Mark’s story is reminiscent of a Kris Kristofferson song. From personal tragedy, to life on the open road, moving around the country – and world – and encountering and befriending a number of colorful characters over the years. He says he will always, always fight for the underdog.
“When you fall you either get up or you stay down,” said Mark. “I keep getting up and I help others do the same. I’m stubborn that way.”
Mark is a former resident of CONNECT Langley. He was expected to live with assistance for the rest of his life following a brain injury eight years ago. He was injured when he was working at a racetrack and was kicked by a horse. He is now living on his own.
Mark, 57, works on a farm outside of Langley primarily looking after a number of pigs and piglets. He cleans and maintains their stalls and ensures they are well fed. He also helps out with odd jobs around the farm.
His accommodations are modest, although seemingly adequate for him, his dog, Betsy, and cat, Odie. He lives in a small farmhouse situated on the farm where he is employed.
“I go through lots of ups and downs, but these two,” he says, giving a nod to his furry friends, “keep me company. I have always been one to take care of people or animals worse off than me.”
Juliet Henderson-Rahbar, site leader at CONNECT Langley, describes Mark as an artist through and through who will not take “no” for an answer.
“Mark is a hairstylist, landscape artist, and made the backyard of Jan’s House in Langley a little oasis for the residents and staff when he lived with us,” says Juliet. “Mark has always had an entrepreneurial spirit which has helped him through his brain injury. I can’t remember how many times he took his drivers exam, but he never allowed failure to get the last word. And one day he passed the exam. We were all beside ourselves with joy for him because he wanted this back more than anything else he lost when he was injured.”
Sitting on the edge of his bed on a November morning with rock ‘n’ roll music blaring from the television, Mark recounts story after story from his unconventional and nomadic life.
Mark’s story includes many hardships, including his father leaving, which was the beginning of an ebb and flow of people in and out of his life, and him from theirs.
At one point in his life, Mark lived in Newfoundland and worked at a homeless shelter, the SPCA and a hair salon. While there, he became the guardian of a six-year-old girl whose mother battled addiction. He barely knew the mother but felt like taking care of her daughter was the right thing to do.
“I raised that girl until she was 15 years old. She moved out to live with her grandfather.”
For the past few years, Mark has also sponsored a young Latin American girl’s basic needs and education through a global charity.
One constant in his life has been his love for animals. He has opened his home to countless dogs and cats and continues to take in strays – rescuing Odie as a kitten just two years ago.
As for the future, many things are uncertain, but Mark has a few ideas.
“I love to travel. I would love to get a Harley and hit the open road. I can also see myself on a little farm somewhere taking care of some sheep and enjoying the wilderness.”