A Song, A Memory, A Sad Discovery

“I wonder what happened to Mark.”

Barb and I were eating dinner, Pandora music playing on our kitchen speakers. “One For My Baby” began to play. It’s been one of Barb’s favorite songs ever since Bette Midler sang it to Johny Carson on his penultimate night as host of The Tonight Show. But what we were hearing was the classic Frank Sinatra version. And it brought back different memories to me, leading me to a sad discovery.

My memory was of the mid-’60s, sitting in my family apartment, listening to the radio–rock’n’roll on WCFL. Joel Sebastian, the morning DJ on Super ‘CFL always ended his shift turning over to airways to fellow jock Dick Williamson, as Ol’ Blue Eyes crooned “one for my baby and one more for the road” in the background.

I never knew Joel, but I did know his son Mark. When I was a pathology resident at Evanston Hospital, Mark was one of several dieners, the hospital employees who, in addition to other duties, helped the pathologists perform autopsies.

The dieners kept the morgue clean and supplied, transferred the deceased from the refrigerator to the autopsy table, and helped with incisions and evisceration–the process of removing organs for examination to determine the cause of death and other morbidities. They then had the responsibility of cleaning the body and preparing it for delivery to the funeral home.

A good diener is invaluable to pathologists-in-training, and Mark was a solid one. He was a cheerful, smart, young man with a good grasp of anatomy, taking a post-college Sebastian Sabbatical while waiting to go to medical school in a year or two. Eyes twinkling, he would keep us newbies from making too many rookie mistakes.

Mark became my friend and confidante as well, teaching me how to debone a chicken for the surprise dinner I made for my 3rd wedding anniversary. We had a side-hustle doing autopsies at a few neighboring hospitals and even went on a double date or two–sometimes on the same day as our autopsy rounds.

After a year or so, Mark moved on. I completed my residency and began my long-term gig as a staff pathologist at Holy Family Hospital. I hadn’t thought much about him until the other night, listening to Sinatra, remembering the Joel Sebastian connection, when the thought popped into my head.

“I wonder what happened to Mark,” I said.

It didn’t take long to find out. The Google search combination of Mark and Joel Sebastian quickly brought me to all the information I was seeking. Mark had indeed become a physician, an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Connecticut, and Director of Trauma at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. And no surprise to me, he was an award-winning teacher of medical students and a profound doer of good deeds

But as you may have guessed the article I was reading was in Memorium. Mark had taken his own life in 2013 at the age of 55.

I don’t know the path that took him to that point. I only know the sadness that hit me as I read of his passing. He was truly one of the good guys.

So Mark, whenever I hear “One for My Baby,” be it Sinatra, Midler, or anyone at all, please know I will be thinking of you.

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