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Runs for Cookies: A Bittersweet Vacation

Halloween has been my favourite vacation for so long as I can keep in mind. I really like the autumn, particularly when the leaves are so colourful; I really like seeing jack-o-lanterns on porches; I particularly love seeing skeleton shows; and, on Halloween, I really like seeing artistic costumes whereas children go trick-or-treating.

This custom is kind of a bit completely different than it was up till Halloween in 2014. The earlier Halloween was the final time we’d rejoice Mark’s birthday earlier than he handed away in March. In the event you’ve been studying for some time, then you recognize who Mark was–a very particular household buddy. My mother and father, Jerry, our youngsters, and I might have cake and ice cream with Mark at my mother and father’ home earlier than handing out sweet to the trick-or-treaters.

I do know I put up about Mark just about yearly presently, however I really feel like I’ve already mentioned all of it. The vacation remains to be bittersweet. I really like this vacation, however I all the time really feel an ache in my coronary heart as a result of I can not assist however affiliate at this time with Mark. At the moment we’d have celebrated his 68th birthday. We by no means knew how previous he was till he was within the hospital and his birthday was on his bracelet. (He additionally thought his birthday was on Halloween, however we discovered it was November 1st! Hahaha. Nonetheless, I’ll all the time think about Halloween to be his birthday.)

It has been a very long time since I shared his complete story, nonetheless, so I’ll repost it right here. I wrote this a yr after he’d handed away, explaining all about Mark, our Halloween custom, his prognosis, and the way I attempted to make his final months particular, realizing he wasn’t going to be celebrating one other birthday…

March 25, 2015

March twenty fifth of final yr began like every other day. I spent the day with Jerry and, later that night, I referred to as Mark’s nephew to let him know that we might be coming over the following day to go to Mark. His nephew had his neighbor name me again to inform me that Mark wasn’t doing effectively, and that the hospice nurse mentioned it was solely a matter of hours earlier than he’d move away.

I used to be shocked. I had simply seen him the day earlier than, after I went with my mother and father to his nephew’s home to go to him; and whereas the scenario at his nephew’s home was FAR from superb, Mark appeared to be doing okay bodily, all issues thought of. He appeared sad to be there, with individuals who had been principally strangers to him, however there was nothing we might do about that (I did not write about all this on the time, as a result of I did not need to danger having Mark’s nephew forbid us from seeing him in any respect). I did not know that after we left that day, it might be the final time we ever noticed Mark. However since I had mentioned my good-byes a number of days earlier than, I felt I mentioned the whole lot I wanted to.

On March twenty sixth, simply after midnight, Mark handed away. And truthfully, I felt so relieved for him.

I do know lots of you recognize Mark’s story, and also you adopted alongside as I wrote concerning the development of his lung most cancers. However I haven’t got his complete story in a single place, to make it simple to learn for somebody who wasn’t capable of comply with alongside, so right here goes:

Mark was a buddy of my household for about 35 years (since earlier than I used to be born!). Again then, my dad owned an auto restore store a number of blocks from our home, and he used to see Mark strolling round, often smoking a cigarette and amassing bottles to money in for the deposit. Mark was intellectually disabled, and due to this, lived in a gaggle dwelling a few mile away with different males who had mental disabilities.

Due to his mental incapacity, Mark was fairly obscure when he was talking; however the extra you bought to know him, the extra you can perceive him. (Sort of like with kids–moms can perceive something their toddler is attempting to say, however a stranger simply hears a bunch of syllables). If it wasn’t for his speech, you may not know that he was disabled.

My dad supplied him a job on the auto store, doing odd jobs like sweeping the flooring, permitting Mark to earn some pocket cash. My dad and Mark turned buddies, and my dad began taking him fishing on occasion.

I am unsure when the custom began, however we additionally began celebrating Mark’s birthday with him, as a result of he did not have any household (or so we thought). He advised us his birthday was on Halloween, so we’d have cake and ice cream earlier than handing out sweet to the trick-or-treaters.


