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Sharing Dreams with the Dad

August 6, 2021
Every once in a while I'll have a dream about Uncle Mark and I'll share what happened with my dad, John Lanier (Uncle Mark's brother). I don't usually remember what the dreams are about, and neither does my dad, but we both know that he's there with us in some fashion. 

In the few that I remember, I'll be talking to Uncle Mark, telling him about random things that are going on in my life, and he'll be there listening and smiling. Nothing more than that, but it's still extremely valuable to me. He's just listening and being attentive. 

And when I wake up, I wake up happy knowing that I'm still able to connect with him in some way. And I'm glad that my father experiences the same thing too. 

A long time ago

February 18, 2021
I was lucky enough to get to know Mark in college, but what I remember most is that I don't remember ever having a short conversation with him. Whether it was staying at Baxter too long after dinner, sitting in the College Council office discussing the squeal of bagpipes, talking at a reunion while Mark cradled his new son -- you get the idea. Mark was intense, quiet, kind, and inevitably interesting. I am so sad for all but especially his beloved children that Mark is gone.

Mini-memories of Mark

November 5, 2019
Here are a few small memories of Mark, from childhood to recent years:

When we were little and an adult asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, instead of saying fireman or pilot or even artist, like the rest of us, Mark would always say: oceanographer. We had no clue what that was, and maybe he didn’t either, but it sure sounded cool.

In first or second grade, Mark and I went through a brief period when, on bathroom breaks, we would wash all the mirrors with soapy paper towels, and then dry them to an immaculate shine. It was all his idea, but I eagerly joined him. This lasted a few weeks. We had to work rapidly, because the breaks weren’t long, and there was a feeling of excitement at doing something not exactly naughty (and maybe even good) but unknown to the teachers. When they found out, they didn’t really get mad, but they made us stop.

While we were still in college but home in Cincinnati for Christmas break, a group of our high school classmates met up to go to “The Last Waltz” at (if my memory serves me) The 20th Century Theater in Oakley. I was wearing a blue jean jacket, and when we met on the street, Mark made the remark, “I’ve never owned a jean jacket.” I wasn’t sure if he was looking slightly askance at my plebeian attire. But, having come from a formal party, he was wearing a tuxedo, so my retort was ready-made: “And I’ve never owned a tux.” He laughed, and I can almost hear him say, “Fair enough.” I’m not sure I ever saw him in a jean jacket, but he certainly became fond of denim overalls.

When Julie and I got married in November 1981, Mark was studying literature at Oxford, but, as he told me, he was not one to miss a wedding or a funeral. He flew back a few days early and joined us for Thanksgiving with Julie’s family in Boston. (See photo in Gallery.) At the wedding, one of Julie’s friends thought he was my father (he was 23). Afterwards, he drove us back to New York, with Ben Lowenthal riding shotgun while Julie and I snuggled in the back seat. (We had our real honeymoon the following summer.)

Mark and I overlapped for a year at Stanford (1985-86). One of the highlights of that year was the fabulous production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus that the business school put on, with Mark in the role of Dysart and Todd Harris as Alan. The Grateful Dead played a lot of concerts in the area that year, and sometimes Mark and I would go together or meet up at the show. If I wanted to find him, I just searched the floor for his already bald head, bouncing to the rhythm. After one concert at Frost Amphitheater, on Stanford’s campus, when he was not in any condition to drive (ahem), I drove his white Volvo back up the winding road, through red-limbed manzanita groves, to his group house on Skyline Drive, where we sat on the ridge and watched the sun set over the Pacific, turning into a red ziggurat before it slipped under the horizon.

Mark, David Henry, and I drove to Cincinnati together for our 20th high school reunion in 1996. I’m sure there were a lot of good conversations, but what I remember better is that we spent a significant portion of the drive playing a quiz game of our own invention: we took turns reading passages from a massive poetry anthology, while the other two tried to guess the author. We were all pretty bad at it, actually. Mark, of course, wanted to stop for a long, leisurely dinner, whereas I wanted to just grab a bite and press on (we were already going to arrive late at night). Dave sided with Mark, but I insisted that we hold the dinner break to an hour… which we almost did. There was a lot of good-natured teasing going back and forth over that.

In July 2013, I drove a rental truck containing some furniture from my parents’ house in Cincinnati to our house in Dover, Massachusetts. One of the items was a big hutch. We live in a small house, and the only place to put the hutch was occupied by a massive, old, crappy upright piano that nobody played. I asked Mark if he would help me move it out of the house, and he not only said yes but added that he had a dolly and a handcart. I wasn’t even sure what the difference was, but it seemed I had asked a professional. Not actually, as it turned out (there’s a reason that piano movers exist, and have their own union), but he had a lot more experience than I did, and he was a lot stronger. Even so, the all-day process of moving the piano was like a slapstick routine so glacial in pace that the humor often gave way to sheer frustration. We labored to get the piano halfway through a doorway only to realize we didn’t have room to make the turn that would get us to the front door. So we had to backtrack and take a longer route through the dining room and kitchen, which meant going through three more doorways, all of them posing their own particular challenges. We strategized, joked, swore a lot, and smoked a little weed. At one point the piano was listing on the dolly so that we couldn’t get it through the last doorway. “We need straps,” Mark said emphatically. So we made a trip to Home Depot and bought some straps. I didn’t know how to use them, but Mark did. Somehow, by the end of the day, we managed to get the piano onto the front porch, where it still stands six years later, threatening to fall through the floor’s slats, its wood lamination covered in dust and beginning to peel away.

Mount Greylock

July 8, 2019

A few weekends ago, a group of us hiked up Mt. Greylock in Williamstown MA. We placed a  suiseki stone that my father had taken out of the Deerfield river back into the water there. Alec Henry carved an M into it, the cursive M that Mark used in his signature. As I told my siblings who were not there, “Dad never wanted a headstone, but I think he would have liked this.” 

I think it’s more than that though. Nowhere feels like a better place for him than sitting by that water fall, watching with the patience of the stones he loved as the seasons change around him. I am reminded of the haiku he wrote, and shared with his friend Jeff Harrison.

Let me be a stone

In clear running water

Here, doing my job

For anyone that wants to visit the stone, you need only find the March Cataract Falls trail on Greylock, a short detour off the Hopper trail. When you reach the falls, just follow the water downhill and you can find him sitting in a small crevasse.

A trip to Danville and Perryville, KY

April 11, 2019

Mark – I took a little trip last weekend in your memory and I want to share it with you.

I went to Perryville, KY to volunteer on American Battlefield Cleanup Day (Saturday, April 6) at the Perryville Battlefield State Monument.This battle, as I am sure you know, was considered the high water mark of the confederacy in the Western Theater.Braxton Bragg’s army moved north from Chattanooga and into Kentucky in the late summer and fall of 1862 in an effort to find support and resources for the southern cause.The Union army was building it’s position in Vicksburg and western Tennessee following the slugfest at Shiloh in April of 1862.Bragg thought that a movement north might draw the Union army out of Tennessee and Mississippi.And border towns like Cincinnati would be threatened by this movement to the north by the Rebel Army.Bragg got everything he wanted – Union troops moved north to try to outflank his advance and border towns got a bit frantic.I don’t think that they built much troop support from the Kentuckians, though.Anyway, the armies crashed into one another at Perryville on an October afternoon.Artillery, infantry, and I think even cavalry fought until dark.Superior Confederate movements left the Union units, many of whom had not even fired a single bullet in combat, scrambling despite having the height of land to their advantage.With ammunition low, the bayonets were affixed and the accounts of hand-to-hand combat are horrific.Soldiers struggled on the hillside for footing because the ground was covered in blood.Nighttime and darkness saved the Union army from defeat - Bragg retreated supposing he was going to be overwhelmed by reinforcements.The Confederate Army retreated back to Harrodsburg that night and then south into Tennessee never to return.Renowned soldiers were present on the battlefield including Bragg, Buell, Lytle, McCook, and Polk.

Fast forward 150 years and yours truly was the second volunteer to arrive on the battlefield that day; I arrived with intentions of giving a little effort to help preserve this battlefield in my friend Mark Lanier’s name.Ultimately about 70 volunteers arrived. A descendant of a confederate colonel who died on the battlefield even drove up from Georgia to donate to the Battlefield Trust an actual cannon (excuse me, a “gun”) that had been in action on the battlefield in 1862.I told anyone I could about my friend, Mark.We talked about childhood, our love of history, Danville, and, even, suicide.You were a big presence with me last Saturday.Guess what job they gave me?Burning brush!There you go, Mark, looking out for me – I drove to Perryville to play pyromaniac for a day. It was great - I had more fun!I told one young volunteer that burning brush was better than sex – he kind of cocked his head with his mouth open as if to say, “Did that yankee just say what I think he said?”

But equally as meaningful to me last weekend was my visit to the Bellevue Cemetery in Danville on Friday night.The cemetery is a small, unpretentious, unattended small town burial ground behind simple black wrought iron gates that guard a single lane entrance.A little work on my phone in the city records revealed the plot location of Ike Lanier in the cemetery and made locating the Lanier plot quite easy.It’s actually right inside the gate.Your Lanier monolith is actually a granite “recta-lith” reaching about 15’ into the sky.It has simple floral carvings and the family name prominently displayed about 2/3 of the way up the stone.There is no additional inscription on the stone or at its base (personally, I think we ought to carve your name in the base, but I digress).Ad and Melissa’s granite headstones lie a few rows back.I left flowers in the ground between them.And I said out loud to anyone who was listening but no one in particular that the flowers were from your friends and family who miss you deeply.I thanked your mom and dad for sharing you with all of us.

And I left.

A Little Note

April 3, 2019

Mark was many things. He was a thoughtful conversationalist,  eclectic intellectual, a baklava connoisseur, and a bonsai master.  I spent a lot of time at Welland road. It was there I got ready for school dances, for graduation, for mornings after long nights where he would offer me a cup of coffee and perhaps a knowing shake of the head and hearty laugh. I wrote a silly note for Mark a while back that most might have thrown out but he put on his fridge for years to come. It is in this way he invited everyone around him into his life.

 Mark took me on my first date ever when Sam and I dated (a speedy romance of true sixth grade love ). Knowing immediately how to break the awkwardness of two 12 year olds he asked what our favorite milkshakes were. During the movie he sat a few seats behind us to make sure there was no funny business and watched us squirm at the moments no one wanted to watch with their parents or their date's parents. Luckily he had many more questions to cover the ride back home making him the ultimate wing man for Sam (imagine long hair, and even longer jean shorts. I know a total heart throb but a wingman never hurts).

I am forever grateful in the ways he allowed me to be part of his family. I think of him teaching me to make monkey bread in the morning around Christmas and allowing me to come over everyday of high school for lunch. He taught me about Pete Seeger and Yo-Yo Ma. He taught me about trees and sanctity of family dinners.  Mark was a constant in my life. He will be sorely missed. 

March 26, 2019

A tribute to Mark Lanier at the celebration of his life on March 23rd

I got to know Mark in 2007 when he showed up at my office in New York one evening and told me he had been on the board of directors in one of our programs in Connecticut and had become very motivated by our mission (Making the world a friendlier and better place for people living with mental illness).  Mark told me that he had moved to Boston and was now looking to be more involved, give more of his time and have a bigger impact.  Well he certainly did that.  He turned out to be one of our most active and driven volunteers. 

In the 12 years he was on our board he may have missed only two meetings.  He served and led on a variety of committees and as our Chairman from 2014-2017.

