by Ora Pescovitz
December 16, 2010
On behalf of our family, I want to thank each and every one of you- our remarkable family and friends — for this incredible outpouring of support reflected in your presence here this afternoon. I think Mark would have been blown away and actually, a bit embarrassed by all of this attention — as most of you know, he was a modest guy.
Mark and I first met on September 22, 1974, the first day of new student week. Mark was a sophomore and we were both in the Honors Program for Medical Education- a six year medical education program at Northwestern University. Mark was 'checking out' the freshman girls and, I don't know why, but, he fell in love with me right away. As I got to know Mark, I found myself instinctively attracted to his incredible intellect, his insatiable curiosity, his creativity and his love of just about everything. I found it so sexy that, at the age of 19, on top of carrying a heavy school load, and being the Northwestern photographer, he was secretly planning to become an astronaut, had just taken up the violin, and had started studying Russian. He was the most extraordinary person I had ever met. We married five years later.
I once read that you could tell that a marriage would last a long time if a couple saw eye-to-eye on four things:
Religion, Money, Children and Sex
In our 31 year marriage, we never once argued about those things, although we certainly had pretty healthy 'debates' on just about everything else!
Our life together was fulfilling, rich, diverse, exciting, gratifying and never dull. We supported one another's personal and professional ambitions to the fullest.
Mark had a remarkable zest for life and an incredible ability to love every day and just about everything.
Mark loved science and medicine. I think he must have come out of the womb as a scientist. Although I wasn't there at the time, I have always imagined his birth, the second of seven children to wonderful parents, Anita and Harold. I imagined him with a full head of hair, looking something like his hero, Einstein- wanting to do his first science experiment before he could talk or walk……wanting to blow something up, or make a rocket to take him to space. In high school, he was a finalist for the Westinghouse competition, he graduated second in his medical school class, and first in the country on his surgery boards. Craig told you about his scientific and medical contributions – but, he didn't tell you how much Mark loved his patients and how much they loved him. Wherever we went, patients would stop him to thank him for saving their lives or for showing them humanity. But, secretly, he still always wanted to be an astronaut….. even when he died, he was still in regular discussions with Astronaut David Wolf to see how he could make that happen.
Mark loved his faith and the Jewish community. I always thought it was ironic that I, the daughter and sister of rabbis, had to take Judaism lessons from Mark. And, he was so sincere about it- he would remind me of when the holidays were and suggested to me that we attend services or make trips to visit my family in Israel. In fact, several times over the years of our marriage, he visited my family in Israel without me. And, my extended Israeli family came to believe that I was the in-law relative instead of Mark.
Mark loved music and all forms of art. Mark had a natural gift for every form of creativity. I always thought he had hyper-acuity of all five senses and a sixth sense for beauty. It was uncanny, but he just knew when something was beautiful and this is why he loved photography because he was always trying to capture and document those moments. But, in his usual way, he was always trying to fine-tune his abilities, which is why he was taking a college course at Herron with undergraduate students unafraid to be taught by them on how to improve his skills. He was supposed to submit his portfolio and get a grade on his latest work on Monday morning. I bet he is bummed that he missed the class.
Mark loved the community and he was enormously generous with both his time and his money. The kids and I always found it hysterical that so many community boards wanted Mark as a member since he did so little talking at home; we always wondered what he did at all those meetings. But, we learned from others that when Mark did speak, people listened because his comments were so insightful, witty and powerful and they always did something to make the community a better place.
Mark loved family…….all of you! He loved each of you- his siblings, your spouses and, especially, your children. He loved my brothers, your wives, and your children. He loved my parents and they treated him like their fifth child……actually, the four of us thought he got special treatment because my mother cooked him his special foods and my parents went out of their way to cater to his every whim. Mark never missed a family event— even extended family events, no matter how far he had to travel to get there and he was THE source of information for every family member on EVERY topic from financial to medical to travel advice.