Even after we moved about 20 minutes away in 1997, my dad continued to select up Mark a number of occasions annually to go fishing; and all the time, on his birthday. I all the time seemed ahead to Mark’s birthday. Mark was probably the most grateful particular person I’ve ever met, and he by no means anticipated something for his birthday, which made it much more enjoyable to offer him items or simply want him a contented day. When he opened a present, it doesn’t matter what it was, he liked it. Once we requested him what sort of cake he’d like, or one thing like that, he’d simply say, “Oh, any previous cake!”


Anyway, I all the time seemed ahead to Halloween. Our custom was that my dad would choose up Mark, after which we might have dinner and cake at my mother and father’ home. And after Mark opened his presents, we might sit within the driveway, the place my dad would make a campfire to remain heat whereas we handed out sweet to the trick-or-treaters. For the previous 5-6 years, I actually discovered myself wanting ahead to it increasingly; I believe that was as a result of I grew fonder of Mark every time I noticed him. He was refreshing to speak to, as a result of he by no means had a single criticism about something.


His birthday in October 2013 was identical to every other. Then in November, my dad advised me that Mark had been identified with Stage IV lung most cancers. As cliche because it sounds, I felt like somebody had punched me within the abdomen. I used to be simply in complete disbelief. Mark was a smoker, and had been since he was a kid–but it was the one factor he actually had that was his. As a lot as I dislike cigarettes, I by no means judged Mark for that–smoking was all he’d recognized for his complete life. So I should not have been as shocked as I used to be after I heard the information of his most cancers, however I had the toughest time actually believing it.

I had a chilly on the time, so I could not go to the hospital to see him till I used to be wholesome. In the meantime, I reached out on my weblog to ask individuals to ship playing cards to Mark–which I knew he’d LOVE. Mark did not have household or mates exterior of his group dwelling, actually, so I needed him to really feel surrounded by well-wishes. And holy cow, did you all reply! He acquired lots of of playing cards.

Once I went to go to him within the hospital for the primary time, I introduced the primary batch of playing cards to learn to him (Mark could not learn). He was thrilled to see me, after all. My dad and I had been there for a number of hours, and I learn him all the playing cards earlier than hanging them up round his room.

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My dad spoke with the physician, who principally mentioned that Mark did not have lengthy to live–the most cancers was in his mind, his backbone, his liver, all over the place. My dad instantly needed to carry Mark to stay at his home in hospice care, to keep away from chemo and radiation and all that. It was then that we discovered Mark had a nephew, who we knew nothing about. His nephew confirmed as much as the hospital, and since he was speedy household, obtained to make all the medical choices for Mark. He did not like the concept of Mark going to my mother and father’ home, as a result of they “weren’t household”, and as an alternative, opted for chemo and radiation within the hospital.

Mark hated hospitals, and was aching to go dwelling to his group dwelling, however the dwelling could not take him in due to the required medical care that he would want. The hospital could not hold him any longer, so his nephew signed him over to a nursing dwelling. Mark would spend the following three months within the nursing dwelling, and my dad and I attempted to take turns visiting each different day, in order that he would have a customer every single day. His nephew by no means went, so it was simply my household, which is why the playing cards you all despatched meant a lot! Mark would inform the nurses, “I obtained so many individuals that care about me! Take a look at all these those who care about me!” and level to all his playing cards.

This nurse was superb. There was no room left on the opposite wall, so she
spent a very long time stapling his playing cards to his curtain!

For the 5 months between Mark’s prognosis and his demise, I obtained to know him higher than I had for the prior 30 years. We had some actually nice moments (humorous and unhappy). Mark liked junk meals, identical to me, and I made it a degree to carry him one thing every time I went to visit–a “fancy” Starbucks espresso (he was used to instantaneous espresso, so something higher than that was fancy!), a strawberry McDonald’s milkshake (his very favourite), hushpuppies from Lengthy John Silvers, popcorn hen from KFC, Mary Jane candies, and a ton of different issues he requested.

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Β Mark did not have many possessions, and definitely had no cash, so these had been all little luxuries to him. I seemed ahead to visiting every time I went as a result of I used to be excited to carry him one thing new. Each time I visited, it was like slightly trip from the stress at dwelling, as a result of Mark was so completely satisfied on a regular basis, and a real pleasure to be round.

