By Joe St. Onge –
The phone rang late Friday night, October 24th, but we didn’t get up. We just let it go. A minute later, the phone rang again. I reluctantly answered the phone (no caller ID then). I will never forget Mark’s dad saying somberly, “we lost Mark tonight.” I don’t remember if I dropped the phone or set it on the bed. I just sank. My wife picked up the phone and listened to the horrific details of what had just happened. Before I knew it, my wife was driving us to the hospital, to see Melissa, Mark’s parents, and Phil (Melissa’s brother, who was in critical condition). I vividly remember walking up and Melissa meeting me outside the hospital. Here is this woman, 9 months pregnant, having just lost her husband and father to her unborn child. She asks me how I am doing? What an extraordinary human being…
Mark and I lived together after college when both of us eventually met our future wives. He was such a great guy, so full of life. I was so incredibly happy for Mark & Melissa when they got married. The one thing I admired about Mark, more than anything, was his ability to just let things go. To Mark, there were far worse things in life, to let the little things bother him. Not to say he didn’t occasionally get frustrated with the computer at work or the AC at the house, but most of the time LIFE just didn’t get to him.
Although I will say, his limitless confidence made me laugh when they got pregnant. He was so adamant that their lives wouldn’t change one bit. As a father of a 1-year old, I had an ongoing debate with Mark, knowing that sleepless nights were ahead and what the throws of a newborn would bring to their life. Who knows, I could have been wrong. As laid back as Mark was, he would have been the one guy to figure it out. Unfortunately, we will never know. That is my biggest struggle with his death and the timing of it.
Melissa was 9 months pregnant when a reckless driver barreled through a blatant red light, taking away Mark’s chance to prove me wrong. More importantly, he lost the chance to hold his daughter, Madisyn Grace, who would come into this world just two weeks later. I lost my mom when I was 2 years old, so I could relate to the pain, at least more than most. To this day, almost 15 years later, I still wish that Mark could have had the chance to hold his daughter, just once.
My dad told me that there will always be a hole in your heart, but it gets smaller over time. It will always be there. While he is right about that, I still think about Mark almost every time I go through an intersection, catch a road marker out of the corner of my eye, sit at a red light, or hear about an accident, even though his was definitely no accident.
Through his devoted wife, Melissa, The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act has made a lasting “mark” on our roads. I hope and pray that his life will save others, many others. We can help save lives, too. So let’s all drive, as if our lives depended on it…because they do.