Mark was a treasure for me as the Director and a fully engaged, productive and supportive colleague for others on the board. He had a personal relationship with many of our staff.

He brought commitment, passion, intensity, generosity and of course fun to our work.

His commitment could be evidenced by his attendance at meetings. But he also would always volunteer for the difficult or less attractive responsibilities like the Audit Committee, or corporate fundraising or Treasurer.  He would talk to me about how the success and progress of those work projects meant Clubhouse International was going to be able to help more people living with mental illness. I remember once he had put a committee meeting in his calendar wrong and missed a meeting.  The next time I talked with him I told him I had missed him at the meeting. For the next 10 minutes he was beside himself because he had broken a streak that only he was tracking, of years of not missing that small committee meeting.

His passion would come across in many ways.  Mark always seemed to be traveling somewhere for work or vacation or to spend time with family or friends.  He seemed to have knowledge about cities and towns and events everywhere. When he traveled we would usually get an email well in advance of his trip asking for an introduction to the closest Clubhouse to Kyoto or Johannesburg or Salt Lake City.

Then without a doubt  a short time later, a message would show up in my mailbox from a small little mental health program somewhere in the world expressing gratitude for sending such a wonderful man to visit. Along with the thank you would be a description of Mark spending time being with and learning about the Clubhouse and the people involved.  His visit had clearly made their day.

Mark’s intensity for our work was evident when he would get up and walk around the board table with a carefully planned presentation imploring us all to do more and to and to visit our Clubhouses around the world between meetings.  As Chair he would end every meeting asking other board members to please visit a Clubhouse where “you are not yet a familiar face”.  At the next meeting he would lead off by asking everyone to report on those visits. 

Mark truly cared about people who struggle every day with mental illnesses. He was incredibly generous with his work, his donations and his time. But what always impressed me most was how generous he was with his attention.  He was one of those rare people who when speaking with you was entirely focused on you and what you were saying.  He made you feel listened to and important to him. He did this with corporate leaders, lawyers, politicians AND he did it with our staff, the members and staff of local Clubhouses and many others. He was incredibly generous with his attention. 

And of course Mark liked fun and brought lots of fun to our world.   His wonderful laugh filled the room when he was amused. I can hear him laughing still in my memory and saying ….Oh Come On!  

He is famous in our network for some of the costumes he would wear when attending a conference. Once he dressed as a Scandinavian researcher with a heavy accent and went around surveying everyone attending the conference. More recently he attended a conference in Detroit and was chairing a workshop on using film festivals to raise money for Clubhouses.   Just before the workshop started all the lights went out. When they came back on Mark was standing there wearing a French beret with dark sunglasses and a scarf around his neck and smoking a cigarette on a long fancy holder.  He facilitated the entire workshop in this costume speaking in a heavy French accent. (See picture in gallery)

He was such good fun.

When Mark first agreed to stand for election as our Chairman he and I had dinner together in Connecticut.  When he first sat down he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic dog and put it on the table in front of me.  He then asked "Do you know what that is?"   A German Sheppard, I said.  He said "That's right and do you know what German Sheppard's do? They are strong and fiercely loyal and protective and aggressive when needed and reliable and will always be there to protect and help you.  Joel, while I'm Chairman that's the role I'm going to play for you and for Clubhouse International. I'm going to be your German Sheppard!" He certainly was, and we were all better off for it.

He was a great leader.

A leader with a unique style that bounced between easy going and comfortable to intense and demanding of all your attention.  That’s really kind of how I experienced him all the time.  

It is difficult to say goodbye to him. And that tells me…. because it is so hard, that we were all very fortunate to have known and loved Mark.

Henry, Cole, Lilly and Sam, he treasured you and was so proud of the people you have become.   His face would light up whenever he got the chance to talk about you.

Mark was in the Clubhouse International world what we call a “Fire Soul”.

Mark’s life is and will remain woven into the lives and hearts of all of us.

It is good to be here to celebrate his life here today with all of you. 

Call Me Elmo

March 25, 2019

From Mark’s Celebration of Life - Michael Battey

Thank you to the Laniers for having this service for all of us to come together to celebrate Mark Lanier; to Ralph Schroeder, David Monnich, Brooks Tanner and Will Ballew for allowing me to be the one to speak for all of us Ephs today. And especially to Will and Ralph for helping me improve this writing.

During my life, people have called me Mike or Battey or Batts or Michael.  But only one person called me Bat Head. Mark Would call me and greet me with “Bat Head I’m calling because…” followed by a story which usually caused laughter and had a purpose.  Often he would punctuate the call with the enthusiasm: “Bat Head, Another day above ground is a VICTORY!” Some things become clear with time. In this case I realized too late that Mark meant exactly what he said, and in a way I didn’t understand. Staying above ground for one more day, every single day, truly was Mark’s relentless, internal, terrifying struggle.

Mark also was known by several names.  He had a name from childhood, apparently given to him by his young Cincinnati classmates when they discovered, to their extreme horror, that Mark had no middle name, that he was simply Mark Lanier. As Mark told it, his classmates held a vote, and decided that his middle name always should have been Elmo - Mark Elmo Lanier. Since the day Mark told us this story, he was forevermore our brother Elmo. Or years later after he and I had attended a charismatic Episcopal church service together, just to see what that might be like, and Mark rechristened himself: Elmo Lafayette Rise Up and Tell The Glory of Emmanuel Lanier. David called him The Professor, as Mark was so often confused with one, dressed in his signature Khaki uniform. And then briefly during Mark’s period of intensive study and practice of the pentatonic scales in an effort to become the next great blues guitarist from Brookline, Massachusetts, he was the blues man Blind Melon Elmo. He was indeed a man of many talents, and a man of many names.

Like Mark’s father, my own father was not an informal man.  Our fathers got along well when Mark, David Monnich, Dan von Alleman and I were sophomore roommates at Williams, and Mark’s good friend Ralph Schroeder lived next door. Of all of my friends, my dad asked exactly one to call him by his first name. This was of course my brother Elmo.  Many years later this lapse in paternal judgment created considerable friction with my then girlfriend Wendy. When we became engaged, my welcoming and informal father suggested that, now that we all will be family, Wendy should call my parents Mr. and Mrs. Battey. Welcome to the family! Imagine with me our long, silent drive back to New York City, during which Wendy’s only words to me were the suggestion that since Mark Lanier has been invited to call my dad by his first name, maybe I ought to just marry Mark Lanier.

A second recurring theme in my conversations with Mark was that, as fellow recovering English majors, Mark sometimes would recite a line or two from the opening page of Moby Dick, written as Ralph reminded me, by a fellow citizen of the Berkshire Valley, which opening page Mark had mostly committed to memory, and which opening page he seemed truly to savour one glorious word at a time.  With hindsight, it seems that perhaps he was hoping that his love for this passage might help me figure out his true state of mind, which I regret I never did. It seems as clear as day to me now. Let me read some of it, and perhaps you’ll see what I mean.

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little, and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to ship.  There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.”

For many years, my dad was on the board of Fountain House in NYC, where I volunteered and later also joined the board. When my father retired from his job, he and two of his good friends started a new clubhouse in Stamford CT which they named Laurel House, which was ably led for 25 years by a former senior Fountain House executive named Steve Dougherty and whose board my dad Chaired for many years.  Once my dad discovered that Mark and his young family were living in Fairfield County, he pounced, applied the hook, and Mark became Treasurer of Laurel House the following week; eventually succeeding my dad as the board Chair. Mark loved this work. He fully invested himself into it. He possessed a deeply felt passion and conviction for this work. He was in it for the long term. He was in it to solve big problems: problems it turns out that Mark understood too well. This was a man on a life-long mission. When he and the kids moved to Brookline, Mark connected with Clubhouse International here in Boston, which originally had been a part of Fountain House, and Mark joined the board there, and eventually became its board chair as well, traveling the world, visiting existing clubhouses, helping open new clubhouses and proselytizing far and wide for the clubhouse model.

I've been thinking that mental health became Mark’s white whale. And that whenever he felt himself growing grim about the mouth, whenever he needed to drive off the spleen, Mark would set out to see his own watery part of the world - for Mark I think maybe this was to travel - and to visit - to visit clubhouses all over the world, to visit Will Ballew in Montana to fish, hike, camp, and recite poetry around a campfire, to ski or paddle or dine with friends and family, to visit the Japanese Gardens in San Francisco, to meet with the Vermont Literary Society, to visit his Kentucky cousins in Canada, to visit Ralph Schroeder at Oxford, to sample the rarest of fine cheeses, to visit the barely-publicly-traded potential investments for the Pegasus Fund, to debate the perfect and simultaneous application of both tequila and cigar to the proper embellishment of a fine story with David Monnich, to play chess, checkers, dominos, backgammon or hearts with my own three kids, and to relish both beating them and losing to them and trading barbs.  The list of Mark’s visits is long.

The list of Mark’s interests is longer. For me, Mark was the very definition of our generation’s Renaissance Man.  He loved music, philosophy, poetry, squash, the blues, religion, science, history, opera, soccer, politics, meeting strangers, impersonating fake Russian accents, competition, to discuss the very thingness of the thing with Ralph, to view and ponder sculpture and paintings, singing with what he once called “the conviction that is only available to those with acute hearing loss”, heated debate, Haiku, cooking and consuming great meals, blue grass, games, sculpture, laughter, especially when he was laughing at himself and would reply with a huge, chuckling “Oh my”.  He loved his friends, and Mark especially loved his four children. They were truly the light that shone brightest inside him. All you had to do was ask “How’s Lily, Cole, Sam or Henry?” And you were immediately off on an excellent and vivid story or two, catching up on the four Laniers’ various recent adventures.

Here was the most widely read, intelligent, humorous - caring and generous - articulate and humble - accomplished and well-loved man, with a razor blade of a mind, whose friendships were from every corner of life, and every corner of the world, and yet he also proved himself to be the Yoda Jedi Master of concealing his inner state of turmoil and suffering. Like Ishmael, Mark struggled with a relentless and unstoppable force of nature, a force which always leaves wreckage wherever it goes and, also like Ishmael, in a battle not even of his own choosing.  

As I tried to come to terms with the fact that our friend, and brother, and father, and uncle, and neighbor is suddenly gone, I struggled with what to say and how to do justice to this fine, fine man.  In Moby Dick, Ishmael at one point describes a man as having a “globular brain and a ponderous heart; a man capable of majestic emotions as well as intense thought.” Mark particularly loved those words. He rolled them around in his mouth like wine.  And they seem such a fitting description of the man we all so loved and admired.

We see you more clearly now Mark, sadly too late to offer you assistance in your struggle; and our world is a vastly smaller and poorer place without you. However, I know I will hold this intellectually and physically towering Eph-man with me.  This man who made me laugh every time he called me and said in his very highest pitched voice: “Hello, Senior Battey, it’s Elmoceeeeeeeeto”.  Little Elmo indeed. We will hold him in our hearts forever. I know each of you joins me in wishing Mark the peace and forgiveness he sought while he was here, above ground, and too briefly, with us. 

Ivan's Childhood

March 25, 2019

(Story I told at my father's Celebration of Life)

This past Sunday I went to go see the film ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ with a couple of friends out where I live in Western Massachusetts. It’s a sixties art-house movie by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, and it tells the story of an orphaned child acting as a reconnaissance soldier for the Red Army during WWII. Now, there is a very specific sort of person that goes to see a movie like that on a Sunday, at noon, in Amherst Massachusetts. That type of person is older than me by about 40 years. As my friend Dan texted me while I was parking, “Its a real geezerfest.”

