R.I.P. Mark Glover: 1960 – 2011

Mark Glover

On Tuesday 30th August 2011, my dear brother Mark passed away after four years of battling MND.

I’m Mark’s youngest brother, Jason, and it was only at the end of July that he sent me an email asking me to look after his blog ‘when his time came’, making sure it was never deleted, approving any guest comments and writing the final post to tell people what had happened. He wanted me to be the custodian of this site he’d devoted so much of his time to over more than three years and which many people had expressed their gratitude to for being such a great MND resource.  I don’t know if Mark had a foreshadowing at the time that he would pass away just a few weeks later but I accepted his request, even though it saddened me greatly to think there would be a time he was no longer here. I thought at least that it wouldn’t be until next year or beyond but I was wrong.

I’m sure it will come as a surprise to many of you that follow this blog that Mark has now passed away, especially as it was just two days after his final blog post on August 28th when he suggested readers come back in a week to see more pictures of the period before, including his 51st birthday on August 24th. It came as a shocking surprise to all of us as well – his family, friends and carers – but a day after Mark wrote his final blog post, he contracted a chest infection which, in his weakened condition, proved fatal just a day later.

Mark died peacefully in his sleep at home, one final ounce of mercy after four years of battling the cruelty of MND.

Apart from Mark himself, I may have been the first person to notice the early effects of his MND early in 2007, although I never could have guessed then what the cause was. I lived with Mark for 13 years in the house where he’d pass away, a house familiar now I’m sure to those of you who follow this blog. Even after I moved out at the end of 2004, I only moved up the hill a couple of minutes drive away. Mark and I would continue to see each other very regularly, inviting each other round our homes for dinner and a DVD every few weeks.

It was during one of those evenings in 2007 when I first noticed something wasn’t quite right. Mark was sitting opposite me having dinner and I could see his hand shaking. I pretended I didn’t see it but I’m sure he knew I had. Neither of us said anything and I thought little of it at the time, thinking maybe it was just a muscle spasm or, at worse, arthritis. His hand got weaker over the following months and when, Chery, my then fiancee (now wife) and I took Mark out for dinner on his 47th birthday at the end of August, he told us he was worried about the muscle problem, which was affecting his arms as well.

I was naturally worried for my brother but I still didn’t think it would turn out to be anything bad. In our family we have a history of cancer on our mother’s side and heart disease on our father’s. It’s those things I always fear so I would never think that any other disease could strike us. Even after Mark was diagnosed, he still said it may not be MND that eventually killed him. He had always been the healthiest one in our family, rarely even getting a cold and hardly ever having a day off sick in all his decades of work.

Further tests followed and still Mark didn’t know by the end of September 2007 what was wrong with him. The specialist at the local hospital booked him in for three further tests and Mark remained very worried. And I was starting to worry more as well. At the end of October, I drove him to Southampton hospital for the last of his tests and by now his arms were very weak, although it would still be five months before he’d have to give up driving and work.

Mark was relieved to get all his tests out of the way and he had a meal at my apartment with Chery and I that evening. But then everything changed on 7th November, a cold dark day for more than one reason. I was home alone that day and he came round to see me that evening to tell me he’d just been to the hospital to get the results of his tests and he’d been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Progressive Muscular Atrophy to be exact. It still wasn’t completely conclusive at this stage but, just able to fight back his tears, he explained to me how the disease worked, how it would spread from his arms to his legs and eventually his lungs. And he told me there was no cure and he’d eventually end up in a wheelchair and die before his time.

Of course, I was devastated! I had never heard of MND before but after Mark left I looked it up online and was shocked to find out what it meant. I could never believe that something like this would happen to someone so close to me. Mark was my big brother. He was always there for me when I needed him and I knew I had to do the same for him.

The following day, I found it so difficult to concentrate at work and had to tell my boss by email because I was too upset to tell him face-to-face. Mark called me that evening and seemed to be coping better than I was, such was his strength. We said we’d talk more and even then he was planning for what was to come by telling me I should have a key to his house in case I needed it.

Soon after, a whole support network sprung up around Mark and he was constantly reminded that right now MND had only affected his arms and it may be a long time before it progressed any further. He was told that even in Basingstoke there were were people with MND who’d lived with the disease for 10, 15 and even 20 years and that gave him a lot of strength. But just a couple of weeks later he started to notice his other arm get weaker as well and soon after I started to do his weekly food shopping for him.

During the years that followed, even with MND dismantling his life bit by bit, I was inspired by how positive Mark remained. At first, it was partly because he believed it would take many years for the disease to run its course, but even later when he knew the end may be in sight, he never stopped being the person I always knew. MND can take away many things but with strength of mind it can’t take away the person you are.

And when the end did arrive, despite me knowing the day would one day come, I still wasn’t ready for it. Just a week before it had been his birthday and I’d seen him last just two days before he passed away. I got a call at work from Debbie, Mark’s main carer, Tuesday morning to say Mark wasn’t good and as the time progressed he became unresponsive. I made arrangements to come home but just as I was leaving I got another call to say he had passed away.

Mark’s funeral took place on Monday 12th September and was well attended by family and friends. He was cremated according to his wishes and his casket with his ashes was buried the following day beside our mothers in a nearby church.

My brother Mark was the bravest person I’ve ever met. From the day he told us he’d been diagnosed with MND, he lived each day with so much courage and determination and with a smile and a joke never far away. I know from the many comments left on his blog how much his story inspired others, including those battling MND themselves and those caring for them. And I want to pay tribute to all the carers who looked after Mark over the years, many of whome are here with us today, and who showed both compassion and friendship to him and gave him another reason to cherish each day.

I will always be proud knowing that I was Mark’s little brother, or junior as he sometimes called me.

I remember movie nights when we’d take it in turns to pick what to watch and then sit in front of the TV, each with a cat on our lap. I remember countless trips to the cinema and waking up every Sunday to the smell of Mark cooking our  dinner. And I remember holidays together, including Florida, where I dragged him onto every rollercoaster I could find even though he always closed his eyes.

These memories and many more will always be with me. And I will always miss my brother.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Here is a video featuring Mark’s life from a child, right up to his final picture, accompanied by music played at his funeral, including a track from Queen that he specifically asked for.