Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The love of my life

I haven't written on this blog since Nov. 5. That was the day my husband, Mark, stopped working.  He thought he had injured his back in late October, and after toughing it out for a couple weeks on Oxycodone and Advil, he finally gave in to the pain.  On Nov. 5, he had the first of many tests. He was in horrible pain and couldn't lie down or walk. He lived the next two months on our living room couch.  He had to give up playing music, give up teaching, give up driving, give up his life.  We stayed at home, isolated and focused on how to help him get better. Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, he learned he didn't have just a back injury.  He had a broken vertebrate caused by cancer that was moving through his bones and weakening them.  "I'm going to fight this thing," he said. On Jan. 5, he started fighting, sitting through a five-hour session of chemotherapy. But the cancer was vicious and fast-moving. It was mean, dark, sadistic, and it took a piece of him away every day.  Still, he endured more tests, one after another, week after week.  They all offered more answers, but they didn't offer hope.  On Feb. 2, I took him to the hospital. He was weak and had lost nearly half his body weight.  After three days, he was a little stronger, and we came home.  A hospice nurse arrived the next morning.  "I'm going to fight this thing," he told her. Still, the cancer continued on his rampage, and on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, at 3:17 p.m., he took a final breath. Our daughter, Alexa, and I were there by his side, holding his hand. 
We were married for 33 years and together for 36 - the whole of our adult lives.  We were one heart, two halves of a whole person. When one of us faced a hardship, the other one helped. When I lost my job in 2007, he helped me see the opportunities that lay ahead. When he had open-chest surgery later that year, I helped him get back on the forest trail we often walked by our house.  Since 2007, we have both worked at home, and were together every day and every night.
I can't believe I couldn't help him this time. We both tried. We both believed.  But we couldn't do it.
Now my heart is broken.  My friends are holding me and Alexa in a fierce embrace.  "Write about it," they say.  So I am. 

Mark Acord, July 4, 1954-Feb. 14, 2010
Mark Acord, 55, died at home in Woodland Park on Sunday, Feb. 14, with his wife, his daughter, his sister and his friends at his side.

Mark was born July 4, 1954, in Moline, Ill. He fell in love with music at an early age, and by the time he was 14, he was playing trumpet in a funk band in the Quad Cities. He went to the University of Northern Iowa, and received his degree in music education in 1976.

He played trumpet in a jazz trio, but when he picked up a bass guitar a few years later, he was hooked. The bass was the perfect instrument for him – he liked to say it was the brains of a band, while the drums provided the heartbeat.

Mark and his wife Deb started their first rock band in 1983, playing clubs and concerts throughout Iowa and Minnesota. In their most popular band, Hero, Mark was the front man and bass player.

Mark and Deb were married in 1976, and when they honeymooned in Colorado, they vowed to relocate here. In 1986, Mark and Deb made their move to the mountains and Mark continued his musical career. He played with local bands Beauty and the Beasts, Cadillac Jack, and the Rhythm Method. At the same time, he began teaching in a studio at Rice Music. His students were important to him – he often used part of the lesson time to talk. But he also wanted his students to excel, and when any of them won scholarships to colleges or honors or awards, he was thrilled. He developed an innovative approach to the bass guitar, teaching theory and improvisation and encouraging his students to play Bach as well as Metallica. In recent years, he moved his studio several times, ending at ProSound Music, and with each move, his students followed him.

In recent years, Mark was the bass player for the Channel Cats, a blues band that played clubs throughout the Front Range and hosted a blues jam session at downtown clubs. He also began working at Woodland Park Middle School, leading sectional practices for trumpet and French horn players. He designed a blues jam session for beginning players, and placed his youngest students next to area pros on stage

Mark loved music. He met his wife, Deb, in college, and she quickly learned that a day wasn’t complete for him until he practiced three or four hours. Mark also loved the mountains. With Deb and their daughter, Alexa, he explored Colorado’s wilderness. He named his favorite place – a hidden backcountry campsite in the Lost Creek Wilderness – “heaven.” He was a dedicated weightlifter, an accomplished fisherman and a strong hiker and backpacker and he carried Alexa and her backpack until she was old enough to manage on her own. He often said that preparing for a backpacking trip was the most fun part – he was a self-professed “gearhead” and he loved knives. He often read about world religions, mysticism and physics and was a champion campfire builder – a skill he demonstrated on his last camping trip last summer with Deb. He was a relentless supporter of his wife and he idolized his daughter, whom he called “Leca.”

In the end, he was still thinking about music, and even asked Dale Creel, his friend and fellow Channel Cat to help build a stand for his bass guitar so he could play it sitting down. On the day before Mark died, he was humming a blues tune.

Mark is survived by his wife, Deb; his daughter, Alexa; his parents, Merle and Marilyn Acord of Princeton, Iowa; his sister, Marsha Acord of Mount Vernon, Iowa, and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his grandparents.

A celebration of Mark’s life is being planned for a later date. Donations may be made for his daughter’s continuing education at Acord Education Fund, ENT, PO Box 15819, Colorado Springs, CO 80935.