When I gave the eulogy at Mark’s funeral, I referred to him as the “Magical Thread” who tied people together. Mark LOVED connecting people and it certainly seemed like he knew EVERYONE in Milwaukee. Everywhere we went, Mark knew someone…or…he didn’t know anyone and he was striking up a conversation with some random person and trying to figure out someone they knew in common. They say that in Milwaukee the “six degrees of separation” theory can be reduced to two degrees, and Mark was sure to test this premise with everyone and anyone. In fact, even when we were traveling in Italy for our honeymoon the “Two degrees of Mark Harris” game he liked to play would materialize. On several occasions while meandering across the beautiful Amalfi Coast and Italian Riviera, Mark struck up a conversation with complete strangers and was able to identify a mutual friend. He never ceased to amaze me in that regard…his endless desire to connect with people…it was truly a gift.
Just this week I am completing an emotional journey and three + month labor of love to sort through Mark’s clothing. It took a great deal of time, energy, soul-searching and love to accomplish this task the “right way” but I am immensely proud of my journey to do so and am excited about the gifts that I can give my children one day, including many items that will be handmade with some of Mark’s clothing.
As I completed this task, I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget anything important. Therefore, I turned to a local resource, a group formed by a dear friend in our community, which started as a Buy, Sell, Trade group but has turned into so much more. Love + Lift KidsCycle North Shore has become a community of people who support one another in endless ways and I knew I could seek input from this group and would receive the exact kind of advice, support and encouragement that I needed.
First, I needed to know, “What do I save for my children?” The obvious was easy. My son, Cooper, wanted all of Mark’s jerseys and much of his Marquette University clothing from when he was a student and basketball player there. The girls will, of course, keep some of this too, but what else? I had already had teddy bears made for them with some of Mark’s clothing shortly after he died. After I posted my inquiry in the Love + Lift group, the ideas flooded in…mittens with his sweaters, something “blue” as well as handkerchiefs from dress shirts for each of their wedding days, quilts, bags, children’s clothing made from his clothing; rompers made from dress shirts for my children to give to their children one day…the list went on and on. Now I was actually excited to go through Mark’s clothing to find treasures to save for my children.
After that, I sorted through the endless piles of T-shirts with slogans, favorite bands, singers and sports teams…after all, Mark loved to #Represent. 🙂 Many of these went to friends and family. Some of the name brand stuff I sold. The money from these sales will go to the Mark Harris Fellowship Program.
Next it was time to find an organization that would accept a donation of the remainder of Mark’s clothing and shoes. After turning once again to KidsCycle NS: Love + Lift for suggestions, I settled on Milwaukee Guest House and Bottomless Closet. My goal was to find an organization or two which seeks to help disadvantaged men overcome homelessness and unemployment. There are so many worthy organizations in Milwaukee but these two were suggested many times and would accept all of my donations and pass along the items that they couldn’t use to another local organization called Price is Right, which provides shopping opportunities, free of charge, for those in need.
Finally, as I was getting ready to donate Mark’s clothing, I began to think of way in which I could connect Mark to those who would be receiving his gifts; After all, making connections was something Mark really loved. So I made these business cards, which I will be slipping into the pockets of all of Mark’s donated clothing. It is my hope that his legacy will continue to live on through all of the lives that he touches with this gift.
I am abundantly grateful for the twelve years that I spent with Mark Harris by my side, but remain in awe every day at the way in which he continues to be present in my life. I have no doubt that Mark is watching over me and our children. I am certain he is with me, weaving his magical thread of connections through the fabric of our lives.
This is beautiful Erin. You are an inspiration as well.