Sunday, September 27, 2015

Six Weeks

Mark at Finkle Shore, 2006
Mark at Finkle Shore, 2006
Six weeks.

Almost unbelievable that it’s been six weeks since Mark died.

At times, I feel as though it just happened.  At other times, it feels like he has been gone for years.

A lot has happened over these past six weeks.  Of course, I had to deal with the bureaucracy that one has to deal with after someone dies.  On top of that, I’ve been working on getting our home ready to sell.  Some days, I get up in the morning and feel pretty good and am actually able to get things done.  Of course, there are days where it takes everything I have to get up and feed the dogs.

On the day Mark died, I made myself promise to do the following things, every day, regardless of how I was feeling:

1.    Get out of bed
2.    Have a shower
3.    Get dressed
4.    Keep the dogs on their routine

I can say that except for a couple of days when I was dealing with some plumbing issues in the house and I couldn't shower (all sorted now!), I have kept my promises.  It may seem like these are simple things that a person should be able to accomplish everyday but when the weight of grief is pressing down upon you, it would be pretty easy to just pull the covers up over your head so you can stay in bed and cry.

Until Mark died, I never knew about the anxiety that can accompany grief.  It’s not something I’d really experienced before beyond the kind of anxiety you feel when you’re having a job interview or something.  During those first few weeks after Mark died, I suffered from anxiety almost constantly.  The anxiety affected my ability to sleep or eat properly.  I’d sometimes finding myself hyperventilating and feeling panicked while participating in ordinary activities.   Fortunately, the anxiety is subsiding and I seem to experience it more on the weekends than I do through the week. My ability to concentrate seems to be improving too. 

Tomorrow, I’m going back to work.  I was on vacation the first two weeks of August and, on the last day of my scheduled vacation, Mark died.  My doctor (I’ve been seeing her regularly over the past six weeks) has suggested that I go back part-time for the next two weeks with the hopes that I’ll be able to return to work full-time after Thanksgiving.   With any luck, when I’m back at work, my concentration will be okay and my anxiety will keep away.

There are a lot of assholes in the world.  Some days, it feels like we are only seeing the absolute worst in people.  Over the past few years, since Mark was first diagnosed with cancer, I tried to see the other side of things when dealing with someone who may not be very nice.  I’d say to Mark that to look at him, he appeared to be very healthy.  No one would ever guess that had cancer cells fighting to set up camp inside of him.  I’d remind him that just as no one could ever guess what was going on with him, we have no idea of what other folks are walking around with either.  People are, by nature, kind.  It’s easy to not see this as we rush through our busy lives.  I’ve had an opportunity to see things move at a slower pace and have experienced real kindness and been overwhelmed by just how good people can be. I don’t think that any good is going to come from suddenly losing Mark like I did but I have seen the absolute best in people since he died.  Since he died, I’ve been on the receiving end of more compassion and kindness than I could have ever imagined.  My family, in particular my parents, and my friends have been absolutely incredible and I don’t know how I would ever survived these first six weeks without them.

I have no idea what the next six weeks are going to bring.  I plan to face them the same way I did the first six weeks, moment by moment, day by day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thank you all

The following is a message I sent out to our friends and family this morning.

Hello everyone,

I must apologize for not sending this out sooner but I have been feeling very overwhelmed the past couple of days and it's taken me some time to process everything.  I wanted to thank each and every one of you who were able to join us on Saturday (either in person or in spirit) to celebrate the life of our beloved Chef Mark.

Mark would have been very touched (and probably a little bit embarrassed – although secretly he would have LOVED it) to see so many people gathered together, sharing stories, laughing at photos and remembering what a great guy he was.  A lovely friend of Mark’s sent me a note and said, “he had the strongest spirit and presence of anyone I've ever known. Simply a complex, fascinating, charismatic human being unlike anyone I've ever known.”  I think that describes him perfectly.

You will never know how much your support has meant to me since Mark died.  I’m continuing to take things moment by moment, day by day and I’m so grateful for all of you.  I’m so very lucky to have you in my life.

