The past three weeks have been the toughest of my life. Facing the death of a brother is something you never mentally plan for – so the shock and grieving hits you with force. I’m thankful for all your kind words and support – however short or brief, they have made a difference.
A few folks have asked me to post my speech from the event we held this last Sunday to celebrate Martin’s life. It’s below. Again – thanks to you all.
Thanks for coming today. I wish we had done this when Marty was with us.
I am not sure how I will get through reading this. You might need to give me a minute or two.
Marty will always be my brother. Like you, his death has left me utterly bereft. It is incomprehensible that such a brilliant and caring person could be lost so tragically. I’d go as far to say, carelessly.
But then part of me isn’t surprised. This wasn’t his first brush with death. And he’d fought a winning war against the debilitating Crohnes disease.
He lived life on the edge and to the full. It was a life that many of us can only hope to have the courage to live. He pursued it with passion, absolute conviction and selflessly determined to make the lives of others better. He sought to make a difference. That put him in harms way. And it made him my hero.
Rather than slouching in front of TV, Martin hopped on his bike on Sunday February 8th and headed into the Thai countryside to again explore and experience all it had to offer. It was to be his last adventure. That he called his friend Nathan and told him how great it was – and what fun he was having — gives us some comfort. He began his last ride happy.
I know many of you want to know what happened. How could this have happened – and not 5 minutes from his home. Here’s what we know.
On the Rangsit Road, about 10.30pm on Sunday February 8 Martin hit, or was hit by one or more vehicles as he rode his motorcycle home. It’s a frantically busy road running parallel to the Kloong river. And it’s a road that knows death well – just 8 months ago one of Marty’s closest friends – Far, was killed one late night on it.
Looking at Marty and his bike, our best guess is that whatever he met was pretty large – perhaps a SUV or truck — it could have been on of Thailand’s ubiquitous blue taxis. I drove that highway many times – past chaotically converging cars, trucks, motorcycles- even elephants; and to that spot in the road where oncoming cars once separated by the median strip can make a U-turn. It would have been hard for Martin to see the turning vehicle and even harder for them to see him. And that’s where Martin left us.
His friends – two of whom are here with us today – rushed to the hospital. Marty couldn’t be resuscitated.
The police continue to investigate, but without witnesses and having happened so late at night, there is little hope of really learning what happened. The tale of Marty’s last hours will be blurry at best. And justice seems to be of so little value when compared to the brilliant light we lost that night. Answers or explanations will be always be insufficient.
I’m certain none of us will ever loose Marty. And today I want to remember not just who he was but what he taught us.
Marty taught us to live life to the full – go explore. Whether the forests of Northland or jungles of Thailand. He like Rhys and I was drawn to the dynamism and energy of the East.
Marty taught us to express ourselves with passion and love. To leave life on the table. Whether staging MacBeth in Korea or Blondie as a kid at Christmas – or hiking up the hill in front of our house with my daughter Sophia on his back. And he loved those kids he taught. And they loved him.
Marty taught us to never settle for second best. With this in mind he set about reforming nearly every taxi and restaurant in Thailand. The local phone company – their understanding of English and their bills vastly improved — will be glad to no longer have Marty paying their customer service center visits.
Marty taught us to bring creativity to everything we do. He did it like no other. Teaching math after school through card games created some of Thailand’s best six-year-old card sharks. The image of one of them sobbing in front of his coffin will be with me forever.
Marty taught us to give unconditionally. Teaching became an incredible outlet through which to do this. And he gave it his all. There is no better testament to this than the kids, parents and teachers at his funeral in Thailand. They arrived by the bus load to celebrate Marty’s life.
Marty taught us to smile. To see the humor in life’s weird ways. He left a note in his journal – I’m not sure where it came from. "Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
And boy would he have smiled at the Monty Pythonesque nature of the events that unfolded. From the dogs strolling around the temple – the Monks getting a quick cigarette in outside the crematorium — to the funeral director who arrived with the urn, and the rest of Marty’s remains wrapped up in a sheet on the front seat of his ute.
Marty would have approached all of this with an incredible inquisitiveness – determined to document and illuminate every minute. We would have had many more photos than we have here today.
I can’t even pretend to understand what has happened. Why it has happened. As I sat in the temple looking at Marty’s coffin atop a mountain of purple flowers I kept asking why – and why here. The only explanations I can find are in what Marty taught me and what we shared.
And so we said a final goodbye to Marty in physical form as the sun set on Saturday February 15. Gently lowering his ashes sprinkled with Lotus flowers into the Chao Phraya river before the Wat Arun temple. That he returned to water is hugely symbolic – he was the finest sailor I ever knew.
He was also the finest of friends.That Marty saw that so clearly was reflected in his friends that stood around him that night. They say you can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. Marty picked well. For that I am also thankful. To Sasi, Nathan, Harkan, Dave and Apple – our gratitude for the way you stood by Marty — and us over that coming week — will always be insufficient.
And to all that have cared for us over the past weeks. To my friends Greg, Helen and Sandy. To Chris, Candice and the gang who helped get the site up. To Casey who helped with the foundation. I say a special thanks.
Sadly the final lesson Marty taught us was that the time we get together is precious — perhaps the most precious of all gifts. Marty would have wanted us to put our anger, sadness and tears aside and revel in what we do have. For it will also one day pass.
I want to remember so much of Marty – and I fear remembering so little. I’m determined this won’t happen.
We’ve established the Martin Lark foundation in his name to further English education in Thailand – you can learn about it at Martinlark.org. We will do this through scholarships for those that can’t afford it and by developing the capabilities of teachers. And to celebrate Marty’s spirit we will be building a playground at the local orphanage.
But mostly I’ll keep him close by – in my dreams and thoughts. Especially Marty’s grin – that ability he had to look at you and laugh at you and himself simultaneously.
One of his best friends – Jason — said on Marty’s death that he left a big hole in the universe.
When I go to sleep at night I hear him hammering away making new holes. Inspiring new stars.
I hope you do to.
Kia kaha Marty.