I am saddened by the passing of my brother, Mark Gritzmacher, on April 27th, 2016. He was only 49. It’s doubly sad because he was the youngest of my siblings, 12 years my junior. You always figure that as I am the oldest in the family, he’d outlast me.
I was asked to write a little something for the memorial service and I was happy to do so. My son Frank read it for me as I was unable to be there. When I received the phone call from Mark’s wife, Gayle, I was already in Virginia Beach, on the way to Florida for the 80th birthday party for my Father-in-law, Don Henning. We always say that the only good thing about funerals is that the surviving family gets to see each other. I had to weigh whether to attend a family event celebrating a living family member, or the deceased. I will always regret a decision like that, no matter which way I choose. But we continued on, with Gayles blessing and understanding.
Here is the eulogy I wrote, which Frank Gritzmacher read:
Mark was almost 12 years younger than I, so I remember his birth and childhood vividly. He always was a happy and fun kid to be around despite his medical problems. I think that because he spent so much time in hospitals and away from home, it became the new normal to him and he always seemed comfortable with whoever and wherever he was.
That’s a trait I saw later with my sons, Frank and Albert, when they grew up with medical issues.
Despite it all, he had a pretty normal life most of the time. He went to school and had friends, enjoyed sports and hobbies, had girlfriends, graduated from high school and all those normal things. Since I was older and in a different phase of life, I sort of saw all of that from a distance.
Somewhere along the way, he had his kidney transplant. It didn’t stop him. If anything, he used it to inspire himself to follow a path to study for a medical career. Along the way, he met a wonderful partner, Gayle, married and had a family. And a second transplant.
Mark never let his transplants define him, but when my sons became candidates for lung transplants, he was there to support and help them.
He was a loving and dedicated father to Matthew and Andrew, sharing his love of sports, travel, and along with Gayle, guiding them on to adulthood. His love of homebrewing beer and his recent venture into sailing were some of his pleasures.
My favorite memory of Mark was our trip to Minneapolis for our Cousin Tom’s wedding. We drove together in two vehicles, getting lost, having flat tires, and had a great time.
Mark never said much about his health. I’m sure his close family knew, but it was a surprise to us. I know he felt he had been given a gift of life, not just once, but twice, and was grateful for all the time he had. I think he’d like it if we all remembered all the good times we had with him now.
I got the news of Marks passing while I was on the way to Florida to surprise my father-in-law for his 80th birthday. I considered turning around and coming home, but discussed it with Gayle, and decided to continue. We chose to honor a living relative while we can. I hope Mark understands. Somehow, I think he does. While we are here, we will be seeking out a way to take a sailboat ride and remember him.