I wasn't a close friend to Mark. Still, he was my friend, and he was a good man with a kind heart and a generous spirit, and he shouldn't be dead... but death doesn't pay much attention to shoulds and shouldn'ts.
Mark was a handyman, a repairman, and a contractor. And he was exceptional at what he did. So exceptional, in fact, that he did almost all of his work in our neighborhood, because so many people admired him and his work that they kept him as busy as he wanted to be. I first hired Mark about five years ago for a few little jobs; when we acquired our second house, we used him and his team for a number of repairs there.
In general, contractors will disappoint you... the questions are when and how. But not Mark. He did what he said--and if he couldn't do it, he said so up front, and pointed you to someone who could.
After the first few jobs, I quit asking Mark for an estimate, because I realized it was unnecessary. Mark's charges were always fair, and if he said the job needed to be done, then it needed to be done. He was absolutely trustworthy, and honorable to a degree unheard of among repairmen and contractors.
But I was glad to get to know Mark as more than a handyman and a contractor. He was in the neighborhood all the time, traveling from one job to another--and I walk a lot. Inevitably, our paths would cross--sometimes more than once a day, in fact. So we would talk. He would pull his Ford Explorer over to the side of the road, and we'd talk about all sorts of things. We talked about music and TV and books. Mark and I liked a lot
of the same music, which led to numerous conversations. And sometimes we
would just talk about nothing in particular.
Mark knew I had some health issues; so did he. You'd never know it from looking at him, though. But he and I had talked about them over the years, so I knew that he had problems with pains in his legs related to an auto accident a few years earlier. He had high blood pressure, and was trying to deal with it. Like me, he exercised a lot. We often talked about our exercise routines; his was much more demanding than mine, but his busy schedule made it impossible for him to exercise with the frequency that I did. He always wished that he could, he said. "Maybe next year."
Last week, Mark's days ran out. I don't know the details; they really don't matter, I guess. But it seems wrong that he's dead. He was always cognizant of his health, and he was trying to do what he could to improve it. He didn't live to excess, and he didn't take chances.
And he died. I saw him on Monday. Tuesday, I got the news that he had passed away a few hours after I saw him.
Mark was a good man. He deserved more than the 55 years that life gave him.