So, here goes:
Every September, I celebrate my birthday. However, ever since September 2001, it's very much overshadowed by the death of my friend Mark. Five days before I should theoretically tie one on, have anchovy pizza, and get presents, I'm reminded instead that one of the men I loved the most in my life died because some moronic religious fanatics decided that the best way to get real laid with actual virgins would be to kill a bunch of innocent people in the name of Allah.
What kind of fascinates me the most is the way that one man's death can completely transform his personality. Before he died, Mark was just an old, good friend, someone I lived with for a couple of years, my first real boyfriend, a rugby player, an author of pretty decent pornographic short stories, a loving son, a great drinking buddy, a frat boy, and an up and coming PR executive experiencing moderate success with the company he'd just founded, The Bingham Group.
However, after he died, he became a pretty varied array of different things, most of which probably have very little to do with any objective sense of reality. Suddenly, he was the first official mascot of nascent gay rugby player movements around the world; hell, I have a polo shirt now with a not even vaguely like Mark embroidered logo on it [it's supposed to be him, but of course it's a stylized, more twink-y version of Mark]. He's also Our Dead Gay Hero of 9/11, with an actual book available for sale [spotted recently at djmrswhite's house... and I think zombietruckstop was even asked to do a treatement of the book for a TV movie project that never got off the ground].
It was even more interesting to see how he inspired various people to redefine who they are. The weekend after Mark died, there was a woman standing near the makeshift memorial in the Castro telling everyone how proud she was of her dead brother. Fine, but Mark was an only child. His mom, Alice, suddenly found herself an advocate of better working conditions for flight attendants... and suddenly a very popular and well respected advocate of gay rights. Similarly, old friends of Mark's, like Jeff Staiman, who works here in Redmond, found themselves going above and beyond what they'd done before, raising money for charity. My friend Paul, whom I personally consider to be Mark's only other "real" relationship in his life [they lived together for many, many years] suddenly found himself hugged on stage by John McCain - and out for the first time as well. [He'd never really told anyone he was gay before.]
Me, I guess it didn't change me that much. I'm proud of Mark and what he and the other passengers on Flight 93 did, and I still miss him; without Mark around, getting totally smashed at the Lone Star just wasn't the same any more.
But back to that picture... it kinda inspired this meandering post. What irritates me about that is that is apparently one of the memorial benches at the Flight 93 crash site, and it has Mark's name in quotes. This is, well, kind of insulting. His name was Mark; he chose it himself. Yeah, maybe there was something different on his birth certificate, but who cares? My point is that even in death it's seemingly impossible to let Mark be Mark; there's always something we all need to change, something we think needs explication or touching up. And is that OK? I think it probably is, but only because it's too damned hard to keep the meaning of who someone was in stasis long after they've died.