I sat between my friend Dan and a nice older woman, in perhaps her mid to late seventies. The credits roll, and we start with a ten or fifteen minute sequence of the protagonist, a 12 year old boy, silently cutting his way through a decimated Russian countryside. There is no dialogue in that opening, and almost no score apart from some sporadic piano. It’s during that opening when I hear the first snore from my right. I look over, and this elderly lady has her head leaned back on her chair, both eyes closed, mouth wide open. After her second or third snore, i gently push her with my knee to wake her up. She stays awake for another 10 minutes, then falls asleep again. It continued to happen throughout the movie.

I have been in that situation so many times with Mark Lanier. Operas, classical music recitals, watching Saving Private Ryan in our living room. It really didn’t matter what we were seeing, if it was after 3pm, he was falling asleep. I can’t count the instances that Sam and I have had to stop the movie we were watching and shake my father. “Hey pops, pops, you’re snoring, you gotta go to bed, we can’t hear the movie.” I wrote about one of those times on the memorial website, when we went to the National Dutch Theatre in Amsterdam. It’s on odd twist of fate that was the first story that occurred to me when we were trying to kickstart the posting on his site, and that I should be reminded of it again so incidentally while trying to write this speech.

I knew that there would be no shortage of sentiment from the other speakers describing the wonderful parts of my father. His extensive yet engaging intellect, his natural gentleness and generosity, his childlike love of learning and playing. Those are things that all of us that loved him experienced, and how we will remember him as a brother, a colleague, and a friend. As the spokesperson for the four children though, I wanted to communicate a side of him that not everyone got to see, a part of him that was reserved for just his children. I have been trying to think of a story that would let me do that, but it was sitting next to that lady in the Amherst Cinema that reminded me, once again, of his snoring through the movies. Of sitting next to him on our salmon pink couch, trying to watch Seven Samurai (a movie HE insisted we watch,) and that cannon going off in my ear. Or watching him fall asleep on that same couch at Christmas, with him and Lily lying at opposite ends giving each other foot massages. Of being in his bed as a 3 year old, with my arm over his back, like sleeping next to a buffalo laying in the grass. He like to call those Sunday mornings “alligators in the mud” when we would all pile into my parents bed for a mid-morning nap after country ham and waffles.

Those close moments of physical intimacy with him are not something everyone got to experience, and I think you get to know a primitive, unexplainable part of a person in moments like that. When you’re sitting close together, and they feel safe enough to fall asleep around you. Those moments of not talking, of just being close to a person you love without the distraction of conversations. I hope that the next time you are sitting like that, with someone you love, you spend a brief second reaching out to my dad, and let him know you you’re thinking about him. 

E-mail and Haiku

March 25, 2019
Long version

E-MAIL AND HAIKU: A Remembrance of Mark Lanier

(as spoken by Jeffrey Harrison at Mark’s Celebration of Life, March 23, 2019)

[For a longer version of this tribute, from which this one was distilled, click on the PDF at left.]

In the weeks after we lost Mark, I got a little obsessive searching multiple computers for old e-mails from him, and poring over the many haiku he had written. I think I was trying to find a way to hold onto him, to be with him again, and to hear his voice in these two very different modes of expression.

There was one series of e-mails I was specifically looking for, and it had to do Mark’s haiku. One morning in June 2017, I picked Mark up for one of our many museum excursions. In the car he said he had something serious to tell me that he didn’t want me to reveal to anyone else. I braced myself for whatever it might be. Mark had helped me through some difficult periods of my life, and I wanted to be, as they say, “there for him.” The Top-Secret information he entrusted to me that day turned out to be his plan to enter some of his haiku in a contest sponsored by the Haiku Society of America. In order to remain anonymous, which Mark felt was of the utmost importance, he said he was going to submit his haiku under the pseudonym Laszlo Lanyé. He asked if I knew what had inspired him to use the name Laszlo. I said, “Victor Laszlo, in Casablanca?!”—and he burst out laughing that I got it on my first guess.

About a month later, Mark sent me an e-mail that began:

[Jeff,] your job is actually much harder than I realized.

I had to FedEx my haiku submissions for the Henderson Award on Saturday to meet the Monday deadline.

He went on to relate his desperate last-minute rush to a FedEx location downtown to meet their deadline for overnight mail (since he’d already missed the deadline at the Brookline location). His e-mail continues:


Where the fuck is FEDEX?

I submitted my package with about 30 seconds to spare before the 4 pm deadline.

Got home and discovered that Laszlo, the idiot novice, had not included the entrance fee of $7.

So now Mark had to risk blowing his cover by paying Laszlo’s fee… online… with a credit card… bearing the name Mark Lanier. “See below,” Mark added parenthetically. What I found below was Mark’s follow-up e-mail to the Haiku Society explaining his payment. It’s classic Mark (as in: I might as well have some fun with this). Here it is:

To Whom It May Concern at the Haiku Society of America:

I have just paid $7 as the non-member entry fee for Laszlo Lanyé, my friend, who has submitted several of his haiku to your Henderson Award Contest.

Laszlo refuses to send haiku by email.

He also refuses to join any organization and become a “member”.

He told me that he sent his Henderson Award submission by FedEx, printed, as he likes, on a sheet of paper, to the correct address, and I think he probably did.

So I am paying his entry fee.

Don’t ask me.

Artists are sometimes difficult.

Thank you, 


Unlike Laszlo, Mark did not refuse to send haiku by e-mail. The first one he ever sent me was inspired by an experience he had walking by a farm on the outskirts of his favorite city, Kyoto. A farmer was washing radishes in a big tub:

Asking him the way

Bent and washing radishes

“Walk on, East or West”

This feels like an instant classic, as if written by one of the Japanese haiku masters, in the way it captures a simple moment that opens into mystery and contains a touch of humor.

Here are a few more of Mark’s haiku (some have titles and some don’t):


Ivory lover

Late summer moon in the pond

Don’t shimmer, don’t leave

June eve Central Park

Soft light is its own music

Yellow piano


They love my haiku

Old summer toads in a well

They like fat flies too


Let me be a stone

In clear running water

Here, doing my job

That one brings to mind the river stones Mark collected, in another Japanese tradition. As Dave Henry observed in an e-mail, “Mark loved how the world expressed itself beyond the human.” Maybe that’s what he was trying to get at in his haiku. Through this small but expansive poetic form, he seemed to be yearning for something larger than himself, beyond the human… and maybe beyond the sayable.

Another high school friend, Steve Bookman, in an exchange about Mark and our grief at losing him, sent me the following e-mail. This is the entire message—it’s just one line—but if you divide it into three lines, one short sentence per line, it becomes like one of Mark’s haiku:

Nature is HUGE.

Mark is going to be there.

You'll find him.

Let him be a stone in clear running water, the yellow evening light in Central Park, the moon reflected in a pond.

Uncle Mark 3.23.2019

March 25, 2019

(As spoken by Blair Lanier, Mark's niece, at the Celebration of Life gathering at the Publick House)

Many friends and family have noted that Uncle Mark was a great giver of gifts, and I’d like to say thank you for a just few.

First, I want to say thank you to Uncle Mark for teaching me how to laugh at my parents, and love them better for their eccentricities.

Because he’s my father’s little brother and a dear Country Day, carpool days friend of my mom’s younger brother - Andrew Garvey - Uncle Mark grew up with both my parents. He held a unique place - a point on a triangle - holding stories and secrets and shared memories about both mom and dad from childhood through high school through Williams and into adulthood.

My parents aren’t here today and send their love from Israel. If Uncle Mark were here, he and I would laugh about the ways we know my parents are grieving right now. Brother John will be exercising and napping excessively, feeling his brother’s absence intensely in his runner’s headspace. Dear Jane will be reading guidebooks and bringing a book or newspaper everywhere she goes and thinking about how much she’ll miss comparing reading lists and both national and family politics with Uncle Mark while they laughed lovingly at my Dad together.

Because Uncle Mark knew that he was a bit eccentric, he showed us how to recognize, describe, and celebrate the eccentricities of others with deep and loving forgiveness. So I want to thank Uncle Mark for helping me see my parents with more kindness.

When I was 18, Uncle Mark and I spent a week in Buenos Aires together. My father was spending January getting off the phone with his sometimes lonely daughter only to get on the phone with his sometimes lonely brother, and he packed us both off to get out of our own heads. I learned right away that Uncle Mark seemed to have inherited Papa’s penchant for rubber bands as an organizational system and relevant clipped articles from the Wall Street Journal as key parts of breakfast planning sessions. We spent a week exploring and comparing notes (often actual notes from the actual notepad in Uncle Mark’s breast pocket) and napping and eating and only very occasionally arguing over whether it was really worth it to search for a restaurant someone somewhere had told him about once long ago, but for which he didn’t have an address, and maybe not even the right name, and was making me ask strangers for directions in iffy Spanish to a place that probably closed sometime in the 70s.

Uncle Mark could get pretty fixed on an idea, or even an idea of an idea, letting those ideas take on a life of their own no matter the practicality, and I’m reminded of him telling me on that trip about Borges and his labyrinthine Library of Babel. And that’s how Uncle Mark turned trips into adventures. He could connect pretty much anything to a favorite story or song, sharing how any wandering close to home or far afield resonated with the internal landscapes of his mind. And his apparent lack of embarrassment for the sometimes bizarre expressions of his great enthusiasm for adventures meant that I pretty much had no choice but to just get over myself.

Thank you, Uncle Mark, for the fine example of how to bring a little more magic, literature, and unembarrassed adventuring to everyday.

That Argentine trip was a memorable adventure, but it meant so much because Uncle Mark made me feel like a full partner in that adventure. As many people have noted, including my brother Ike, Uncle Mark had a deeply special ability to make younger friends and relatives feel heard, even when he was so clearly the relative expert. Uncle Mark’s kindness and compassion and curiosity, and maybe his own memories of wanting to be heard, combined to make me feel comfortable sharing my own thoughts.

Uncle Mark surrounded his serious questions with fun, food, treats, and a playfulness that made me and many others feel welcomed. I would not have been able to sell my college girlfriends on getting up very early after a very late night to go spend three hours being questioned about my uncle about art history and Istanbul and repertory theater… so I just said ‘he’s cooking us brunch and makes a mean frittata,’ and because Uncle Mark opened the door wearing a tiny apron and the first thing he said was, ‘Mimosas, anyone?’ the hours of fireside chat, on a couch covered in dog hair, and with an unexplained suit of armor in the front hall, is legendary as one of the best conversations of college. Thank you, Uncle Mark, for doing that for me so many times - facilitating a rambling conversation with food, warmth, and interest, playing host to my stomach and my imagination.

Uncle Mark gave me hundreds of gifts - big and small, physical and intellectual and imaginative and auditory and visual and historical and edible. But every gift came with the means to make more, to savor more, to continue in his absence. He gave our family gifts of watercolors but also gave me a tiny portable watercolor paint set he encouraged me to bring on future trips. He arrived to visits in Maine with cheese and sake and watermelon and Dvorak recordings, but also carefully preserved cheese wrappers so I could find flavors again, a program from a live performance of opera so I could go see it for myself, a solar powered paper lantern that light lit up a willow oak in North Carolina year after year.

