lovely photos and words. It’s easy to see how dearly he was loved by all. May these sweet memories console you in your loss.
Thank you, Kathy. The Wentlings, the couple holding the “barn” photo just replied today that they see this picture hanging on the wall at Gus’s. And they added, “Not a day goes by that most of us don’t think about Mark.”
His influence was like a pebble in the water, sending out ripples. I had no idea of his strong impact, busy as I was taking care of business. Oh, my!
Thanks for your empathetic reply, just like you, Kathy!
I enjoyed viewing the tribute to your brother. I am so sorry for your loss.
Romana, how sweet to see you here and thanks for the message of condolence. Sometimes I do see you and your girls on Facebook. I often think of you and wonder how you are doing. Thanks, my friend!
Sometimes I can be a little late with my post because I have no words at that moment to reply and this time your blog has made me think .
How beloved was your brother , what fond memories you have of him . I think memories are the key , the tool we need to cope with grief . Remembering those special moments you had together , funny , sad , crazy, and maybe the quiet insignificant moments, that at the time mean nothing . Treasure those memories Marian , never let them go .
You are just on time, Cherry. Never worry when you post.
RIght now I am remembering a crazy time. Last year when we were finalizing the order for Aunt Ruthie’s tombstone inscription, the man “in charge” couldn’t figure out how to accept checks and credit cards from the four of us. He was completely flummoxed even though we tried to help him sort it out, and Mark said, “That guy is crazy.” Thanks for prodding my memory, Cherry!
Marian, your tribute to Mark in pictures is unique. I like it–the reader, or should I say viewer, receives greater vision into the person and his/her place in the family. Thank you especially for your words relating to the loss of a sibling and the adjusting birth order. Bob’s closest friend in this life was his brother, Jim. Bob is the youngest of six; Jim was three years older than Bob. I don’t know when or if Bob will ever get over Jim’s death seven years ago. So much wisdom shared through Mark’s life. Such precious memories in images. Thanks again.
My condolences to Bob and his family on the passing of his brother Jim. I notice that you refer to Jim as both brother and closest friend; what a wonderful relationship they must have had. No wonder the grieving process is still so intense.
You mentioned the blending of words and images. I find that photos often spark writing and vice versa. Funny how that works. Thank you for your wise observations here, Sherrey!
What lovely words, Marian. Grief is part of what life is all about and it brings just what you share here … love, hope, and new perspectives. None of us gets off the hook on this one. It is through grief that we awaken to the mystery.
You are the first person to comment on the mystery of the death and grief connection. I know that Mark’s spirit is still alive though his body is gone, but how that all happens is surely a mystery. Thank you for mentioning that, Joan. 🙂
You painted a heartwarming picture of your brother’s life. Thank you for sharing that with us. How special that you got to observe how many lives he touched in life! I’m so sorry for your loss. May the warm memories of the past soften the pain of grief in the present.
Thank you, Ruthie. You express my feelings so very well, including this comforting idea of the “warm memories of the past soften the pain of grief in the present.” It’s so good to see you here.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Marian. I know the feeling. I lost my sister a few years ago. It was a tough time to go through and I still miss her. You’ll probably think of your brother at the strangest times. Siblings just can’t be replaced. You have my sympathy.
You understand my tough journey now, simply because you have experienced the loss of your sister. You and she shared so much history, especially childhood and early life. You are right to observe “Siblings just can’t be replaced.” Thank you, Anita!
I’m so sorry for the loss of your little brother, Marian. I’m keeping you in my prayers. May God’s comfort be with you as you journey through this inexplicable sorrow.
Until now, no one has used the expression “inexplicable sorrow” to describe the loss of my brother. It feels inexplicable because Mark was young by today’s standards, and because we thought his treatment was working. God had other plans though, hence the mystery. I have to conclude that the cliche is true: He is in a a better place, with a glorified body and mind.
Thank you for adding your insight, Tracy!
Faith is necessary and good, but it doesn’t do very much to ease the pain of loss. Grief hurts. I do think faith gives us the courage to endure the pain, however. Bless you.
What a kind and loving thing to return here to follow up.
Grief does hurt: Today I had to close his Trust account, which brought sobs. Last year we bought him a suitcase for a trip to Florida. That will never happen. I’m coping, some days better than others. <3
What a lovely tribute to your brother.
Grief does indeed creep up unexpectedly and in all the wrong places.
Yes, you are right, but it is all part of the process of healing, which I expect will take a long, long time. Thank you, Lady Fi!
What a beautiful tribute to your brother Mark, Marian. His smile stayed the same and with him through his whole life. I’m so sorry you had to lose your younger brother before his time. When family members go like this, lots of emotions are involved. Feeling helpless is one of them, thinking it’s unfair another one. You and your family have been so strong and supportive through it all, becoming closer to Mark and each other, until the end. It’s inspiring.
I haven’t lost any siblings. I only have one. But, Mark and I lost his sister to cancer a few years ago. She was only 52. It was hard for us, but even harder for his mother.
(Sorry for the late comment. I tried before on my iPad, but it has issues leaving comments on your blog.)
Thanks for your persisting with a comment here. Loss is hard at any age, and Mark’s sister at 52 seems young.
Helpless is a good word to describe how we felt about the rapid progress of Mark’s disease, and yes, I have to admit at times we did think it unfair. Still, he had a good life with many people to love him.
Dearest Marian, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get here. Too many wonderful visitors and too much going on with my mother-in-law and my own health. But here I am. What a beautiful tribute to Mark. I can see how his loving sweetness permeated the church, coffee shop, and community. People like Mark keep the world glued together and keep our hearts alive–as do people like you. Thank you for sharing it all from boyhood to hospice and thank you for Cliff’s drawings. He captures the essence, especially Mark at age 20. I’m sorry for the loss of your brother. I miss mine every day and often think of his finer qualities and how they teach me how to live. With a heart of love, Elaine
Yes, I do remember your brother Jim’s recent passing. I know you are still grieving for him though you probably don’t have the time to acknowledge it. fully. Funny (and sad) how the urgent elbows out the important sometimes.
I will pass the compliment on to Cliff. Love and hugs back to you, Elaine!
What a beautiful tribute to a much-loved brother, Marian. My sincere condolences as you walk this path of grief comforted, I am sure, but the truth that you will see Mark again. It does not take the pain of grief away, but perhaps it softens it somewhat.
Hope softens everything, even grief. I’m glad you liked the tribute. Creating it helped assuage my grief ~ a little! 🙂