The Continuing Radiance of Marc Cooper

Well you did it again, you vile fuck.  You took another one.

I get it.  He was one of the greatest humans alive.  Always putting others first.  Always.  No matter what.  He built his entire existence around it.  Gleaning joy from the joy of others.  But that is not anything you tolerate or even understand, do you?  The whole joy thing.  You shit on it every minute of every day.

I’ve been thinking about it non-stop since Ellen called me yesterday morning, as I suppose most of the people who knew him are doing.  I’m no different.  The past 10 years we had grown super close, though, after my daughter Sophie started at Tamarack.  I could always count on receiving random pics of him and her all summer, in various states of hair or hat or attitude.  We spoke endlessly during the year, mostly about our mental health and trying to help each other with it.  There is a very basic connection between people with mental illness who share similar lives.  We were both fathers, husbands, leaders – blessed with the voice and the opportunity to affect our communities positively and driven by creativity that could barely be contained.  But it was you that monopolized our conversations.  You were inescapable as usual.  But somehow, gradually, and in tiny ways, we would fight you off.  Until the next time you showed your ugly fucking face.  And you always did. 

Plenty of people are going to be writing eloquently about Marc Cooper.  And they should.  He was indeed among the greatest humans alive.  He touched thousands with his unique light and unceasing positivity.  He changed people.  He changed me.  And that’s just the kind of shit you hate.  The better they are, the more you need them.  I know this very well because you killed my brother in the same way.

My other brother is a psychiatrist who has dedicated his own life to stopping your vicious crusade.  He deals with your shit daily, even hourly.  And he has said to me many times in the past, and again yesterday, that the only certain thing about determining if someone is about to cause harm to themselves is that there is no certainty.  There is no way to jump in front of you at that singular moment when the decision is made.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, no matter who you are or what you do or how profoundly your kindness, charm, generosity, and humour have affected the people around you.

Carly and Jack, the real tragedy of all this is you. There is a lot of collateral damage to families. It is the hardest road you will ever walk. Just know that your community – the one that Marc had a profound hand in building – are right here beside you always. And forever – even if it’s just to remind you of the kind of incredible person he was.

All I know now is this.  To the thousands of people – children and adults – that Marc has left his glorious imprint on, this is their time to shine.  Talk about him.  Loudly.  They must talk to their children about their own mental health, and about suicide, and about how Marc battled the darkness until he just couldn’t anymore.  And talk about how there is no shame in that. We must fight the stigma of suicide more than ever, and talking about it will do just that.

The last text message I got from Marc was a few weeks ago, saying simply, “I love you.  That’s all have in my tank right now, and I wanted you to have it.”  That’s the kind of guy you wiped off the planet.  But I will tell you this, we will figure you out, you unredeemable, useless fuck.  Eventually we will.  And when that happens, no one will enjoy watching you die more than me.


22 thoughts on “The Continuing Radiance of Marc Cooper

  1. David Lewis

    Great piece Shael, but I would expect nothing less. Beautiful tribute while illustrating the anger and frustration and helplessness and and and…. My son went to Tamarack & Marc was his (& our) guiding light through some tough times. Marc was warmth personified. No one is immune. Sad.

      • Marcia Zemans

        Thank you for sharing. As a practising psychiatrist, I totally share these goals.
        It sounds like Marc made the world a much better place during the time he was here.

    • Sarah Kessel Gold

      Thank you for writing such an incredible piece about an amazing person who made an indelible mark on every person he met!! He will be missed every single day!

  2. Kyle D

    Shael, we have never met but these words sum up a lot of how I feel right now. Mental health is so important to talk about and I am struggling to put words together when it comes to Marc’s passing. I loved him for the mentor, entertainer, and just all around great human that he is. He represented joy and the embodied the spirit of youth that we should all aim to maintain in our lives. My heart breaks for Jack & Carly more than anything, and for the hundreds if not thousands of campers, staff and families who were fortunate enough to be touched by wonderful energy!

    Thanks for this.

