As I draw closer to another anniversary that I’d prefer not to think about, the topic of my blog this week centers on losing someone who was close to you. On April 1, 2021 it will be two years since losing my younger brother and closest friend anyone could ever have—Mark. It is impossible to capture the many emotions running through my mind when I think about him. We were born 13 months apart and spent the better parts of our lives inseparable. Mark was the quiet kid with all the brains. I was the loud and emotional one who was easily upset by the slightest of slights. Mark was super chill and always there for me. He was my counter-balance.
An example of how close we became over the years goes back to 1995 (yes, I’m old). Back then I was starting over after a divorce and Mark invited me to come live with him in California. I needed a change of scenery, so I took him up and moved West, and indeed I started over and thrived in my new world thanks to Mark. I ended up remarrying, having a couple kids, and moving to Hawaii and Atlanta over the next 15 years. We were not physically close anymore, but we definitely kept our brotherly connection alive with many visits and phone calls over those years.
Then it happened again. I lost a contract job while living in Atlanta and Mark came to help me out one more time. This time, he offered me a job working for him back in California. I packed up the family and moved one more time to be closer to him and to help him grow his business as his marketing and business development manager. Now that’s a great brother—not just helping his older brother once, but twice when I needed help the most.
Mark was loved by many people and together we shared a network of dozens of mutual friends. Growing up in the Midwest, I can remember spending many times with Mark playing games, getting hauled around by our parents, and working multiple odd jobs to make a few bucks. We were inseparable in so many ways—in fact, many of our friends called us “Paul-Mark” as if we were one person! I loved him with every ounce of my being.
On April 1, 2019—I was on vacation with my family at Disneyland. Standing in the middle of the happiest place on earth, I got the phone call nobody ever wants to receive. An older brother informed me of Mark having a fatal heart attack two hours south of where I was at that moment. I walked around completely dazed and holding back tears while my wife and kids were enjoying the rides. I finally decided NOT to break this terrible news to them right then and right there. After all, my young kids and wife were also extremely close to my brother—this would have been devastating for them to hear this sad news too. So I made up an excuse and drove back to where my brother was—by sheer chance we took two cars. I cried and listened to music the whole way.
Losing a loved one isn’t easy. It’s impossible. How do you replace that love, those shared memories, the many laughs and highs/lows that only a lifetime of experiences together can provide? The whole life we shared was over so quickly and so permanently. No more inside jokes between us, no more shared beers and celebrations. Mark lived with so much life inside him. He worked hard and played even harder all the way until the end—which in his case was 55 years. I always thought that we would live long lives and grow old together. His loss will forever be with me, but his memory will also be with me always. I’ll never get over losing this soulmate of mine, but I have gradually accepted the reality. The one thing that helps me deal with losing Mark is my appreciation for having known him for as long as I did. In many ways, Mark made me into the person I am today and I’m so grateful and thankful for him being there almost from Day 1. We were the best of brothers and I’ll never forget all those times spent together. That’s what I hope you can do too if you’ve lost a loved one and still grieving (as I still am). The truth is I’m not sure that I’ll ever stop grieving for Mark—but in some ways it’s a good thing because that means I’ll be thinking about him forever—at least for the rest of my days left here on earth. I do hope to someday see Mark again if there is a heaven or hell or afterlife. But I’m sure glad Mark was a big part of my life for as long as he was. His spirit lives on with me.