And best of all he gave me the gift of an especially deep love for you - Henry, Cole, Sam, and Lily. He made sure to share each of you with me - making sure I knew what a gift each of you are. He talked about you with such love - celebrating your very own eccentricities and evolving hobbies and passions and sharing what he’d been learning from you and making sure I took adventures with you, whether to Maine or western Canada or just adventuring in his living room, so that I could learn to love you even a fraction as much as he did, to revel in each of your wonderful and contagious laughs, to admire each of you for your particular flavor of love for life. Love you so much, and I’ll continue to thank Uncle Mark for that gift for many, many years to come.


March 25, 2019
Thank you to all the family and friends who came to Mark's Celebration.  I really appreciate the efforts made and that we were able to send Mark off in a very positive, moving, appropriate to him way.  Here are my thoughts from Saturday.......
I’m not sure where to begin partly because I never wanted to be here doing this.  I have always been the protected little sister and now I’m not.   
Mark is 10 years older than I am. Therefore, of my three brothers he was the one around the most while growing up. I was the ripe old age of 8 when he left to venture off to Williams College with John and Addison.  Thank goodness they all went there because I think the only t-shirt I wore for a year straight, maybe including to church, was a purple one with WILLIAMS in white across the chest.  
When Mark started driving he drove a 1953 Oldsmobile and he was my ride to school.  Every once in a while he would belt out the words of “In My Merry Oldsmobile” which were taped to the steering column, this was totally amusing to me, maybe not to the walkers on the street when he rolled the window down.   I remember riding in the back seat with my legs higher than my bottom because the seat slanted backwards.  There was no way I could even see out the front windshield let alone over the front seat.  But I thought it was the coolest thing to have my older brother driving me to school.  
My one job at home was to wake Mark up in the morning before school.  He slept in a twin bed with a blue and red checked bedspread.  You can imagine how his body worked in a twin bed although he might have only weighed 150 pounds wet.  His feet hung off the end and his head might have been against the wall.  I think my mom gave me this job because she knew Mark was not a morning person and she knew he would never hit his little sister.  
Mark was always my roomie on family vacations.  Unfortunately for him it was by default due to age and then later we were the only single ones.  He wasn’t so bad though, he didn’t take a lot of time in the bathroom, maybe due to lack of hair and he read a lot so I could listen to my Walkman and he didn’t mind, I could also come in late and he wouldn’t tell my parents.   
I have a love for good food, thanks to being the youngest and spoiled by fancy restaurants and thanks to Mark.  He introduced me to Rogue River Blue Cheese, crazy good dark chocolate, super fancy caramel sauce that came infused with different flavors in cute little jars and of course our shared love of foie gras, no matter how it was prepared. 
Mark would always send me great emails; ones about rats in people’s toilets, music,  trying to catch the mice in his house and the traps actually disappearing, snakes in toilets, artwork, more creatures in toilets, his travels, his kids, my kids, investments, poetry and more creatures.  Regardless of the subject they always made me laugh.  
There are many things I want you all to remember about Mark; he was thoughtful, quiet but loud, caring, passionate, quirky, messy, adventurous, loving, genuine, honest, generous in many ways and cheap in a few, intelligent, committed, head strong but sweet, empathetic, unassuming, thrifty yet also seemed to keep Lands’ End. L.L. Bean and Jos. Banks in business with the number of pants and shirts he owned.  
He was my Marky and I was his Zard.  I will miss the singing Happy Birthday wishes to me, the random CD’s that would arrive in the mail, the pregnated pauses when he really wasn’t finished with a thought but I wanted to speak so badly, the deep belly laugh, giving him grief about his weight, the emails about art or the ones that were so descriptive about random subjects that he found amusing and always made me laugh, him asking about my children and deeply caring about what they were up to and how their lives were.  
I am a better in many ways because Mark was part of my life.  I will also live the rest of my life thinking of him and ways that he enriched others’ lives and hoping I can do my part to make someone’s life better. 
Thank you Marky and I will miss you terribly. 

March 24, 2019

(As spoken by Addison, Mark’s eldest brother, at the Celebration of Life gathering)

My plan had been to share with you one perfect Mark story — one that might have captured a lot of what was “Mark” about Mark.

So many came to mind. There were good ones, too. Almost every one prompted a laugh or showed Mark’s good humor. So many captured Mark’s generous caring nature. Each revealed something of what made Mark so memorably “Mark.”

But, I kept setting stories aside, as I found in each one complexities that begged to be unraveled and explained — or something so naggingly poignant that it made me hesitate about whether I truly understood the laughter.

As this pattern repeated itself — wonderful stories, but none quite simple and compact enough for a quick 4-minute spiel at my little brother’s Celebration of Life gathering — I finally saw what you would have seen much sooner.

There was never anything remotely “simple” or “compact” about Mark. He was an expansive patchwork of complexities — most of them intriguing — many of them marvelous — a few of them frustrating — perhaps, even for Mark, himself. Even the laughter and the joy in Mark’s life had about them tinges of melancholy.

I just wasn’t able to find the one great story that would do.

So, in the end, I settled on this one . . . and I’ll tell you briefly why.

In the summer before he headed off to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Mark — because he was “Mark” — decided to enroll in a 2-month immersive Japanese language course at Cornell University.

He suffered his older brothers’ derisive challenges. “WHEN, IN HEAVEN’S NAME, WILL YOU EVER USE THE JAPANESE THAT YOU WILL LEARN THERE?” we asked him.

Mark ignored us. Off he went to Ithaca for two months of intensive language study — JAPANESE ONLY — in the classrooms, dorm rooms and dining halls. After two months, he returned to Cincinnati for a brief rest, in August, before heading out to Palo Alto.

One depressingly hot late afternoon, Mark was napping on a sofa in our parents’ living room. The doorbell rang. Alone in the house, he went to the front door and was surprised to find a small, older Japanese man —dressed in black suit, white shirt and black tie — nervously clutching with who hands a single piece of paper.

In hesitating, heavily-accented English, the gentleman said something like, “I am physician . . . visiting at University Hospital. . . invited to dinner party. . . house of Dr. Johnson. . . 3-8-5-4 Grandin Road . . . am MISERABLY LOST.”

Mark could see 4 or 5 additional Japanese — presumably also doctors — staring at him from a rental car, politely parked on the street, at the end of the driveway.

Mark smiled at the uncomfortable man before him — and drew himself up to his full height. Mark was skinny in those days. He bowed deeply to the gentleman and — in the formal Japanese one learns in an immersive 2-month summer course at Cornell — he said:

“Respected Doctor, Welcome to Cincinnati. Please return to your car. Proceed 500 meters and turn RIGHT. At the bottom of the hill, turn RIGHT again. Proceed 800 meters. Dr. Johnson’s house is on the LEFT. It is brown and has a green door. Please enjoy your dinner. You are welcome in Cincinnati.”

As Mark said all this, the man’s eyes began to get wider and wider and a huge smile began to spread across his face. Our parents’ driveway is not long — but it is not short, either.

When Mark was finished, the doctor simply began bowing and re-bowing and backing his way slowly down the driveway, repeatedly saying, “ARIGATO GOZOI MASHITA,” — “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you”— as he made his way back to his compatriots — to tell them the story of his encounter with Mark Lanier, on that hot summer evening, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

So, why chose this, of all my Mark stories?

It was Mark — at his UNIQUELY Mark Best.

In Mark’s view — it was Mark who told me the story, not the Japanese doctor — this brief encounter fully vindicated his original decision to spend two months of his life in Upstate New York studying Japanese.

At this time, he could have no idea that, years later, he would travel repeatedly to Japan — that Kyoto would become his favorite city or that training Bonsai and searching for Suiseki stones would become his interests.

At this point, Mark knew only that his hundreds of hours of study at Cornell had fully prepared him for this single flash of a moment, in which he had been able to make one beautiful mitzvah for a man he had never met before and would never see again, a man who was, by his own description, “miserably lost.”

Mark had been able to move this man from DIS-ease to DELIGHT, put a broad smile on his anguished face, point him accurately on his way and make him feel so very much more “at home,” than this man could ever have imagined possible, on that hot summer evening in Cincinnati, Ohio — so very far away from his own familiar home.

Mark could do that — because he was like that.

He was like that, partly because he was wired that way from the very start. But mostly, Mark was like that because that is who Mark wanted to be. For six decades of his life, Mark cultivated that part of who he was and he shared it lavishly.

I’m sorry for all of us, who knew him and will miss him. But, I am especially sorry for all of the people Mark had yet to meet, who will never know what they missed. 

Martin Dysart - Child psychiatrist

March 21, 2019

I was fortunate enough to attend Stanford University GSB from 1984-86 with Mark. He was always his own man , and often lived an alternative lifestyle to the hard core GSB norms. He lived on Skyline Boulevard with Todd Harris and Brian Sharples - the ultimate chill and party house for those with a wider perspective.

He had of course considerable intellect and could deliver on the serious stuff when he needed to, and always got you thinking .

He studied English at Worcester College, Oxford (my old college), and obtained a Masters there before Stanford , developing strong literary credentials that stayed with him forever.

In our 2nd year , I had the crazy idea to direct and fund a play at the Stanford Auditorium - Equus by Peter Shaffer - a play that tells the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat  a young man who has a pathological fascination with horses - very raw and powerful.

I was completing a course in theatre directing at Stanford University, as course credit for the MBA (go figure!), and decide to use classmates at the GSB as the cast. There was only one candidate for the lead role - Martin Dysart , the child psychiatrist - Mark Lanier . He looked like my vision of Dysart , he had serious stage presence,he could deliver speeches with emotion and meaning, he internalised and understood all the themes - he was magnificent. An important part of the play was Shaffer's examination of the conflict between personal values and satisfaction and societal mores, expectations and the institutions that confine us. His on stage relationship with Todd Harris ( a close personal friend ) was electric , dangerous and believable.

Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins were amongst the actors that have played the part , and as good as they were they didn't come close to Mark. Everyone who saw his performance remembers it  and remembers how it affected them - 34 years later.

I watched a DVD version of the video we made at the time the other day with tears streaming down my face.

Gone but never forgotten.

Leading the March

March 20, 2019

I was first introduced to Mark by a gentleman by the name of Bill Battey back around 1991. Bill was on the Board of Directors of Laurel House, a relatively young and struggling non-profit organization located in Stamford CT where I served as Director.  Bill was using his considerable powers of  persuasion to entice Mark to join the Laurel House Board. Mark was close friends with Bill’s two sons Michael and Bill, Jr. and also Michael’s college roommate. Bill’s abundant and formidable charm was irresistible and so without much of a struggle Mark joined the Laurel House Board and served for the next ten plus years as its Treasurer and later as the Board Chairman. Laurel House helped people who had experienced serious mental illness in their life, a great many of whom had been previously institutionalized or homeless in shelters or living on the street. As much as they needed anything in life, these were people who needed a friend. Mark understood the value of friendship and the many kind words left by his friends here on this memorial are a tribute to just how deeply Mark appreciated that value. But Mark also appreciated what it meant to be friendless and alone. He appreciated loneliness and despair.  That was a special wisdom Mark shared and he devoted a good deal of his life trying to make this world a less lonely and more accepting place for people, particularly for those left friendless, alone and in despair.  Mark would be their champion. 

