Marina Gomberg: Mark DeCaria has left us, and a hard rain’s a-falling

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

Mark DeCaria

For weeks, every night around 10 p.m., my dad sent a text update on Mark, who had been fighting in the intensive care unit to reclaim his previously-vibrant life after complications from a heart surgery took the breath from his lungs in early October.

The surgery was meant to extend his life. He had plans to dance at his grandchildrens’ weddings. He wanted to ski this season.

Hope enveloped each nightly report. Shock and disbelief, too, but all bathed in hope.

Pneumonia eventually wilted. Sepsis waved its white flag. Mark DeCaria could beat anything.

His life had been proof of that.

“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

And where have you been, my darling young one?”

For as tenacious as Mark had to be throughout his stay on earth, he was never hardened.

He was a funny, caring, dedicated, loyal, brilliant love. A hippie-turned-sharp-legal mind. A strong community advocate. The epitome of #girldad. The Honorable Judge.

Our families had become particularly close after his first wife, Tracy, died in the 1980s. His oldest daughter, Stefanie, was 4 years old. Little Angie was just 9 months.

He got good at braiding hair and probably watched more episodes of “Full House” than he cared to.

“Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you see, my darling young one?”

As weeks passed and more learned of Mark’s plight, the recipient list of the daily updates grew to the hundreds.

Care must be reciprocal and love a boomerang, because all Mark had given seemed to be returning to him now.

It was the reflection of his goodness.

Nearly every available visiting hour, he had loved ones by his side. Every inch of the room not occupied by tubes or machines was filled with love, his favorite music and dreams of recovery.

Progress was slow but mightily celebrated. His weak but still familiar smiles would suspend gravity, making everything feel light for a fraction of a second. His grimaces at bad jokes even more so.

I think he liked it when I played Joni Mitchell for him at my wife’s request.

“And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?”

On Thanksgiving, while at my parents’, Mark’s wife of 20 years, Meri, and the girls received word from the hospital that he had tested positive for COVID-19. There’s no scale that could measure the weight of this dread. Too heavy to enumerate.

His growing independence from the ventilator wouldn’t last. The two breathed as one again for more hours of each day.

His heart grew tired.

“Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?

And who did you meet, my darling young one?”

The shoulders of the people who love him most had to broaden last week. Their burden increased by precisely the weight of this giant.

They had to allow him to rest.

They are the keepers of his stories. They will now be the makers of his famous pasta sauce. They have to carry on in his absence.

“Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?”

The second-to-last text update my dad wrote was called “RETURNING TO NATURE.” It cracked the dam of group-text etiquette. Even the strongest among us have limits. This pressure was too great.

Engulfed by love, resting comfortably in the din of his loved ones sharing memories, Mark left us with the same grace he lived his life.

He has passed the torch.

And so now we must All Rise, as the Honorable Mark DeCaria exits for the last time.

“I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”

— Bob Dylan

Editor’s note: Mark DeCaria, former 2nd District Court judge and Weber County Attorney, died Sunday, Dec. 12, from complications (COVID-19 among them) after surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. He was 70.

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.