I want to tell everyone about my remarkable friend, Mark.
Mark was my kindred spirit long before Free Spirit even existed. Our life paths first crossed at Trinity United Methodist Church on Cameron Mills Road, where we found that we shared common interests, pet peeves, a love for throwing parties, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies for all things related to aesthetics. So it was little wonder that Mark buoyed my floral business aspirations and willingly accepted my invitation to help out on weekends.
Mark built pillars, stands and even an art deco archway to showcase floral decorations. Recognizing my apathy for social media, he took over the Free Spirit Facebook page, taking photos and managing its content. Together, we set up for events and weddings. We worked alongside one another, but it was fun –not work—to be with Mark! All the while, we would have long conversations about our parallel lives with Jeff2—the term we used for my husband and his partner of fifteen years who had more in common than just their names! We talked a lot about our formative years, our families and our respective plans for the future.
But, these are not the things–the skills, the creativity– that made Mark so very special. Mark was amazing because he was grace-filled. To spend even a moment in his presence was to feel acceptance. He was both giving and forgiving in his outlook. He was faith-filled; always hopeful for mankind, and always loving God no matter what turns life would take.
Since that mid-December morning when Mark left this world, I find myself searching for a logical reason as to why he was taken from his earthly home, from his Jeff, from his family and friends too quickly, too soon and too young. In a world so flawed, there was an overwhelming need for Mark and for more people like him to propogate grace, acceptance and love. He truly made this world a better place.
With heavy hearts, we gathered before Christmas to pay tribute to Mark and to comfort one another in our grief. Later, as we pulled out of the church parking lot, feeling overwhelmed and tired, I turned on my phone, secretly hoping and praying that no additional floral orders came in that afternoon. The first email that popped up was a request for flowers to be sent to new mom who had just given birth to a baby boy—just down the street from our church and just two short blocks from Mark and Jeff’s home.
For one brief moment, it was comforting to know that life was being celebrated up and down Cameron Mills Road. And there was hope.