Maria Coffey’s tribute to Mark

Lessons from Mark: On how to live a happy life.

Mark was a happy man. He was content with his life, he had an unfailingly sunny nature and he never seemed stressed. How did he do this? What was his secret? I asked him a few times but he always laughed off the question. I’ve been remembering times spent with him, thinking about how he lived, and what I can learn from him.

Lesson 1: Get up early

Whenever we camped with Mark and Liz, or at our island parties, Mark was always first to get up. By the time the rest of us emerged he would have made coffee and got the bacon on. And before that he’d been out taking photos. Which leads me to….

Lesson 2: Be in the moment

When the sun rose he was there with his camera, catching the perfect light and perfect moments: a seal’s nose just before it slid below the water, an eagle in flight, dew drops on a flower. While the rest of us slept he was alert, observant, his artist’s eye appreciating the beauty of the new day. Until it was time for:

Lesson 3: Coffee and bacon are food groups

I could add a few more (whiskey, cured sausages, French cheese) but these are key.

Lesson 4: Don’t strive

Mark was a talented artist, and was published wildly on prestigious platforms. But he didn’t strive for recognition and fame – maybe he realized that ambition can be never be satiated. And what did he do with many of his amazing photos? He shared them, or donated them or gave them away. which of course connects to:

Lesson 5: Be generous

Mark was ever generous with his art, his time, his skills, his knowledge, his tools, his toys, his food and drink. And the gifts were true ones, because there was no expectation of anything in return. When he did receive something he was always appreciative– in our case we gave him bottles of whiskey, which he promptly poured into glasses for us!

Lesson 6: Rejoice in the good fortune of others

Schadenfreude wasn’t in Mark’s experience. He got only joy and pleasure from other’s successes and achievements, and was ever ready to help celebrate them.

Lesson 7: Don’t Judge

Mark never seemed to judge others. He accepted people for who they are, with their foibles and faults. The definition of a foible is ‘a minor weakness or eccentricity’. Among his many friends and neighbours there are a fair few foibles, and he relished them all!

Lesson 8: Bargain and share

The king of bargain shoppers, Mark gave lots of his finds away. Like the Dutch oven he bought in Value Village and gave us to because ….he thought we would appreciate it and use it well. We do, we have and it always reminds us of Mark.

Lesson 9: Have an open door

I knocked on Mark door many times, and I was always welcomed in. I never had the feeling I was interrupting him or that he had to stop doing something more important to talk to me.

Lesson 10: Take it easy

What is there to stress about? Relax, smell the coffee, sip the whiskey, enjoy the bacon, break bread with friends, pour wine into good glasses and toast to life. And here’s a toast to you, Mark: with thanks for the adventures we shared with you and Liz; the many meals you made for us, on wild beaches and in your comfortable house; your calm and steady friendship and the lessons and guidance that you’ve left in your wake. We’ll never forget you; your spirit will guide us.

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