Much love to you all, Peggy xo

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mark Leslie Collis

Mark's obituary was published in the Toronto Star and the Kingston Whig-Standard today.

COLLIS, Mark Leslie (Chef Mark) - of Kingston, age 63, died suddenly on Sunday, August 16, 2015 at Kingston General Hospital. Mark will be forever loved and missed by his wife Peggy Shanks and his beloved dogs Gracie and Sam. Mark will also be remembered affectionately by Michael and Theresa Shanks (Amherstview), Patrick Shanks and Cynthia Deveau (Ottawa), his uncle Nate Collis (Toronto), members of the Collis, Shanks and Forbes families and a large network of friends. Mark is predeceased by his wonderful parents, Joe and Ida Collis, his brother Barry Collis and his ex-wife, Mimi Braidberg. He was an exceptionally talented, classically trained French Chef working in Toronto for many years, creating delicious meals at Fenton's, Vittorio's, Zaidy's, Carlevale's and Bemelman's Restaurants. Mark opened his own restaurant in Toronto, La Bionda which was well known in the late 1980's for its open kitchen and creative cuisine. In the 1990's Mark was able to combine his passion for food with his love for music through his catering company "Touring Kitchens." Mark cooked for many of his musical heroes including Roger Waters, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers and Leon Redbone (to name just a few). By the end of the 1990's he had met Peggy, moved to Kingston and opened Ida's Kitchen. In recent years, after retiring from cooking, Mark worked as a cab driver. A celebration of Mark's life is being planned for the fall. Mark's family would like to thank all of the medical professionals who provided such excellent care to him during his illness. In particular, thank you to Dr Tu Van Banh, Dr Hugh MacDonald, Dr Sulaiman Nanji, Dr James Biagi and all of the staff at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. As an expression of sympathy, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Kingston Humane Society ( or CFRC Radio Queen's University ( would be appreciated.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mark - Some Sad News

Hello everyone,

I know that I have spoken to some of you on the phone already but I wanted to let the rest of you know that Mark passed away earlier this morning at the Kingston General Hospital.

He'd had a pretty rough summer with his health.  It seemed to be just one thing after another.  In the last week or so, he started to exhibit symptoms that his liver was in bad shape.  We received the
results of his most recent CT scan on Wednesday, August 12.  We were told that the tumours were quite involved and they suggested that he restart chemo as soon as possible.  As soon as possible was to be tomorrow (Monday, August 17).

In his heart, I know that he really did not want to do chemo.  Because he'd been feeling so crappy though, the chemo provided a promise of relieving some his symptoms and the doctor was confident that Mark would respond well, and perhaps even be back to work by mid-September.

Last night, he was having a lot pain in his back and abdomen and was having difficulty breathing.  Mark was taken by ambulance to KGH and I know that the team there did everything that they could to help him.  They were able to get him breathing a couple of times but were not able to get his heart started again due to extremely low blood pressure.

I was told that he probably didn't experience any pain while they were treating him.  I told the doctor that Mark spent a good chunk of his life in pursuit of not feeling any pain so he would appreciate that.

I feel completely numb at the moment.  I knew that this cancer was going to kill him but I thought we'd have more time.  I also thought that when he died, it would be peaceful and I'd be there  (I stayed behind to sort the dogs out and arrived at the hospital about 40 minutes after he did - I think he died just before we arrived).

I want to thank you all so much for the love and support you've shown us during Mark's illness. He'll be cremated and a celebration of life will be held in the fall.  I'll make sure to keep you posted about
that has I figure out what is happening.

While his passing his sudden and shocking, I know that Mark wouldn't want you to be sad.  Pull out your copy of Wish You Were Here or watch A Hard's Day Night and think about how much joy Mark brought to us over the years, through his sense of humour, his amazing food and his colourful stories.

I love you all, thanks again for everything.

Friday, July 24, 2015

happy friday

If you need a little something to make you smile and tap your foot this morning, here you go. Enjoy it with some coffee!