Some of the funniest moments this weekend came from Marks association with a motorcycle club in Chicago, the Overlords.
I doubt that any of his immediate family fully understood the extent of his involvement or his role in ‘the club’.
Marks biker name was “Baron”; a name given to him “because of his wise counsel, his warrior nobility and his deliberateness and thoroughness in answering the concerns of other members."
Baron–noun 1. a member of the lowest grade of nobility. 2. (in Britain) a. a feudal vassal holding his lands under a direct grant from the king. b. a direct descendant of such a vassal or his equal in the nobility. c. a member of the house of Lords. 3. an important financier or industrialist, especially one with great power in a particular area: an oil baron.
For those of us who primarily saw Mark through the long lens of his childhood and impulsivity of adolescence, this persona of ‘Baron’ was a game changer.
I lost track of the number of guys who shared stories of how Mark mentored them and changed the direction of their lives by his example and ‘hard fought wisdom’; men who considered Mark to be their brother or their best friend; men who tattooed his name, an iron cross (his favorite) and his birth and death dates on their bodies within 12 hours of his death.
Frankly, that’s a level of commitment I can’t fathom.
I don’t think I have one friend who would want to have my name permanently on their bodies, let alone 20, and, conversely, while I have many dear friends, I’m not getting inked up to prove to anyone that I’ll never forget them!
They’ll just have to take my word for it!
Most of the guys also wore the tattoo
visibly on their bodies – some on their necks, some on forearms or wrists.
As an innocent who had grown up alongside Future Teachers of America and Future Farmers of America, I spent moments distracting myself in the funeral home, trying to figure out what the initials stood for – to no avail.
Finally I screwed up the courage to ask one of them.
It was a club motto he replied, “Fuck With One, Fuck With All”.
There’s a wonderful cache to that, isn’t there?
It's really just an updated version of this sentiment...
Our family crest is now being designed by Art Boy – and it will include Our Lady of Bunco, (a Memorial Day 'family thing'),dice (because life is a crap shoot), the words “Let it Go” AND those initials.
We’re thinking of getting engraved stationary, tee shirts, ball caps and perhaps Trapper Keepers… I’ll let you know when I open my Etsy store selling the items!
I’ve used the phrase several times recently in describing this past weekend and I truly don’t know any better way of saying it: it was exquisitely painful.
There was profound sadness, moments of genuine humor and the gifts of tradition and family gathered for celebration and remembrance.
There was acknowledgment that while our bodies are fragile and transitory, the legacy of how, and who, we love endures.
There were children running around several venues, full of energy and life; there were moments of adults being rendered immobile by grief and tears.
There were huge burly men with tatoos crying unashamedly for the loss of a comrade/a brother in arms and siblings laughing through their tears at memories of a brother who was bigger than life.
There were bikers standing guard at a casket, draped in full leather; old country Greek women in black babushkas; people of every skin tone imaginable, of all ages and from all walks of life; a testimony not only to the multifaceted reality that was Marks life but to the inclusive nature of the network of family and friends his parents have created over 4 decades.
It was a glorious celebration…and Mark would have loved it and been in the thick of it…and he was.
We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future.
It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance. ~Marcel Proust
The call came, as these calls always do, out of the blue.
Why does the darkness of night lend itself so well to tears and news of death?
He leaves behind a wife and two daughters, 5 and 2.
It must be a mistake.
He can’t be dead.
But he is.
My nephew, Mark, was no stranger to struggle.
As an impulsive teenager and young adult, he had gotten lost; involved in drugs and poor decisions that had serious legal consequences.
His family had many nights, during those years, when such a call would not have been unexpected; maybe even welcomed; the relief of knowing that someone you loved was no longer in danger; no longer adrift and making his life, and theirs, a hell.
We had already seen a miracle with Mark.
The love of a good woman; the unconditional love of extended family; his faith known to God alone even as his body was frequently in church worshipping alongside his wife and those who loved him.
All these things, and the strength to face down his own demons, had returned Mark to us and to himself - to become more fully the person God had created him to be: a loving husband; a devoted father who hung the moon in the eyes of his girls; an irreverently funny cousin and nephew; a welder, a cook, an inventor, a motorcycle enthusiast and a loving friend to many.
His absence will leave a hole in our world; a space which will remain unclaimed by any other.
