Saturday, October 16, 2010

For Marc

There's no question that I can sometimes be a real prick. Just ask anyone that's worked with me for any length of time over the last handful of years. (I take my work seriously, sometimes too much so. Let's just leave it at that....) Marc Mandeville, one such old coworker, would agree, I suspect. Problem is, Marc can no longer nod his head in knowing assent to such a confession. He died last weekend, finally succumbing to a nearly three year long battle with colorectal cancer. I attended a memorial service in his honor today, along with about 1,000 other of his friends, family members, coworkers, students.... It was not an easy day.

Marc was an occasional part-timer in the shop where I once toiled. He and I worked together intermittently for pretty darn close to ten years. Without hesitation I can say that we were never best friends but that we were definitely friends, and that we each held a deep-seated respect for the other. I can also say that Marc occasionally drove me crazy. Bad actor that I am, I'm sure I let him know it. You see, I'm a pretty quiet guy. Marc, though... I don't think anyone would ever describe him as quiet. That's not a bad thing in his case.

Marc was always full of life. He lived large in the context of whatever he was involved in, but always in a very thoughtful, meaningful way. It didn't matter whether he was helping a customer on the shop floor, working with his students at Episcopal Academy where he taught for many a year, pushing his players on the ice (he was a hockey coach at EA, too), or playing poker with his buddies (so I'm told). His heart, head and lungs were always in it, 100%.

Not long after Marc met with that scary diagnosis in early 2008, he took his motivational spirit to a larger stage, starting a blog (for lack of a better word) at CaringBridge that eventually reached far beyond his family and friends in its impact. No matter how badly he was suffering, Marc was always ready to lend support to other cancer survivors, others in need. Never, at least not in my experience, did he give any sense that the cancer might one day get the better of him.

In the summer of 2008, Marc's brother Pete put together a team for the first Livestrong Challenge held here in the Philly area, a team that would ride in honor of Marc and to benefit cancer survivorship and research all over the world. The following year, Marc, who I'd never know to be a cyclist in spite of his huge sports fanaticism, joined in for the ride. And this year, in the 2010 edition of Livestrong Philly, Marc's team, M-Power, was the top fund-raising squad in the entire event, pulling down over $250,000 in support of the work being done by the Livestrong Foundation. Marc rode along for the first 20 miles of the event, less than two months before losing his life to the disease he was fighting so bravely against. The video below was put together for the awards ceremony held following this year's event. It was motivational enough to begin with. Now that Marc's left us, its impact is all the more emotionally inspiring.

Heading to the services for Marc this morning, I really didn't know what to expect. Given that he'd been teaching at the school where the memorial was held, where he'd had the opportunity to touch so many lives, I should have known there would be a large turnout. But I wasn't prepared for what I found -- as I mentioned before, there must have been a thousand people there to pay their respects. The energy and emotion in the room were incredible. I know Marc would have been smiling, just as I know he'd be happy that I'm watching the Phillies (he was an avid -- no, make that rabid -- Red Sox fan) and sipping a glass of wine while I'm writing this.

There were many meaningful words spoken this morning, many beautiful voices raised. Three of the students at Marc's school performed a rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic, "Hallelujah," in Marc's honor. As much as I respect Mr. Cohen, I'm going to share a cover version of the song with you tonight, as performed by Jeff Buckley, another motivational artist who, like Marc, left us at far too young an age.

Marc was only 37. He leaves behind a loving wife, three children (aged six, three and three), a large extended family and many, many friends. Needless to say, he will be missed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute, D. Loss is the thread that runs through us all. I think about that more and more as I learn and relearn lessons in tolerance.

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