By Whitney Craig
Music sang through Mark Cox’s genes.
The son of a musician, he enjoyed music with a passion unmatched by most. Mark’s brother, a bass player from Chicago, visited him recently at ADEC’s Adult Habilitation center in Bristol, IN, where Mark attended the day program for seniors. At first, Mark knew he was there but wasn’t paying much attention to him. That changed when his brother sat down at the piano.
“As soon as his brother started to play the piano, Mark was right there,” shared Anne Cripe, one of Mark’s staff at ADEC. “I’m a photographer, and I didn’t have my camera that day. But that. When I think of Mark, that is my picture.”
Mark, 62, died Tuesday, June 10 at Elkhart Hospice House. He had been part of the ADEC family since 1990, living at Foster Group Home and participating in day services on the Bristol campus. Mark had been struggling with illness and went into hospice care three separate times before his death.
“He was a fighter and he always has been,” said Marianne Howard, another staff who worked with Mark. “We saw him Saturday and thought he’d be all right. When we went again to see him on Tuesday, we knew it wouldn’t be long.”
Mark could almost always be found holding a tambourine, or tapping away with a drumstick as he kept time with the beat. Ellen McIntosh, another of Mark’s staff, told of how he would often enter a room and pick up everything he saw, throwing each item aside as he went.
“Most people would get really frustrated about it,” Ellen said. “But he was curious . . . He was trying to figure out what they were in his own way. But if he couldn’t play [music] with it, he didn’t want it.”
Mark, who was nonverbal, would sway from side to side when music played, letting the tambourine or drum stick communicate his appreciation for the melody. Music therapy worked wonders for him. He came alive with the opening notes, and it revealed a different side of his personality. Every time his sister came to visit, she brought him something musical to increase his collection.
A few months ago, Anne, Ellen and Marianne decided to make a craft for Mark that celebrated his love for music. They took an old record and, remembering how Mark loved when his brother played classical music, looked up the melody for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major to copy onto the album with a picture of Mark in the middle. They then used hot water to bend the album in half so it could sit on a shelf in their room. Mark loved his album, but it meant so much to them as well.
The staff who worked with Mark developed a close relationship with him, learning how to communicate and simply enjoying spending time with him. Anne, Ellen and Marianne each shared how much they looked forward to feeding him. Mark would make that time together so pleasant with his personality and appreciation for good food. Once, they even heard him laugh. As much as they tried, they never got him to do it again. The sound, however, stands out in their memory. Every now and then, he would crack a big smile and steal their hearts all over again.
“He had a very select group of people that he let in his world, and he would let them know by reaching out to hold their hands,” Ellen said. “The best part, if you were one of Mark’s people, is that he would hug you. It wasn’t a normal hug. He would just lean over and put his head on you. That was the best.”
Mark’s friends said good-bye to him Monday during a memorial service at the day program. After sharing stories and memories of Mark, they filed outside to the courtyard where they wrote messages to Mark on helium balloons and released them.
“I’ll see you when I get there.”
“Keep the beat going strong in heaven.”
A celebration of life service for Mark will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, at Billings Funeral Home, 812 Baldwin St., Elkhart.