I take comfort in knowing, that however this life-after-death thing works, his uncle and godfather, Tom, was waiting for him ‘on the other side’.
He's not alone.
Neither are we.
Mark Thomas Erickson
June 17, 1974 – March 20, 2011
Episcopal Hymn 669 Hope on then, broken spirit Hope on, be not afraid. Fear not the grief’s that plague thee, and keep thy heart dismayed Thy God in his great mercy, will save thee, hold thee fast and, in his own time, grant thee the joy of peace at last.
I've made the comment several times before, and most of you have heard it already, but I swear it's true!
It's not pretty to live inside my head.It's a wonder any of us in peds can keep our wits about us when you consider what we deal with on a daily basis!
I'm amazed there's room for truth and beautywhen we hear stories like his.
Really...that's the story you're going with?
You couldn't get in to 'your room' at the Ritz - even though you were a registered guest at the Sheraton...so after you finally convince the desk clerk to issue a new room card (after he didn't even bother to check and see if your name corresponded to the guest paying for the room...pssst...Ritz, just bring your check book to the negotiations for the lawsuit!), you kicked in the door because it was chain locked from the inside.
Then, in your drunken stupor, you just happened to fall into bed, find a 9 yr old little girl body there, figure it was a gift from the Pedophilia God and start molesting her?
Really? You're sticking with THAT story?
That's some level of drunk!
And we won't even go into what the hell her parents were doing in the adjacent room that they didn't hear someone kick in a door right next to theirs?
While I don't frequent the Ritz, I don't exactly stay at No Tell-Motels eitheryet I can hear toilets flushing next door, ice machines down the halls and people laughing two rooms over.
A foot coming through a door, chain locks being ripped from the door jam... you can bet your ass I'd hear it!
I’ve been asked SO many times recently why I chose to have my head shaved -
and, despite all the times I’ve trotted out the 'sound bites' and come up with varying degrees of clever answers, I’m still not sure I know.
So I decided to list some of them: Caveat: all of my ‘motivations’ are pieces of the truth; none are the complete truth; probably even all added together are not the complete truth.
*After 30+ yrs of working in pediatric healthcare and seeing too many kids die of cancer, it just felt like time to contribute to funding for research aimed at a cure, since, if they’re coming after public servants to strip them of their pensions, can money for curing pediatric cancer be far behind?
*Several people I love have faced cancers in the past 18 months and are currently (or have recently) undergone combinations of chemo, radiation and surgical interventions - with good results so far, although life, and body, altering.
People, I might add, who are dealing with life threatened conditions with more grace, faith and courage than I can imagine or hope to muster up if I were in their shoes.
*There are too few opportunities offered in our culture to do something that is 'noble' or simply ‘right’ which ‘costs’ us nothing…which is also why I donate blood on a regular basis, signed up for the Blood Marrow Donor Registry etc. I don’t ‘grow’ my hair, or ‘make’ bone marrow or blood cells…those are biological processes, instituted by God, which my body does automatically. If they can symbolically, or literally, be used to the service of others than I feel an obligation to give.
*There’s an energy/high to being part of something larger than self; a ‘community’ of people from all walks of life who, for one afternoon, come together to demonstrate in a visible, and fun, way that they’re committed to making a difference; to making life longer and better for future generations.
*There was a sense of gratitude that both of my sons were/are healthy and, even with all the difficulties inherent for them in being raised in a single parent household and having to face, head on, the death of a parent, childhood cancer was not one of the obstacles thrown in our path.
*It appealed to my sense of drama and bold gesture – and challenged me to examine my ideas of beauty and self. I love being older (even if not necessarily wiser) and not being so afraid of what people think of me!
I also have been pleased to discover that I am NOT my hair!
Trusting that I am loved and known intimately by a God who knows the number of hairs on my head, I’m eager to see if they’ll all be given back to me – and in what color!
*I can’t tell you how many times people have told me how brave they think I am… and how much like an imposter it makes me feel to hear it since I know its not true.
The truly brave ones are those children (and adults) who stare death in the face and don’t get a choice about losing their hair.
This was a lark for me; its life and death for them.
There’s a wonderful sense of solidarity in making a statement while raising awareness and money for the eradication of the disease that’s taking too many of them from us too soon.
It's been an adventure that is triggering other changes as well...more on that later.