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Last week, on Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, Jon and I attended an annual festival here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is one that I have attended at least five times since its beginning, 10 years ago. I always look forward to it, as it is a time to meet up with old friends from all over the Shore.
As I neared our destination, Kiptopeake Beach, I was anticipating seeing many old friends. There was one in particular, Dr. Mark Barban, whom I couldn't wait to see. Mark worked for my father when I was just a young girl when he was in training as a pharmacist. After practicing pharmacy for a few years, Mark decided to return to university to become a dentist. His dream, he told me one day, was always to return to the Eastern Shore when he was nearing retirement age.
Unfortunately, Mark never reached retirement age. He died on September 30, 2002, of colon cancer, which spread to other parts of his body. I knew that he had been ill, but I did not know of his death until the day after Harvest Fest.
Strangely enough, I had sought out Mark that day. I had introduced Jon to him last year, and they got along famously. Come to think of it, I don't know of anyone who wouldn't find Mark to be a good friend and one to keep engaged in conversation. He was quick-witted, a writer of hilarious (and often dirty) limericks, and an overall entertaining man.
Anyway, I found it funny that Mark wasn't at Harvest Fest. I even remarked to Jon that I hoped he wasn't too ill to attend. When I discovered the very next day that he had passed away, I was devasted.
I attended his funeral on Friday, October 4, 2002, at Cape Charles Cemetary. This was the town where he was born and reared.
I discovered much more about Mark during and after his funeral. Mark was a man who did much charitable work during his practice of dentistry, which began in 1985. He used his contacts in the field of dentistry to help those in need. I learned that he had been an instructor at Medical College of Virginia and had tutored students in courses that were causing them difficulty. Mark was a Little League Baseball Coach and a devoted husband and father to his two sons.
One thing that the minister conducting his funeral said that really stuck with me was this: Mark never found time to hate. He was too busy finding charitable work to do and staying in touch with old friends to find discontent in his life.
If I had known Mark was so ill, I would have made the three-hour journey to Richmond, Virginia, to see him while in hospital. I only wish I had been afforded the opportunity to say "good-bye" to a very old and very dear friend. However, I somehow feel that Mark wouldn't have wanted his friends to know how ill he was.
So, I am left with fond memories of a man who made me laugh, a man who always had a kind and compassionate word to say, and a man who seized each opportunity to spread some kindness.
To Mark's family, I would like to say that this world is a better place for having Mark Barban in it. If I could turn back the clock, I would have taken the time to visit with him and perhaps learn a few lessons about the meaning of life from him.
Good-bye, Mark. Please know that you have been loved and will be missed by many. May you find peace from the pain and suffering you have endured. May your family find strength in realizing the joy and exuberance you brought to so many.