Many of our readers have been following the Guest Views written by former editorial assistant and freelance writer/photographer Mark Reccek documenting his battle with cancer.
Although a very private person, Mark felt it was important to share his journey with the readers and the many friends he had acquired through his work at The Press.
On Dec. 17, Mark lost the fight.
Mark was well-educated with multiple degrees, one being a law degree. He was studying to take the bar exam to become a lawyer to represent those who could not represent themselves.
He was a quiet, compassionate soul who touched the lives of many of our readers.
One of his favorite stories, I believe, was when he interviewed Charlene Piskula, of Coplay, and her golden retriever therapy dog, Sirius. At that time, I’m sure he didn’t know how important it would be to have Piskula and Sirius attend his first radiation appointment at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.
“Both Sirius, a gentle golden retriever, and Charlene provided me with a sense of comfort and helped me relax during the appointment,” Mark wrote. “I also got to witness firsthand the positive and therapeutic impact Sirius has on those battling cancer. The eyes of one elderly woman awaiting treatment lit up and a bright smile emitted from her face as Sirius sat next to her. As she gently pet Sirius, I could sense the woman was feeling more at ease with where she was.”
Mark was working on a story for me when his health took a turn for the worse; unbeknownst to me, when he emailed his notes, he was in a hospital bed.
Through Mark’s connections, my son was able to interview two employees of Google in California for his graduation project in 2014. We will be forever grateful. But that was Mark — always trying to help someone.
When there was a fire in his apartment building years ago, all of his furniture and belongings were ruined. His co-workers and friends tried to give him furniture, televisions and money — none of which Mark wanted. He said he lived very simply and that was fine with him.
I know there are many of our readers who are also dealing with the loss of a loved one during the holidays.
Many of the churches in our area provide “Blue Christmas” services, which are held on or near Dec. 21, the longest night of the year. According to Rev. Nancy C. Townely, of Ministry Matters™, “Following this date, daylight seems to be returning for more and more of each day. On this night, or anytime this service is presented, we remember those for whom the holidays are not joyful; they are lonely, in mourning, feeling alienated and cast apart from family celebrations; they are experiencing depression and sadness and yet are often compelled to ‘put on a happy face’ for others, denying their true feelings.”
Sylvia S. Havlish, M.Ed., bereavement counselor for 40 years, coordinator of bereavement ministries, Lutheran Congregations Services and bereavement counselor for St. John’s Lutheran Church, Emmaus, offered some advice for managing grief during the holidays.
• Remember that just as there is no right or wrong ways to grieve, there is no “correct” way to mark a holiday.
• Lean into the feelings of grief ... don’t avoid them. You’re not trying to avoid grief ... you’re trying to avoid pain.
• Make new plans for this holiday. Evaluate the parts of your traditions that you want to “keep” and those that you might change.
• Go in with a “game plan.” Always build a “plan b” into the day to meet up with friends in case being alone becomes overwhelming.
• Externalize your loss. Say a prayer, light a candle, make an ornament, donate money in your loved one’s name, share funny stories.
• Be gentle with yourself. Don’t do more than you want and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul (from the website grief.com).
One of Havlish’s favorite authors on grief stated, “I have found that grief is the shadow of love. It only exists because there was love. So grief is embraced as a close friend; not as a place to stay ... but a place to rest a while when I need to.”
“You hope you have a good listener in your life who will listen and allow you to express your feelings,” Havlish said. “The only words you need when you are trying to help someone who is grieving is ‘tell me about it’ and then quietly listen.”
Havlish also said getting your feelings out is the first step to dealing with grief.
So thank you, Mark, from your co-workers and the many readers of The Press, for your compassionate journalism. Although your family and friends will miss you desperately, what a wonderful celebration it will be in Heaven, rejoicing on the birth of Christ, Dec. 25.
East Penn Press