I have so many good and fond memories of Mark Lanier while he was with Laurel House and one remarkable story among many to share involved a statewide march to the state capital in Hartford that would bring thousands of people from across the state to the capital to petition the Governor and raise awareness of the struggles faced by people with mental illness in their day to day lives.  As a board member, Mark saw the importance of the event and he volunteered to join the march and lend a hand. Being a board member meant more to Mark than just showing up at meetings and Mark came out to march but he did much more than just lend his hand. By mid-morning Mark was leading the march and urging the crowd on from the steps of the capital with bullhorn in hand. Mark was never just a passenger in anything he did, he had a voice and he used it to make a difference in people's lives. Special people do things like that, they do the right thing, they use their voice and they stand up to be counted for what matters. Mark knew what mattered and he was going to be counted and we were all the better for his leadership.

Mark was indeed a friend, he was indeed a champion and he was indeed a very special person to us all. God bless you Mark Lanier, we will miss you but you will always be with us and we thank you for all you did for us and with us.

Steve Dougherty

A True Gentleman

March 6, 2019

Last month, after I had received the heartbreaking news about Mark from Jeff Harrison, I responded that I remembered our mutual friend as a gentle soul and, of course, a gentleman.  I first got to know Mark working late nights on "The Scroll," after which I would drive him home to Grandin Road on my way back home to Mount Adams.  We were once discussing Chinese restaurants, and he casually mentioned that his favorite was in Singapore.  That was Mark.  I always enjoyed his company.  

 After Country Day, I had not seen Mark for decades until we got together for lunch.  I was headmaster at a school in Fairfield when I learned from one of my board members that Mark was his neighbor in Weston.  When we both sat down to break bread Mark made a gracious comment that I had not aged much.  Of course, his beard was the first difference I noticed, but his kind eyes had not changed a bit.   We were planning on having dinner to catch up some more, but then came his departure from Weston.
 I did not see him again until  a couple of years later for lunch with Jeff when they were passing through Connecticut.  We all had a great time.  In fact, Mark enjoyed the food and setting so much he decided to see the manager after lunch to arrange for a private room to hold a Christmas gathering for some of the friends he had made in Weston.  That was Mark.  Instead of thinking only of himself, he was finding a way to share some joy and spread good fellowship with others.  How appropriate that the last time I saw this gentleman, he was planning a party.

Aaah mayonnaise

March 3, 2019

Aaah mayonnaise.  Cole, thanks for triggering early memories of Mark with your mention of this crucial ingredient.One of my earliest vivid memories of being in the kitchen of Grandin Road was with Mark-- and about mayonnaise.Or should I say MY OWN AISE?  Mark, or was it Melissa, was my first link to the Lanier family.He was in my brother’s carpool with Tommy Gettler.  I’m sure there was a conversation at one point between my mother and Melissa when I was offered up as a babysitter for Melissa.That’s how I got into the kitchen.

Mark was my friend who I could quiz and joke with about all things Lanier/Emery/Cincinnati/books/life/culture/language and food.“Mark, why do you all say MY OWN NAISE?  It’s mayonnaise (imagine Midwestern, nondescript, but obviously correct pronunciation). Where does this come from?"  Then we would go off into a discussion that this more accurate pronunciation must have come from Mimmer or those summers in Provence.  It just was the right way to say the word.This would escalate into a much broader discussion of what was “normal”. I was then able to explain to Mark, and then my eventual husband, that it was not normal to call your father Sir, or dress up in jackets and ties for dinner, or have about 20 different flavors of Graeter’s ice cream in the second refrigerator for babysitters to tap into at any time.But my favorite ribbing was about apricot cookies.“Mark, no normal family makes apricot cookies.Most families make chocolate chip cookies.”Then Mark would explain to me in detail why apricot cookies, dusted in sugar, were far superior to chocolate chip.It was our ritual and it was so fun.

Later Mark and I could talk about our families and check in.He would ask about my brother, sincerely wondering how he was doing on Wall Street, and then we could branch into the questionable value of MBA’s and the quest for money.Or my mother and books.Mark always asked what I was reading.He thought I read a lot, which used to be true, but increasingly I realized he was reading a lot more widely and voraciously, and I felt a little ashamed to bring up my latest popular novel.He let me ask why Laniers never talked about feelings, and then we would explore how conversations about world events really best showed what people felt about life.Mark would call me up sporadically and ask me how people in Ohio could possibly vote for X candidate.It was clear that he still followed city and state politics in addition to the nation’s.He seemed to be increasingly upset about where the nation was headed while listening to me explain that the “middle” continues to exist.

I still think of Mark as a tall, skinny, intelligent friend who had to overcome his stutter.Many others have written about his drama skills in elementary school.I was there and was riveted by his ability to act without one stutter.It was amazing.We shared the love of squash and he was good at this sweaty sport.When he came back from Oxford, I remember him dressed in black.For some reason, we took a Christmas run around Hyde Park at night.He ran fast and easily, talking the whole way about what he was reading and critiquing the way subjects were taught.I want his children to know what a fine athlete their father was.

Our family loved when Mark would come to Maine to visit.He came ready to share his children with us and an amazing collection of delectable treats.One time he came alone and brought watercolor supplies for all of us.We went on an intentional walk to make watercolor postcards on rich paper stock.John immediately decided to take a nap instead.Mark created a beautiful rendition of his brother lying prone on a Maine rock which is now a framed precious possession in our home.

Mark, I will miss you calling me Janie. I’ll keep asking you for your thoughts, perspective and love.

Generous and compassionate

March 3, 2019

Mark could prepare a dinner dressed in overalls, cooking eggplants grown in his backyard, while waxing about Japanese bonsai trees and Indian music -- and make it all seem matter-of-fact, or at least ordinary for him. What do Armagnac, 'Basho, The Complete Haiku', and a Harmony Sister CD ('The Early Years') have in common? I received these from Mark over the last two years, as thoughtful house-gifts for a dinner at my place, or just because he had bought 10 or so copies of the CD to hand out to friends.

I learned that we had lots of license to find things to laugh about or savor. When he wrote me that he was taking his digital accordion on a cross-country road trip with Lily to Seattle, I teased him about playing "Home on the Range" as they drove. On my own trip home to Cincinnati, when I found myself at Country Day's 2017 graduation listening to his high school song being sung, I recorded it and emailed it to him; he copied me on the forwarded email he blasted to 15 or so circa-1976 CCDS classmates -- and I enjoyed the stream of their replies through the rest of the evening. (Any of you readers get that email?)

Mark was a rare, precious man. He was wicked-funny, independent, incisively articulate, broadly curious, passionate about many things -- and most of all, generous and compassionate. He thought big and he felt big. He had a solid compass as a human being.

I particularly admired his hard work and passion for Clubhouse International, and his deep concern for people who struggle with depression and mental illness. It took great energy and courage for him to lead Clubhouse as their board chairman. I will miss him greatly. 

February 28, 2019

In emailing with our former classmates, I shared these memories of Mark:

"What created this mental imprint of Mark as unique and extraordinary was the moment in elementary school when we saw Mark act on stage.  Watching this child become a Civil War soldier and bemoan the death of President Lincoln through Walt Whitman's O Captain! My Captain! stunned me.  He could inhabit another being, become another person, there was no longer any hint of a child that day as we watched this precocious boy show us what he had in abundance, and what we basically had none of (not at that age) -- empathy.

"I remember a lunch he and I had at the Oyster Bar here in NYC, about 15 years ago.  I took him back to that day, and told him how he affected me.  I even told him why I never said so to him back then, which was that, after his performance, I felt intimidated by him, as though he were on some unreachable plane of being and perceiving.  I carried that feeling with me about 'Mark Lanier' until high school, when I saw how easily he would laugh at himself.  It was quite amusing to see Mark, one school day, ceaselessly make fun of himself for explaining to some local reporter how his Indians' basketball team won that night: 'We all went to our strong thing.'  Mark pilloried himself, through laughter, for failing in the moment to think of a better word than 'thing.'"

Unbeknownst to either of us, late last year, Mark and I were sending our short-form verse to  Jeff Harrison -- he, haikus; I, limericks (absent their traditional content) -- and I'd looked forward to a direct exchange, but hadn't yet suggested it.  In what follows, you'll see "WFB": one day long ago, Mark and I chatted about William F. Buckley Jr., his smile, his style and his vocabulary.  These are for Mark, with love:


I met Mark when our life was all play.

As a Beatle I besmirched his whole day.

Dressed in all black

to his birthday (alack!)

At age 8 he forgave my odd way.


Regal, cerebral, vaguely English.

In manner and vibe, quite WFB-ish.

A tall handsome seer,

who in spirit was near

to an era long gone, yet Lanier-ish.


He loved the arts, all music, stage acting.

At the latter he shone (his strong thing).

a Renaissance man,

alone in his clan

He knew Skunk Hour by heart, quite amazing.

Indomitable Spirit

February 26, 2019

Addison and I were playmates throughout childhood, and I thus passed impressionable time in the Lanier household. My earliest impressions of Mark were twofold -- what a gentle and sensitive child he was and that he stuttered slightly. No doubt they were connected, as if the world of black and white then being offered deserved deeper response than he could immediately deliver. From earliest years, Mark seemed to perceive nuances the rest of us missed, as artists do, insisting on precision to articulate perception, even when difficult to find. As he sought his words, I recall his mother, Melissa, regarding him with great blue eyes, full stillness, and infinite patience, conveying to him that whatever he had to say was of such importance that nothing else mattered. Her love of him was as full as a flowing river, and no doubt allowed him to carry forward the same to his children.

He also presented indomitable spirit. Addison, John, Mark, and I often played “war” in the hayloft and woods, and guess what the sides were, as determined by eldest of the quorum – Addison and me against John and Mark. This was perfectly fair from Addison’s and my point of view. It turns out hubris was our only advantage, because John and Mark readily took us on, and always seem to out-finesse us. Mark was five years younger but he was so agile and so connected with John, that their success was akin to Indians fighting Redcoats. He was never cowed by the big boys.

Fifteen years or so ago, I recall seeing him at the Cincinnati Zoo. He was effortlessly carrying in one hand a large cooler, which would typically call for two to hoist, and with the other he was orchestrating a gaggle of children, nephews, and nieces. On his face, he carried a huge smile, so like his mother’s – resonating with pride, compassion, and joy in the chaotic moment. He was a true caretaker, as was she.

It was moving to see him again at young Addison’s wedding four years or so ago. That he was struggling with equilibrium was clear. But his honesty, sensitivity, and humor were as pronounced as ever, as was his joy, as he spun my wife, Susan, on the dance floor. What was most impressive was how attentive his children were to him throughout the celebrations. They were always close by – attentive to him as he had been to them forever.

He was loved by his parents and siblings, he passed on that love to his children and causes, and he enriched the world in so doing. It stands in sorrowful celebration of him.

My earliest friend

February 25, 2019

2100 views of this memory page and counting…Mark – you were memorable and you were loved.

But, my friend, you are gone and you will be missed.It would appear your legend grew with your stature.You were always the tallest kid in the class.Add to that that you were kind, caring, smart, and wonderfully imaginative.

I remember how much fun you had in Mrs. Nau’s class in the second grade with the “pair” tree where we got to select similar sounding words with different spellings.You came up with triplets for that tree.That led to a sentence construction using “that” three times in succession which still baffles me to this day.

Fortunately, our mothers allowed us time together in our pre-school years.It was time for you to get away from your big brothers and for me to escape from my big sister.We would roll through the creek beds and the woods surrounding our house on Cunningham or your house on Remington clearing the area of renegade Indians coming to attack our position amongst fallen trees.If one of us was lucky to have some caps for our cap guns we’d blow ‘em off in 30 seconds but play on until dark.You were the leader; I loved following your imaginative lead.

