Mark's passing

Mark Choveaux passed to the Abha paradise on Saturday 11 November at 2pm.

This was the first time I had ever watched someone die before my eyes. I still can't believe it happened. You spend years talking with a person and never thinking that, one day, you'll watch them die. And then, suddenly, they get very sick and everything changes. You can no longer talk to them like you used to; the relationship becomes one of nursing them through the difficult door into the next world. Then the day comes when they make the move for good.

Now, I look at people around me and wonder if, one day, I'll watch them die. I can't help it; you don't know what will happen. I guess I have been influenced by the fact that Mark died of cancer. So many people die of cancer and suffer terribly. Many people have witnessed their loved ones go through the nightmare that I saw Mark go through.

On the morning of November 11, Mark took a serious down-turn and his breathing became laboured. Soon after lunchtime, his breathing became intermittent and I began watching his chest to see whether it would rise again after the last effort. At this stage, I knew he couldn't last long, and the nurse confirmed this. I put my head on his shoulder and quietly said to him that this was his big moment to fly away from the cares of this world and be with Baha'u'llah forever. We phoned one of Mark's sons, who said good-bye, and almost immediately after that, Mark stopped breathing. In fact, we all stopped breathing as we watched and realised that this was it. Then I imagined Mark's soul emerging from its body and flying up to the ceiling. And I knew he'd be able to see us all there, crying. I expect at that stage, he must have been confused and coming to terms with the fact that he'd 'died'.

We all wandered around the room in a daze for about 20 minutes, looking at Mark's body just to make sure that we weren't dreaming. Then the nursing staff came and cleaned up the room and placed Mark's body out on the bed with a sheet covering it and a rose on top. I felt that Mark had been honoured by Baha'u'llah in that he'd died on the eve of Baha'u'llah's birthday.

The funeral was on the following Tuesday afternoon. Mark wanted his family and 'lovers of Baha'u'llah' to gather before the funeral to say the Prayer for the Dead. We did this at Mark's place, where Mark's body had been lying since he died. Following that, we all went in convoy to the funeral director's for the funeral. At Mark's request, I read Mark's testament of faith and the first 20 verses of Baha'u'llah's Mathnavi. We also had prayers, and members of the organisations that Mark was associated with (the Blind Foundation and the Caversham Petanque Club) gave tributes to Mark. There were about 100 people there.

Finally, we all drove to the cemetery. As Mark's body was being lowered into the grave, his son did a Maori haka at the foot of the grave, facing toward his father. It was a very moving moment. Then all took turns picking up a shovel and shovelling the gravel onto Mark's coffin. This was another of Mark's requests. He didn't want a machine to do it. It was a real sacrifice for us all, mind. The weather was terrible - driving wind and rain. Everyone huddled and cried and held onto umbrellas and watched the coffin slowly disappear under the crushed stone.

A couple of days later, Steve and I were discussing the burial. We both agreed that putting Mark's body way down into that deep hole seemed like a very bad thing to do to a dear friend. As Steve put it, "It would have been a crime, if he hadn't been dead".

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