I received a Facebook message from my friend’s father – call me at this number – in all CAPS. I knew it was urgent. I tried to get a line out, but I couldn’t. I went down to the Mexico City hotel’s front desk, asking if they could connect me to the States. Finally, I got a line, but it was breaking in and out – barely audible, a faraway voice said, “Mark killed himself today.”
My friend, a personal trainer, with a larger-than-life personality, who calls me, “Peterson” and who’s taught me so much about strength, about hunger, about desperation, about human nature, and about pain, is gone.
“universal commonalities are everyone wants to be loved, no one wants to be the butt of the joke and everyone wants to get the joke.”
“Slow down! 1-2-3 HOLD 1-2-3 release”
“The byproduct of pain is compassion.”
“You’re the only girl I’ve ever been friends with, Peterson.”
“If you can’t afford a speeding ticket, then don’t speed.”
He nitpicked me about my posture – “chest up, shoulders back and down, hands beside not in front of your hips – stand as if you’re being pulled upward by the breastbone,” and by listening and retraining the muscles, we healed my back pain.
He told me I was a pusher, not a puller.
He taught me about tapping out.
He hit my hand one day during training, hoping to motivate me to duck walk around the gym’s indoor track, yet it did the opposite. He pointed out that he never expected me to get silent and distant after hitting my arm. He kept apologizing, but it was fine – he’d pointed out a way I cope with pain. So often, he, to me, was a hand-held mirror, showing me what’s really going on inside myself.
And here I am, the day after the news of his death, standing in this church in Coyoacán, Mexico City, with the best posture I’m able to muster and trying to cope with the pain of his death. I picture him critiquing my spine alignment, and in the silence of this empty parish, I wonder if whomever put the gladiolus in the church aisles today is aware the erect flowers seem to have been delivered directly to me from my friend, Mark – celebrating our loyal, respectful friendship.
I’m able to embrace the beauty of his existence, not solely, the sadness of the tragic ending to his larger-than- life presence in my life.
Pain builds compassion –
pushing out the bad and pulling in the good.
August 6, 1970 – July 21, 2016