Mark loved me. He enthusiastically supported me in every way both personally and professionally from fixing every little broken thing in the house to pushing me hard to pursue my professional aspirations— both the successful and the unsuccessful ones. Mark supported my move to Michigan even though he hated waking up in an empty bed on weekday mornings. He missed our shared drives to and from work at IU every day……… once the kids left for college, until I left for Ann Arbor, we had been inseparable. But, in spite of how hard my move was on him, he desperately wanted me to continue to achieve professional gratification, and so, he regularly came to Ann Arbor on weekends to support functions and events that were important to me.
And, most, most of all—- Mark loved his children, Aliza, Ari and Naomi. Of Mark's myriad passions, he loved his children most. Not one day would go by when Dad didn't tell me how much he loved each one of you. He was so very proud of you. Dad marveled at your talents, independence, capabilities, confidence and compassion. Because his Judaism mattered so much to him, he was thrilled to discover that it matters to each of you as well. He was awed by how kind and gentle each of you are with others and how, even at this young age, you are each exhibiting strong philanthropic tendencies and doing volunteer work to serve others in the communities in which you live. Dad was thrilled to know that you have wonderful relationships with Ramzy, Allison and Adam and he felt lucky to have gotten to know them so well too; he loved them very much and because he didn't talk about his emotions, he would have wanted me to tell you this. He would be so happy to know that they are here now with you to support you during this difficult time.
Mark died a happy man. And, our last day together was Mark's version of a perfect day. In fact, we managed to cover all four things that ensure a perfect marriage: Religion, Money, Children and Sex.
After a cup of coffee, we sat at our respective computers and each did our 'thing'. While I was working, Mark was paying bills electronically. At one point, I asked him……Mark, I don't know how to pay those bills, what happens if you died? He laughed and said- "it is good you still need me for something…… I will have to hang around a little longer then". Well, I guess I will now have to learn how to pay those bills.
Then, we talked about Judaism, philanthropy and all the contributions we would like to make before year's end. Mark talked about how we could give more and that we should keep giving more to our communities. We decided to bump up our annual contributions to several organizations and added several new ones to our list. Some of the checks we wrote that morning were in the car that crashed.
Then, Mark said 'let's plan a visit to Ema and Abba! They have been ill recently, they are aging and we need to support them'. So, we bought airplane tickets on-line to visit them. We called them in Israel to tell them and they were thrilled.
When we got hungry, we decided to go out for Chinese food- one of Mark's favorites. The snow was falling and Ann Arbor was transformed into a storybook winter wonderland. When we came back to the house, we opened all of the shades so we could see the snow falling all around us and we got into bed. We made love and then lay there snuggling, watching the snow while we talked about our lives. We talked about how fortunate we were…… we were at the pinnacles of gratifying careers, we lived in two beautiful and supportive communities, and we had hundreds of incredible friends from around the world. We had the most amazing families whom we adored and we knew they adored us too and then, we talked about our children, Aliza, Ari and Naomi. We marveled at how we had managed to produce the most remarkable three children any parents could wish for and we talked about what it would be like when you would be married.
Mark died happy. His life was nearly perfect and his last day was just the way he liked it. The day was ideal in its simplicity, just like Mark, the man………but, in the end, it was so complex too—– just like Mark, the man.
And so, there is so much to celebrate in Mark's all-too short, but remarkable life……. And yet, I do have two regrets.
First, one could never surprise Mark with a gift because he always bought himself whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. So, we rarely bought him any presents. But, the kids and I were thinking of a big one and we had talked about one day buying him a trip to space as a tourist since it didn't appear he was going to get there as an astronaut………. Even though we Jews might not believe in this…..just perhaps, he has found another way to get there now.
And, my other regret, Mark would have been the world's most wonderful grandfather. I am so sorry that our children's children will never get to know their grandfather…….this loss is just so hard to imagine.
But, with those two exceptions, we should celebrate a life well-lived. Mark never wasted one moment. He lived life to its fullest; he was fulfilled and gave so much back to the rest of us.
Ayze hu hamichubad? Hamichabed et habriyot. Who is honored most? One who accords honor to fellow human beings. I loved him so much.