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Mark’s primary objective was to get out of that nursing dwelling and return dwelling. My dad and I talked to the bodily therapists to see if there was any means we might get him to be practical sufficient to return to the group dwelling. They talked with the proprietor of the group dwelling, who mentioned that Mark had to have the ability to stroll on his personal. So Mark made that his mission–every time I visited, he’d inform me about bodily remedy and that he will be strolling quickly so he might stroll out of there and go dwelling.

Within the playing cards he acquired, Mark had gotten some money–a few {dollars} right here and there, and it actually began so as to add up. I socked it away in an envelope for him to make use of as he needed, and when he had a pair hundred {dollars} saved up, I requested what he needed to do with it. He considered it for slightly bit, and mentioned that he needed to have a celebration for the fellows at his group dwelling, full with pizza and cake. (That is the story that I might later inform at his funeral… as a result of it confirmed simply what sort of particular person Mark was. All the time considering of constructing others completely satisfied!)

We made Mark’s want a actuality in mid-February. He had sufficient cash for the pizza and cake, and with sufficient left over, a goodie bag for every of the fellows within the dwelling. Loads of the boys that stay there have been forgotten about by their households, and so they had been all so grateful for everything–just like Mark. Mark had a incredible social gathering, and was capable of stroll into the house utilizing a walker, which made him very proud. I hadn’t seen him smile that large since earlier than he was within the hospital!

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After Mark’s final chemo therapy, his therapists mentioned he might go dwelling if it was okay with the proprietor of the group dwelling. Ordinarily, she mentioned she would not have let him come dwelling, as a result of it was an enormous legal responsibility; however she’d recognized Mark for thus lengthy that she agreed. Once more, Mark obtained his want to get out of the nursing dwelling, and he was thrilled to be again on the group dwelling.

Nearly as quickly as he obtained dwelling, nonetheless, he began to deteriorate in a short time. We begged his nephew to allow us to take him to my mother and father’ home underneath hospice care, however his nephew mentioned that when it got here to that, he’d carry Mark to his home. Mark was bedridden, and was now not capable of keep on the group dwelling. My mother and I went to the house to spend the day with him, and that day was actually what I consider as my final go to with Mark. I had a while alone with him, and obtained to say the whole lot I needed to. I introduced him a milkshake, however he could not drink it, which was unhappy. He slept a lot of the day.

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Right here, I am attempting to clarify to Mark in entrance of the hospice nurse what
“hospice” meant, in order that he might signal himself into hospice as an alternative of
going again to the hospital at that time. She decided he wasn’t of sound
thoughts to make the choice πŸ™ So we needed to beg his nephew to do it.
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My final picture of Mark. He was waving goodbye.

Mark’s nephew signed him into hospice care and took him dwelling; and just some days later, on March 26, Mark handed away. As soon as once more, I requested a favor from all people studying my weblog: to do a random act of kindness in Mark’s honor. I liked studying about these! Just a few individuals took ice cream or different desserts to their native nursing houses for the residents, which I believe is incredible (and I do know Mark would have liked that concept).

So, right here we’re, one yr later. There hasn’t been a single day that has passed by the place I have not considered Mark in a roundabout way. Nobody near me had ever died earlier than, so this was very new to me, and I did not deal with it effectively. I ate my emotions away, and gained 20 kilos. I’ve regrets that I did not actually get to know Mark years and years in the past, however I’m additionally grateful that I used to be capable of spend a lot time with him when he probably wanted somebody probably the most. It feels prefer it all simply occurred lately, and it is so arduous to consider it has been a yr already!

Thanks a lot to all of you who’re nonetheless studying and who despatched your like to Mark in some way–you made a giant distinction in his previous couple of months! And so now, I ask once more… since tomorrow is the anniversary of Mark’s demise, please attempt to do one thing (“any previous factor!” as Mark would say) good for another person. A random act of kindness. And if you would like, come share it right here within the feedback!

(To learn all the posts about Mark, you possibly can click on right here. The primary put up relating to his prognosis might be discovered right here.)

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