When you moved to Grandin Rd I felt like you had left me, abandoned me for the city.There were no Indians or frogs or fallen timbers in the city – only cars, suits, and manicured lawns.But we continued on at CCDS together. There, your imagination continued to flourish – I think you were Joseph in the 1st grade Xmas pageant; I was an angel (far from cowboys and Indians). Your thespian ways became legendary in third or fourth grade with that uber-mentioned recital of Walt Whitman.Our third grade teacher really wasn’t very nice to me but she adored you.You got your blue notebook on the first try writing the Pledge of Allegiance with perfect punctuation; I think I was the last to get it.

You introduced me to maps of Civil War battles in an illustrated book in the library.You laid out the book and introduced me to battle lines of blue and red ad infinitum.You also introduced me to the holocaust.At such a young age, you could already appreciate and feel the horror perpetrated on those victims; it would be years before I “got it.”

As we grew up into coat and tie-wearing young’uns you embraced the education; I resisted it.You played soccer, basketball, and tennis; I played football and ran track.You drove that big old black Plymouth to school; I was lucky to get a ride to school.You were zigging and I was zagging.But we sat next to or within arm’s reach of each other every morning in assembly for six years.Six years we were next to each other for 200 days of each year.And when it all came to an end, I asked YOU to write my senior bio.Did I ever say, “Thank you?”

While I still have a clear image of you in drag with balloons lighting up your well-endowed chest in a senior sketch on talent night, my best memory of you was on the basketball court.Do you remember that guy Greg Johnson from Lockland?He was LeBron before Lebron. He trotted up and down the court like he was in a Roman Legion.He was leading the city, the state and the whole world in scoring and rebounding.He could leap from half court and dunk so emphatically that people were saying “Chamberlain-who?”He had his tube socks pulled up over his monstrous calves, and wore his warm up like it was Superman’s cape.I always though you were tall.You looked like a child next to Johnson.We were packed in there that night to see the legend of Lockland and hope that you guys would survive the impending doom.But then Johnson met this gnat named Mo.He thought he would put on a shooting clinic.You knocked the ball out his hands once, twice, thrice…this was fun to watch.And you started hitting those corner jump shots and the Lanier kryptonite was working.Now, Garvey or Barach will probably try to take credit for stemming the Johnson-tide that night, but don’t let them – I remember only you, big guy!Johnson probably came alive and left his traditional trail of carnage, but for five minutes, a quarter, a half, or whatever it was, you played Lex Luthor and got in his head.Well done!

That brings us to today, almost.I remember your wedding (or was it a wedding party) on Grandin. You were so happy.I did not see you much in our adult years, except at class reunions.But I do remember the last time I saw you, well.

You were in Cincinnati to take some furniture from Grandin Road back to your home up east.You (or John) called to secure a truck for the move.The day you arrived, you were in overalls and a 10-gallon hat (or so it seemed).You were beaming with anticipation of hitting the open road, perched high above the plebian traffic, with a full set of traveling tunes, a trucker!As you settled in to your perch, I am sure that my last words to you were, “Watch your overhead.”

Well, today, you watch us from overhead.And we salute you.There are so many great things that you have to be proud of.I understand that your children are your greatest work.I look forward to meeting them.

And I look forward to continuing to sing a song to you, as I have been singing to you for the last couple of weeks, with a little lyrical license that Steve Earle would appreciate, “Was I just off somewhere trying to get by, but I can’t remember if we said goodbye.”

February 23, 2019

What a blessed man, to know that he was so well loved, even in his darkest struggles. Lov

February 22, 2019
Mark's "Skunk Hour"

Like the other Country Day lifers, I met Mark when we were four-going-on-five years old, in Pre-K, and the friendship that began then never ended. I had my first sleep-over at his house… and I wet my bed. The fact that Mark didn’t tease me about it, or tell any of our other friends, is a testament to how kind he was even at that young age. Mark was bigger than the rest of us; he could have turned out to be a bully, but he was just the opposite, a gentle soul who genuinely cared about the feelings of others. All through elementary school, he was way ahead of the rest of us in emotional maturity (though he could also be silly, a talent he never lost). He was thoughtful before the rest of us were really thinking at all. (See the photo of Mark in focused contemplation of Gibby Carey playing the guitar at my seventh birthday party.) Through high school and beyond, Mark was somehow both our contemporary and our elder (though many of us were actually older). We learned so much from him about life and how to live it, and about art, music, poetry, movies, and of course food. He even talked differently than the rest of us. Our friend Charlie Worthen, who joined our class in seventh grade, wrote recently in a group e-mail, “I thought Mark had come from another galaxy, maybe England.” But he wasn’t pretentious—that was just him. In fact, I’ve never known anyone more genuine. This also meant he could see right through a phony, but even in those situations his good manners prevailed. He was a true gentleman.

But inside was his huge soul. As Cole said so movingly, Mark had the courage to live life to the fullest, taking everything in and feeling it more deeply than the rest of us—music, plays, food, books, travel, trees. And he wanted to give these experiences to the rest of us. He was constantly buying multiple copies of the books and CDs he loved and giving them to friends. (He once said to me that half of life is sending the right things to the right people.) I think this is the reason (or one of the reasons) he loved to cook for others so much—to share that experience with them. He was always giving, in so many ways. Once, around 1980 or ‘81, he came up to the Adirondacks with me, and while we were having one of our many conversations about poetry, he realized that I didn’t know Robert Lowell’s poem “Skunk Hour,” and he proceeded to write it down from memory on a yellow legal pad. (It’s not short, and it’s in free verse, so it’s not easy to memorize.) I still have that page in his unmistakable looped, guileless handwriting, folded and tucked into one of Lowell’s books (see PDF). It’s a great poem… and also a dark one. Mark also gave me (and others of you, I know) an anthology called Japanese Death Poems. Taking everything in and feeling it more deeply included the darkness. “Joy and Woe are woven fine,” as Blake wrote, and I believe they were woven fine in Mark’s capacious heart. 

Mark was one of the first people I called after my brother’s suicide. He helped me through that awful time. And eventually I learned a way to have a relationship with my brother after his death, though obviously a very different kind of relationship than when he had been living. I know all of us will be finding our own ways to continue to have a relationship with our beloved friend. Here is a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that Mark almost certainly knew, and even if he didn’t I think he would like it:

“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but, at the same time, it is a great consolation. For the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn’t fill it but, on the contrary, keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.”

It’s a huge gap. Let us cherish it as we remember Mark.

Osaka 2013

February 21, 2019

(Just one section of an email from my dad. Osaka 2013.)

“Let's just talk of mayonnaise for a minute.

Yesterday I was able to make my pilgrimage to Kiji, one of the most famous okonomiyake restaurants in Osaka.  I went there in the mid-afternoon, after the luncheon crowds had dissipated.

How to explain okonomiyake?  Okonomiyake is the heart and soul of Osaka, which is the combination of San Francisco and Chicago, urban, enterprising, hard-working, money-making, entrepreneurial, blunt, dealing, busy. (The common greeting in Osaka is "Well, are you making money?"  Too which the standard and accepted reply is to furrow your brow, wince, and start to slowly shake your head, saying, "Not much, just a little.")

So, okonomiyake...You can get this all over the city (and increasingly elsewhere in Japan) and everyone has their favorite place.  But Kiji is particularly well-known.  Why?  Because it's very good, near the Westin, a major office area, an the people of Osaka are not stupid; they're not going to let the really good places get crowded by foreigners.

You walk in sit at a counter with a hot metal cooking surface in front of you.  You make your selection.  Pork?  Pork and squid?  Perhaps octopus. Maybe with shrimp.  I asked for pork and squid.

What proceeds is unimaginable in the United States.  The chef combines cabbage (two kinds) with a little flour, secret substances, and two eggs to make a   raw, custardy, cabbage mixture which is mixed and then poured on to the hot griddle.  Add a few mushrooms.  Yes, that's squid.  What's that?  And those?  And then little shrimp.  Finally four strips of very thin baconesque pork is laid over the top.  Is it on omelet?  A cabbage custard pie with no crust? A seafood stew with bacon.... on eggs. 

It slowly simmers and firms.

It is flipped over and cooks longer.

It is flipped once more, to show the darkening bacon atop the squid tentacles and the egg/cabbage base.

Then the chef takes a huge paint brush with a thick soy-mollases sauce and paints the top of it.

Now for the part I can't explain.  He takes a long, thin wooden spoon and takes a dollop of mayonnaise and dots the top with a small spoonful.

Another paint brush with a different sauce and they all mixed and brushed together on the top it glistens and shines, with swirls of white and dark.

Finally, a little green powdered seaweed is sprinkled on the top.

You are handed a small metal spatula in order to slice and shovel pieces of your warm okonomiyake into your mouth.

This is the Japanese and this is Osaka.  What the Italians put on triangular slices of bread dough, what the anglo-american alliance, (thanks to the Earl of Sandwich) puts between two slices of white bread, the Japanese have achieved and surpassed in leaps and bounds: the everything meal.  The total picture able to fit on your small plate and give you all the range of tastes and flavors of the region,  The best ingredients, sliced and diced, and made "hand-ready" without the confusion of "side dish" or another utensil or something that got left out.  And in a hurry.  The Japanese have meetings to get to.  This is Osaka.”

Reading this email from 2013 brought me closer to my dad than any one of the hundred photos I have looked at since his passing. I can see him on that street in Osaka, eating warm pieces of okonomiyakie with Japanese businesspeople rushing by him, thinking about the way he would describe each portion of the experience in an email to his kids. He saw, tasted, and heard things in a way it is hard for me to comprehend.

I think most of have experienced that kind of moment, one in which we are able to lock into the sensory bliss and joy of what it is to be among the living. Most of us can only hope to feel it on occasion. I know I do. I spend more time constantly thinking about the next thing, what project I should be working on tomorrow, eating just to not feel hungry any more. My dad spent more time in that transcendent place than anyone I have ever met. I would catch him smelling his spices in the kitchen before he cooked, not once but many times. He would try a sauce three or four spoonfuls in a row, looking for differences or for the simple pleasure of a taste he liked. I saw him cry, routinely, listening to operas he had heard hundreds of times before. (I think the only time I’ve cried listening to music is since his death.) As I have said to my family over the last week, he never learned to dull the edges of living like most people do. But I think also it was because he didn’t want to. To live in those moments, to really live in them, it takes a kind of courage most of us lack. When I am overwhelmed by sadness, I try to take solace in that. He had something, something in his mind and spirit that I can only try and understand. But I want to try Pop, to feel the way you did. To reach out for those moments the way you knew how. I miss you every day.

(and the end of his email)

I must get ready to pack and catch the train to Kyoto.

The heavy clouds are coming down the coast from Kobe.  Above the great suspension bridge just beyond that city I can see rectangular sheets of rain.

But it will pass.  Beyond the mountains in the far, far distance the skies are clear.

