Sunday, June 16, 2013

52 People Project - Clark Brown

Roger Waters "The Wall"

On May 5, 2012, I got to experience the music of Pink Floyd live. I think I was the only person in the sold out arena who was hearing Roger Waters sing for the first time. It was just as I imagined it would be - surreal, bizarre, amazing and unforgettable. The music however was not the best part of the night.

The concert was a perfect excuse for Jenn to gather with some of her best friends from her college years at NSU. They made a mini-reunion of it and I got to tag along. Friends came from across the United States to spend time together. It was fun for me to finally meet people I had heard so much about as Jenn would tell me entertaining stories of her past. What I found most compelling about Jenn's friends that night was how genuine and real they were. Nobody seemed to have anything to prove. It was just about being together, telling stories of the good ol' days, poking fun at each other, having some drinks and bursts of laughter.

Just a few days after the reunion, on May 7th my facebook friendship with Clark Brown began. From the moment I met Clark it was obvious that he was a nice guy. He was down to earth and easy to talk to. His smile was piercing and he found it so easy to laugh. I had never met someone who so quickly made me feel like I had known him my whole life. Clark was from New York and would frequently check in by email to see when we were going to come for a visit. He wanted to do anything he could do to help make our trip amazing. Clark had a way of making sure I knew he was thinking of me. One of my favorite conversations with him began, "Hi five, Becca. How are you?"

On June 8th, 2013, while Clark was getting ready for work, he unexpectedly suffered an aortic dissection. He was airlifted to a New York hospital where he underwent a 7 hour surgery to repair the tear but in the surgery he suffered a stroke. On June 10th, Clark died at the age of 42.

The news of his passing spread quickly through facebook. When I read that he was gone, there was shock and a sudden emptiness. How could someone so wonderful and full of life slip away so quickly? It just isn't supposed to happen this way.

Unfortunately, over the past few years I have had a handful of friends pass away. Facebook has been a fantastic forum to grieve publicly. In a very strange way it allows me to feel that they are still here. My mind has played tricks on me many times over the past week as I have seen pictures of Clark on my Facebook feed. It just seems easier to believe he is still here than to accept he is gone. When I open my last email from Clark sent on May 29th to wish me a Happy Birthday, I have to struggle through the denial process and accept that the conversation is over.

I wish each person reading this blog could have had a moment with Clark. I wish you could read the many messages people have left on his wall. I wasn't the only person who Clark made feel so special. There are hundreds of posts from people who Clark blessed with his life. With each new post, my heart aches at the loss of this amazing friend to so many. A few days ago I learned that even after his death, Clark was able to make an impact on others in a tangible way through the donations of his organs!

I want to be like Clark. I want to pause more often and make sure that people know that I am thinking of them. I want people from every walk of life to know that I accept and love them. I want to be passionate about life and about the things that make me smile. I want to travel to see friends. I want to stop for 2 seconds to send a text just to give a virtual high five. I want to see the value of connection with others and then do something about it. I want to give of my life the way that Clark did by loving people and always having a smile to share.

Rest in Peace Clark.

A long pause was required before writing that previous sentence...I really don't want to accept that you are gone. You were one in a million! Clark Brown, I am thankful for the few steps we got to share in this life; you taught me a lot about the person that I want to be. I'm forever grateful!

Until next time,