Angel Mark

Mark Fontana

When I heard my brother-in-law was planning his memorial service, I called him and asked if he was giving up. After all, his doctors had given up on him a long time ago—they were always telling Mark how he wasn’t going to last very long.

“Liver cancer is fast,” they’d explain, and just to make things clear they’d offer him a helpful estimate, like one, two, or even three months. And three months later Mark would still be plugging away, despite the helpful estimate.

So they’d come up with another estimate and remind him to put his affairs in order, and that time would also pass and Mark’s affairs would be quite orderly. But he was still alive, and possibly one of their most uncooperative patients, EVER, especially considering how he’d been pulling this stunt for almost three years.

“I’ve outlived all my expiration dates,” Mark liked to tell us, a line that always made us laugh because Mark was our Miracle Man, our Survivor. He was the Guy Who Just Did Not Quit. The guy who was beating the thing trying to kill him.

So I got on the phone and I flat out asked him: was he planning his funeral because he’d given up? Because he wasn’t going to fight anymore?

He just said I was being kind of silly. “Everybody dies,” he told me. “Everybody should plan their memorial service. You mean, you haven’t taken care of yours yet?”

He seemed surprised when I said I hadn’t, like planning one’s funeral was such an important but mundane task you might find it on everybody’s To Do list: 1. Get groceries. 2. Call Mom. 3. Plan my funeral.

I never thought of it like that, Mark, but you’re right. One of these weeks I’ll get around to it, I promise.

But not this week.

This week we’re helping prepare for Mark’s service, the one he planned for himself.

And even though we know he’s in a better place—even though we know he’s not suffering any more, that he’s at peace with God—our hearts are still broken.

Our Miracle Man is gone.

Mark Fontana

December 1949 — September 2006

31 Replies to “Angel Mark”

  1. Bonnie – My brother was the same way. He lived 3 more years instead of 3 months, boy, was he stubborn!

    Here’s to brothers, memories, and the great advice they give to their sisters (I already have my funeral planned)!

    You’ll be in our prayers, Bonnie.

  2. Bonnie, as your blog was loading I thought that maybe I should post a note to let you know how much I admire and appreciate your cheerful heart. Then I read your post and was convinced beyond all doubt that I should let you know how much I admire and appreciate your cheerful heart. It’s clear from your blog that you’re one of a kind, and it sounds like your BIL was, too. Blessings to you and your family.

  3. God Bless you, Bonnie. And your family. If I may, I would like toshare some words that helped get me through my Dad’s death from Lung cancer. I read them over and over, because I had the most difficult time understanding how something so awful could happen to someone so good. What a wonderful guy your brother in law must have been.

    If I should leave this world Without a warning, And not even whisper a fond farewell, Grieve not for one more message From the lips that God has stilled. But just remember me with love And prayers for my soul’s journey To that fair land beyond life’s tears. For I have believed with all my heart In its existence, and I know that God is good, for He has come to me Through the life of Him whose very Garment I have sought to touch. It may be lonely, and I hope you miss me Just a little, because I have loved so deeply. Forgive me if I have ever hurt you And remember me for what I longed to be. Have faith that I am nearer than Your dreams and fondest longings. For the God of love shall keep all Kindred spirits close together, Though the misty vale between This world and that to come Keeps us from each other’s sight For a few precious moments. Whisper softly that you love me And it shall linger on within my soul Until you come. Say not good-bye, For on some bright tomorrow We shall meet again.

    ~Author Unknown~

    Some words of Comfort and Hope from the Book of John:


    “After a little while you will not see me, and then after a little while you will see me again.”


    Some of the followers said to each other, “What does Jesus mean when he says, ‘After a little while you will not see me, and then after a little while you will see me again’? And what does he mean when he says, ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”


    They also asked, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”


    Jesus saw that the followers wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking each other what I meant when I said, ‘After a little while you will not see me, and then after a little while you will see me again’?


    I tell you the truth, you will cry and be sad, but the world will be happy. You will be sad, but your sadness will become joy.


    When a woman gives birth to a baby, she has pain, because her time has come. But when her baby is born, she forgets the pain, because she is so happy that a child has been born into the world.


    It is the same with you. Now you are sad, but I will see you again and you will be happy, and no one will take away your joy.


    In that day you will not ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.

    And from Ecclesiastes 8:


    Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. I say that this is also useless.


    So I decided it was more important to enjoy life. The best that people can do here on earth is to eat, drink, and enjoy life, because these joys will help them do the hard work God gives them here on earth.


    I tried to understand all that happens on earth. I saw how busy people are, working day and night and hardly ever sleeping.


    I also saw all that God has done. Nobody can understand what God does here on earth. No matter how hard people try to understand it, they cannot. Even if wise people say they understand, they cannot; no one can really understand it.

    And Ecclesiastes 9:


    So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do.

  4. Bonnie, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. Bonnie,

    What a wonderful tribute you wrote to your brother-in-law. I’m glad you have funny memories to remember about him, even while he was ill. That kind of spirit lives on because of all the hearts it has touched.

    It sounds like you were all lucky to have been a part of each other’s life.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  6. Dear Bonnie, THIS made me teary…
    We will find our way through all these things. Thanks for your wonderful
    ways… love, Kate

  7. What a wonderful trbibute to someone who knew strength and resilience that so many of us aspire to, but never really have.

    May your pains be lessened by the many gifts he gave you all. My heart goes out to you.

  8. I am sorry for your loss, Bonnie. It sounds like he was a brave and wonderful person, and you’ve done a beautiful job of honoring him here. I’m sure he’s smiling down on you.

    Do not stand by my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am a diamond glint on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awake in the morning hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft starshine at night.
    Do not stand by my grave and cry.
    I am not there. I did not die.

    ~ Anonymous

    Peace be with you all.

  9. My condolences, Bonnie.

    What a grand tribute you’ve done for your brother-in-law.

  10. Bonnie, I am so sorry to hear that. My deepest and sincere condolences.
    I hope the memorial service is a beautiful one. I know it will be just the way he had planned it.

    It’s so important to fight; doctors aren’t all-knowing. What a courageous and amazing man he must have been. I feel lucky to have heard of him – a true hero.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Dear Bonnie…

    I am thinking of you. May peace be with you and your loved ones. Thank you for sharing.


  12. I’m so sorry, dear. Cancer is so hard to deal with and the people who suffer through it are saints. God bless you and your family.

  13. We’re so sorry to hear of your loss, Bonnie! We were gone for the weekend and are just now catching up.

    All of our prayers for your family and for Mark’s quick journey into a better place.

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