I love you all so much,


February 20, 2019

Mark was the last member of the Lanier-Olson clan that I met. Lily, Sam, Cole and Henry had already blown my eleven-year-old mind many times over. I had never met people like them and having this eccentric family of delightful weirdos just across the street felt too good to be true. I met them before they had moved to Brookline full-time and they felt like my secret. Sometimes it was like I was just making them up. Then Mark came and for the first time, I saw this family in full and slowly they began to make sense (or as much sense as they ever would). Lily, Sam and I were all the same age (only 5 days apart), but they were older, more mature, more finished than me. I started seeing why when spending time around Mark. He treated them like adults. He treated me like an adult. He never tempered his language for a fifth grader, never shied away from sharing ideas, stories, facts, poetry, art. I had never seen that version of an adult -- one who could simultaneously be so silly and so deeply intelligent. I had never seen that version of a home -- one filled with treasures that were such an extraordinary display of his personality. It was filled with animals, real and fake, books and magazines, costumes and hot sauces. From the silver jungle wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom, to the pool I got pushed into on numerous occasions, to his maroon chair in the kitchen, his home was always a comforting wilderness. It was a place I would gorge myself on snacks and his amazing cooking during school, after school, during family dinners. It was a place I would cozy up on the living room couch, sleep over on the third floor, listen to him read, do trick shots in the tiny basketball hoop at the foot of the stairs, sit outside on the back porch with Lily next to him, head in a newspaper. 

I think about Mark on the sidelines of our soccer games. His booming voice, his big hand clapping my back. Him driving Lily and I to freezing games at 7 am, burrowed in his coat, cheering every time I made a save. Every time. I think about Mark coaching my 7th grade basketball team. Everything was poetry to him, even sports. The cobra and the mongoose. He taught me how to shoot for real in the courts next to Cypress. I think about Mark with Salem. God, that dog brought him so much joy. He fed him orange slices in the kitchen and laughed his deep, gorgeous belly laugh every time Salem took it. That laugh. Making Mark laugh was my truest joy. I think of Mark telling me stories as I cleaned out all the food from his kitchen, an always hungry high-schooler. I think of the music he played -- music I had never heard, music I still couldn't identify today. I think of his stocked cabinets filled with odd spices and pastes, the perfect counterpart to his bookshelves filled with every type of literature and poetry and art. I think about his hugs, I think about his unwavering support and interest in my life and especially the lives of his children. And man, did he make good children. 

From the moment the family moved to Brookline, they welcomed me in -- made me feel like one of them. And nothing was better than getting to be one of them. Lily remains one of my closest, best, most wonderfully, caring, thoughtful and empathetic friends. Her kindness, calm and generosity are remarkable and those traits are the clearest reflection of Mark. The way all the Lanier-Olson siblings care for each other and support each other has always astounded me. It all started with Mark. 

I miss him deeply and I will continue to. I will do my very best to honor Mark's memory by staying curious, kind and as goddamn weird as I can. Love you Mark and love you all. 


February 20, 2019

Thank you to all who have shared here and all who will. So wonderful to hear

Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade...sleepovers, laughter, middle school, high school, much laughter, soccer & basketball & tennis teams, a little mischief, the college and grad school years, the writing of letters and postcards, getting married and having children, sharing that embryonic time, our divorces.. and emerging as deeply, almost desperately devoted parents. And again laughter. Watching our children navigate high school, go off to college and blossom into adulthood. It was almost like we were going through it again, laying another geological life-layer on ourselves and on friendship.

So in these last few years sometimes Mark and I would tool around in that white wagon of his. To NYC and back, framing our high school basketball reunion. Into the hills of western Massachusetts looking for river stones. Mark always had music for me to hear, he would announce. But mostly we wouldn't get to it because we'd get to talking.

It was like being in a Beethoven symphony. Gusting, loud fanfares of laughing (always laughter), followed by quieter melodic moments. And then a brief silence. Just riding along, another journey in the journey. In the silence, absolute loyalty, absolute trust. Still. Still friends.

Thoughts From New Zealand

February 20, 2019

Eight years ago we moved to Welland Road.  On the day of the closing we looked out the kitchen window . . . and saw a naked man jumping into the pool next door.  (It was not Mark).  That was the begining of a wonderful, eventful 8 years.

I was constantly apologizing to Mark for the racket our kids make, and he was constantly telling me how much he loved their "joyful noise".  I vividly remember his laugh -- oh, what a laugh!! -- when he reminded me of a particular encounter between me, my son Ian, a garden hose, and a sprinkler. 

We are on vacation in New Zealand right now, so far from home.  As I think of Mark, I think of the many ways he tried to make our neighborhood feel like home:  bringing me an ice cold drink (rum?) on a hot day as I struggled with yard work, dressing up in costume (a parrot?) to pay a visit to a little girl's second birthday, always offering cuttings and raspberries from his garden, and setting up the Welland Club.  It was not enough for him to organize a typical block party; he needed to include a children's poetry recital in the festivities as well.  He brightened up our lives -- things were never dull.

And of course, he loved his children.  Mark was always giving me updates on what they were doing, his pride was so obvious, so genuine, so deep.  In the weeks before Christmas, he positively beamed.  He was thrilled to have a full house again.  

I have yet to finish the copy of Marcus Aurelius's meditations Mark gave me, but I will pick it up as soon as I return.

We will miss him very much.



Looking at photos...

February 19, 2019

As I have looked through the earliest photos posted here…

In the last few days we have all been in conversation with Mark, in our own ways, as we gather here at our house and attend to the many many pieces that accompany a death, particularly an unexpected one. How to collect the body from the medical examiner’s office, how to stop hundreds—literally hundreds—of newspapers and magazines without passwords or logins, whether the local food pantry will accept donations of fermented broad bean sauce or a bag of Sri Lankan curry powder or several cans of Norwegian cod liver. What to do with three containers of duck fat that stood at the ready at the back of his refrigerator throughout high school (Sam wrote an essay about them), or the dozens of dried chili peppers bags and boxes in every cabinet. In his house, how to have time to find homes for the thousands of extraordinary books, the newspaper clippings (“Black Holes Inch Ahead To Violent Cosmic Union” from the New York Times pinned by the front door), a painting from High Meadow Road Mark bought for us when Sam and Lily were born, a Babar rattle that was a baby present to Henry 30 years ago, now on the dining room table. A haiku about Lily, under the pen name Laszlo L. Lanye, brought to the children by Jeff Harrison and David Henry. So many objects of meaning, literally everywhere. And of course for the children, how to stay up with the hundreds of loving individuals who are in touch with them, hour by hour, about this extraordinary man who touched the lives of so many individuals, in so many networks.

I wrote a note to Mark on purple vellum (his favorite color), that I put in his shirt pocket as his body went off to cremation. Some small parts to share here. That I believe this would not be the way he wanted things to end--and I know this makes him sad too--as he had spoken so many times about wanting to die surrounded by his grandchildren--toddlers running their cars and trucks up his legs and the sound of them playing as the last things he heard. That we know, all of us, that he must have been in terrible, unbearable pain, and this calls forth from each of us a deep kind of wisdom, and steady compassion, and not-knowing. The loss is very heavy. We miss him.

I wrote to him that I believe that the very best thing Mark and I ever did with our lives was having our four incredible children, and he would be so very proud of them now if he could see them. (Perhaps he can?) How, even as they are weighed down and torn up by grief, they are caring for each other so beautifully as they engage with hundreds of details and decisions, so flexible and clear and gracious and kind to each other, hugging and holding as tears emerge. So competent, working as a group, pausing for a memory, laughing, a teary hug, and then back to, “Who’s heard from the memorial site guy?” They are also telling stories, how they recall the best of Mark—him as a line cook in his kitchen, zydeco blaring on his speakers, explaining how to make this particular lime curry; remembering him at his 60th birthday in New Orleans, the Welland Club, sleeping at the opera in Amsterdam, driving every morning to the New Canaan Country School, “inspecting” the well at Old Redding Road, costumes and tall glasses of rum on the lawn in Weston, while slack-jawed folk driving by gaped. We were the “hippie household” of our corner of Connecticut, and Mark embraced the role.

For me beyond my personal memories of Mark, some known only to us, I am keenly aware of how I will miss Mark as a co-parent--I feel in my bones this something we did very well-- together. How our fundamental values and beliefs really were so aligned—(I was amused to see a bumper sticker in his dining room a couple of days ago that reads,“Income Inequality America$ Faultline”)—and I reflect that how even at this stage, when our children are so well-launched and competent in the world, that I relied on his parental influence, and spirit, and mind, from a mile and a half away. I have always been aware of how much he brought to our children that was different from me, additive and contrasting and good food for thought for reflective children, and I feel diminished in my job without him. We were partners in bringing great people into the world, and about that we absolutely always and enthusiastically agreed. I told Mark that I will talk to his grandchildren about him, and tell them how much he would have loved them, and delighted in their coming into being. He was after all so good at stuffing 7 binkies into his pocket, and rocking a fussy baby while singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and introducing four-year-olds to the great speeches of Winston Churchill, at nearly full volume, while driving at speed in his white Volvo.

One last memory for now. During a particularly difficult time in Weston, when we all were moving away, Mark and I met on road by the Scheffly’s coming in opposite directions. Mark was listening, at very great volume, to [This May Be] “The Last Time,” by the Blind Boys of Alabama on his car CD player. We paused to confer on a child pick-up and listening, I said to him that I loved that music—what was it? He paused, plucked out the CD out of the player and handed it to me. “Oh here, take it, they’re great.” Thank you Mark. 

Three quick memories of Mark

February 18, 2019

1)  I met Mark while working into the evening one night in 2007 at Clubhouse International in New York City.  I looked up from my desk and saw this imposing figure unannounced standing in my office doorway in the dark.  He introduced himself by telling me he was looking for a way to volunteer because his mother who was a social worker taught him he should always give back.  He then went on to grill me for almost an hour about our work, our plans, our needs and my reasons for being involved.  I knew in that conversation I had met an extraordinary man.  I'm grateful that he found our cause (and me) worthy of his time and energy.   Mark then became a force in our world, an advocate constantly impatient with the urgent issues facing people living with mental illness. For 12 years he challenged me and us to do more. He invested his time, resources and relationships in our work.  He was an extraordinary volunteer!

2) When Mark became the Chairman of our Board he wanted to more fully understand the needs and ideas of people living with mental illness at our Clubhouses (the members) and the staff.  He decided to pursue this by attending one of our 5 day World Seminars with 750 people in attendance and to do some personal research.   To my great surprise and enjoyment he did this by showing up in a doctor's costume complete with head mirror and a researcher's desk hung from his shoulders. He mingled with the participants throughout the seminar speaking in an accent that sounded to me like a cross between German and Russian asking questions and handing out small surveys.  He was warmly received and he got the education he wanted.


3)  When Mark's term as Chairman of the Board came to a close he attended the final meeting of the Board at a prestigious New York City based law firm boardroom wearing denim overalls and brought cheese for everyone. (see picture in gallery)

Mark was a treasure for this world and a "fire soul" in the work of Clubhouse International.     He loved his family.  He was my friend.  Go softly Mark.

Uncle Mark

February 18, 2019

It would be foolish of me not to admit that I was not that close with my uncle. After reading my sister’s personal story about traveling to South America with him I could help but feel regret for not taking more initiative in knowing who my Uncle really was. Unlike most of the children in the Lanier family who are all years older and grew up together, I only saw my uncle few and far between. Most of these moments were at things like weddings or holidays, but every once in a while Uncle Mark came to our home in Cincinnati or up to our spot in Maine. Nonetheless, looking back these moments they were not enough. 

However, when I got news that Uncle Mark was coming around I was always excited to see him and hear what kind of new hobby he had picked up and what sort of complex and insightful opinions he would have to share. He seemed to have the ability to brighten the room through his stories and elegant sentences, not to mention his lively chuckle that would move his entire torso. And, no matter what, the chest pocket of his button-down shirt or flannel was always filled to the point of near overflow. He would bring gifts of delicious cheeses and dried meats, and his politeness was unmatched no matter whether he was talking to a young child or a more senior individual. 