  3. Erika Rukin

    Hi Shael, What you shared in this post is very overwhelming..sad…frustrating and so true. Mental Health has impacted many of us, in one way or another and talking about it and sharing our vulnerability will hopefully one day be enough to eradicate suicide. Still, so much work to be done, but thank you for writing this post. Marc will be greatly missed. Erika (remember me, your favourite Elder Camper).

  4. Joanna (Greenblatt) Drowos

    Shael, thank you for putting in to words how so many of us are feeling. Beautifully written. Marc truly was the kindest, most generous person who cared so much for others. It’s not always possible to know what is truly going on behind the humor, fun and zany antics. It is important to talk about mental health. I am grateful to Camp Tamarack and Marc for the memories. Sending love to Carly and Jack.

  5. Dori Zener

    Shael, when I heard the news yesterday I was shaken. He left such an impact on me all those years ago at Tamarack. He was so silly, kind, and open. He seemed so comfortable in his own skin. He made everyone around him feel important and valued. I wonder how much covid played a role in him taking his life. I imagine that it would have been so difficult for him to not have that energy source to pull from each day, surrounded by and conducting the happiness, joy and connectedness of others. It’s such a terrible loss.

  6. Stephen Lidsky

    Beautiful posting Shael. Perfectly captures what many of us are feeling. I’m not on FB so unable to comment on the thread, but I’m following along with Melissa’s feed and having such bittersweet memories. Miss everyone – there’s nothing like camp friends, and how neither time nor distance matter when it comes to supporting one another.

  7. Lori W

    What an incredibly profound and poetic
    piece of writing. Not only have you honoured Marc and his memory, you have shined a light on mental health: the suffering, the tragedy, and the silence. These past few days, I have been struck with how silent depression can be to the outside world.
    This is not a new revelation for me: I too am a psychiatrist, faced with the challenges and tragedy of mental illness every day. Obviously I am speaking professionally, but like many others, I have also faced mental illness on a personal level. Mental illness and addiction does not choose or distinguish. It spans across cultural, gender and socioeconomic lines. It is so important to continue the conversation and encourage people who are struggling to speak out.
    Thank you for your beautiful words and for honouring Marc’s memory while addressing mental health. You have always been an inspiration and a huge contributor to my memories of camp.

    Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are ever so inclined. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Zach Salsberg

    It was impossible not to respond to this. You perfectly encapsulated the anger and grief that surfaces from such tragedy. I felt the same way when I heard about Marc; in fact you described exactly what I could not articulate when my father took his life as well. Bravo. I am sorry that you understand this so well. You did a remarkable thing with this piece, as you did with your music tonight. Thank you for this.

  9. Marni

    What a brilliant piece. Yes… this illness is completely debilitating. The battle is real.
    I have not seen Marc in years… however, I remember his warmth, charisma, strength and intelligence. He was always very good to me at camp. Everyone loved him. He will live on in our hearts.
    Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  10. Lisa

    No doubt your words will spark conversation in many homes and save lives. A much needed reminder to lead with kindness and empathy, recognizing that there are many people who hide behind a smile and fight quiet battles that others aren’t aware of. Thank you for your courage and vulnerability.

  11. Anna Grosman

    You do not know me (yet); I saw this post on Dara Kahane’s Facebook page. She and my son Marc (!) worked together for years at Bayview Glen.

    I have read your piece over and over. I forwarded it to all 3 of my sons. Marc was my nephew by marriage. We had not seen each other in a long time. I regret that.

    Your personification of mental illness is powerful and impactful. You are a gifted, sensitive and passionate writer – I can tell.

    Thank you for writing what I know we are all feeling about Marc Cooper. It resonates deeply, and I know I will read it again and again.

    A friend you haven’t yet met,

  12. Jackie Fricker

    I worked with Marc years ago at Zodiac in the office and also taught his son swimming lessons for a session or two. I found out today of his passing and I am incredibly sad about it. He was such an kind, funny and encouraging person. We would sometimes order pho soup for lunch and he would pick it up and eat it out of big salad bowls from dollarama (only reserved for pho!) and have a feast. His kindness touched many and he will be deeply missed. He repeatedly spoke so highly and lovingly about his wife and son. My condolences to his family, wife and son.

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