Simply put, although I did not have a close relationship with Uncle Mark per se, he has left an imprint on my life that is unlike any other. Putting his impact upon me is difficult to put in words, so instead I will tell a story that I think demonstrates such. 

One summer when I was 11 or 12 (I think), Uncle Mark came up to visit our family in Maine. We were finishing up dinner when we somehow started to discuss a politically heated topic. I spent the duration of the conversation listening to and observing my parents, sister, and Uncle Mark, as I did with most other conversations of that nature. The discussion went on for about 10 or so minutes when things started to die down. Then, all of a sudden, Uncle Mark turns my way and says, “Ike, what do you think?” I’m not saying that my family ignores or does not find interest in my opinion, but anyone who knows me knows that I spend more time observing and listening than speaking. And, at this age, I had never before really been asked by an adult other than my parents what my opinion was, especially on a topic that filled the offices of lawmakers and received media coverage. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I think I started to panic and blurted out some sort of neutral opinion that was probably not that interesting to hear. Yet, Uncle Mark proceeded to build off of my comment and continue the conversation. At that age, being recognized for a contribution to a conversation amongst adults was unique to me. The fact that Uncle Mark, an adult other than my parents who was clearly well-spoke, educated, and thoughtful, went out of his way to be genuinely interested in what I had to say made me feel wonderful. 

I regret not having formed a closer relationship with my uncle. Yet, to have small moments, memories, and stories like these to remember such an amazing man makes me feel so blessed. I am so sad to know that I will not be able to see Uncle Mark at future family gatherings or spontaneously show up at family vacations. I hope that I will see him again someday.

My Dear Friend

February 18, 2019

People ask me what the Yiddish word mensch means.  In short it means a good person.  What it really means is a person who is kind, compassionate, warm and generous.  A mensch is someone who gets the best out of others.  A mensch is someone who, when they touch another person, leaves that person with a richer life.  I have never know anyone who was more the embodiment of a mensch than Mark.  

I barely knew him the first two years of college.  Became friends junior year and shared an apartment senior year.  That turned many  heads at Williams— the fine upstanding citizen (Mark) living with a juvenile delinquent (me).  Mutt and Jeff.  Oscar and Felix.  Don’t ask me how, but somehow it worked.  

I have spent today retrieving memories of Mark. As I am writing this, more come back.  Among the fondest was the several days I spent with Mark when he was at Oxford where he introduced me to the delights of a pint of bitter at the local and a scone with Devon cream at the neighborhood tea shop and explained to me how you could spend an entire semester studying a single Shakespeare play.  

The best ones though, are those that make me smile and laugh and we need that now so badly.  A few years after college a group of us gathered in my apartment in NY on New Years Day.  We decided to go to Katz Deli for dinner. When we arrived, Mark remembered that he had not given his parents a Christmas gift.  So he sent a mail order salami home to Cincinnati and the told us how his parents would react. Mom: what a lovely thoughtful gift.  Dad: that is just not the responsible thing to do. 

Henry, Cole, Sam and Lilly.  I know there is nothing that I can say to lessen the pain.  I just want you to know that your father was a very special person, one of the finest I have ever known.  May his memory be a blessing for you and, in time, a comfort to you.  And may his spirit shine brightly upon you and live on within you.  

February 17, 2019

Mark was always so welcoming and kind to me and our family. Such intelligent and great conversationalist. I remember his laughter and measured speech. I have so many fun memories of times together when our families were younger and the kids were kids. One evening after wonderful lamb and wine dinner, we both went off to get the dessert cake and plates. I don't know how this happened, but while laughing we dropped the cake and it landed upside down on my tennis shoes!  It was a hilarious and memorable night.

I remember being a consultant for Mark when he was thinking of investing on something in the medical field that I knew about. A week after my research and report I received my consultation fee as a bottle of Dom Perignon!  I am sorry I did not get to see him more these past few years. At the end what we remember is how someone made us feel. I am left with such fond memories of him. 

Larger than Life

February 17, 2019

Mark contributed so much to so many lives and I was privileged to work with him through Clubhouse International. Mark had a profound impact and made a point to visit as many Clubhouses as he could and always started a Board meeting off with asking other Board members to share a story of which Clubhouses they visited. I always appreciated that gesture as it was always a reminder of the importance of relationships and making connections with people. Mark was so good at that. He had a tremendous impact on our work and truly made the world a better place.

Mark's kindness and gentleness extended to my wife as well when she came to a Board dinner for the first time in Aalborg, Denmark. She was nervous not knowing that many people but I saw a seat next to where Mark was seated and knew that would be the perfect seat for Janece. Indeed it was as Mark regaled her with stories, they swapped stories about Mark's kids and our kids and Janece felt so welcomed and comfortable in his presence. Mark did that with members, staff, Board members, my daughter who works at a Clubhouse and also my wife. I so enjoyed working with him and simply having conversations with him even if he teased me about my Cleveland sports teams.

Mark was a larger than life man both figuratively and literally and I will miss him so much. Thank you for sharing him with us Lily, Sam, Cole and Henry.

How we remember Mark

February 17, 2019

We shared many vacations in Sweden and in the US with Mark and his family.

We remember his laughter. How it would be a long and warm laughter and then it would subside in a sigh saying " Ah, me".

We have an UNFORGETABLE memory of Mark dancing ballet in the white Swedish midsummer night. We had an iconic Swedish crayfish party with strong cheese and a lot of aquavit. And when we walked late at night down a small gravel road in the Swedish country side , down to the lake, he danced a scene from a classical ballet. He was very happy.

We will honor and remember Mark for his great sense of humour, playfulness, his integrity, his compassion, intelligence, his ability to listen and make the person feel the most important in the world that very moment. He was wonderful and respectful towards our children Joel and Ingrid.

It feels unbelievably sad and unreal that we never will meet again.

Erika and Anders in Stockholm

Adventures with Uncle Mark

February 17, 2019

Twelve years ago today (2/17/2007), I sent Uncle Mark an email:

I am leaving for the airport in about an hour... so I will see you tomorrow morning. I have Seth Wulsin`s number, Argentine Pesos, a new book, and a whole lot of excitement.
So have a safe trip, and I will expect a room to room phone call sometime tomorrow morning.

He responded:

Yes indeed. I have begun the mad scramble.  But I am poised and ready and ready to be so cool and enthusiastic in Argentina!
I am on cloud nine – cumulonimbus.
Uncle Mark

My dad (John Lanier) had spent much of January hearing from his daughter (feeling a bit lost in Chile the year before I went to college) and from his brother (maybe feeling a bit similar in one of his earlier Boston winters). Dad proposed that Uncle Mark and I get out of our respective funks and head somewhere together. Somehow (and thank goodness), Uncle Mark and I ended up spending almost a week together in Buenos Aires. I’d always felt close to Uncle Mark, loving his voice, his anecdotes, his laughs, his particular brand of grumpiness, the way he brought treats (cheese, chocolates, fancy magazines, new (and used) books, favorite songs) into daily life. But we’d never spent much time alone, and I think it was a bit of a leap of faith for both of us to meet up for a Niece-Uncle week of exploring a new city. Thank you, Uncle Mark, for making that happen.

Other emails from Uncle Mark before our trip:

“If nostalgia is a country, then tango is its capital.”

“I hear the echo of those tangos
Of Arolas and Greco
Danced upon the sidewalk,
An instant distilled that remains
Without before, or hereafter, an anti-oblivion,
Having the taste of everything lost,
And everything regained.”
- Jorge Luis Borges, “El Tango”
Uncle m

In response to a worried email from my mother (Jane Garvey), Uncle Mark wrote:

“I am reading guide books and preparing for my tango lesson next Monday. We will be vigilant wherever we go. That's why I am practicing tango with my camera bag on my head.”

Uncle Mark and I saw Borges’s house and strolled through La Recoleta Cemetary - Uncle Mark pointing out artists and Nobel Prize winners. We visited a dusty shoe workshop where Uncle Mark had new dress shoes fitted, which never arrived in Boston - a wrong he tried unsuccessfully to right for the next ten years, and only verrrrry eventually chuckled about as an ultimately failed boondoggle but good memory of craft and fashion far away. We ate and ate and ate (how could we not… it was Uncle Mark and there was so much to taste) and took naps as breaks from walks (and from each other) and had a many hour, stewed rabbit meal with a Cincinnati connection (Seth Wulsin) where he told us about his math-art-prison-reform project and Uncle Mark demonstrated the polymathic interest in everything that made conversations with him such a delight.

We met the director of rehabilitation for the largest mental hospital in Buenos Aires. Uncle Mark let me listen in to a conversation about unemployment rates, the impact of schizophrenia on people’s lives and future opportunities, and the fact that there were only 2500 official beds for people with mental illness in a 15 million person city. I love that Uncle Mark made this conversation a central part of our trip and made sure we debriefed afterwards, valuing my perspective and encouraging me to have one, even if he knew I was still learning.

My husband and I welcomed our first baby on 2/1/2019. I’m so so so sad he won’t get a chance to meet Uncle Mark in person. I can picture Uncle Mark making crazy bug-eyed faces to the tiny baby and tickling him with his giant beard. I’m so sad, but I’m also encouraged that many of the things in our home and lives are gifts from Uncle Mark or feel Uncle Mark-inspired. The gorgeous Danish-designed pitcher he gave us for our wedding. The river stones we collected on a road trip in Montana with Aunt Sissy, Henry, Sam, and Lily to visit our Canadian cousins. The mementos and memories from our honeymoon to Japan, which Uncle Mark helped us plan. The books and records and cheeses I know he also appreciated, and the ‘fancy treats’ I feel encouraged to work into my daily life following his excellent example. We’re going to have Uncle Mark in our home forever, and I’ll be reminded of him whenever I’m exploring a new city, riverbed, cuisine, or author/musician/artist I think he might have enjoyed… and there are enough of those, thanks to Uncle Mark’s inspiring breadth of taste, to last a lifetime.

A Night at the Opera

February 17, 2019

In 2012, my siblings and I were fortunate to travel with my father to Amsterdam for vacation. I have many memories of that trip that stand out; eating cones of french fries on the street, seeing dutch masters at the Rijksmuseum, and sampling the local agriculture together at one of the city's famous cafés.

One such memory is attending a performance at the Dutch National Opera. I think I speak for all four of his children that we never developed quite the passion my father had for the medium. I was happy to go however, especially since it was important to him to at least try and teach his philistinic children a little bit about culture.

I was squeezed between my father and my little brother when the lights dimmed. We had gotten perhaps 10 minutes into the first act when I heard the first snore from my dad. I think one of the reasons I can't remember which opera we saw is that I spent most of that night as my fathers guard, shaking and prodding him awake as he tried his hardest to sleep through the whole thing. Most of the elderly dutch couples sitting around us were too polite to scold us, but there were a lot of turning heads. I'm sure he laughingly grilled me afterword for not paying enough attention to the arias.

The "Salad" Course

February 17, 2019

One of my father's greatest joys in the world was hosting dinner parties. Anyone who shared dinner with my father at his house was treated to a lengthy experience filled with delicious food and multiple types of alcohol. After the entree was consumed he felt very strongly that there should be a salad course before moving on to dessert. This "salad" was a meager helping of greens covered in his homemade dressing accompanied by a massive hunk of cheese, usually Stilton Blue. His children made relentless fun of him for his insistence that this part of the meal be called the "salad" course. 

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