Death of a Behr
First of all, Mark (professor Behr) always hated my story titles because I suck at creating them, so naturally this blog should have a crappy title as well.
This morning, I woke up at 6:30 and decided to peruse Facebook in the hopes that I would be able to fall back asleep. That is usually how it works, but this time was devastatingly different. One of the most influential professors I have ever had, Mark Behr, died of a heart attack sometime in the night. That news was starting to infiltrate my Facebook feed. I’m currently in a hotel room in Oklahoma that I’m sharing with my sister and I’m sure I woke up her with a very loud “What the fuck” as I started reading a post about how life is so short and things end unexpectedly with a picture of Mark attached to the epitaph.
Here’s the thing, my senior year I took 3 classes with Mark. I was a creative writing major while I was an undergrad at Rhodes College and he took over that branch of the English department while I was studying abroad in Australia. When I came back I had to dive right back into the creative writing workshops in order to complete my class requirements in time for graduation. Let me tell ya’ll, that first semester with Mark was rough. After a successful flash fiction exercise, I totally bombed the main writing assignment for the semester. Like… it was so painfully bad. And it was bad because I was too lazy to do the work, not because I suck at writing. I’m pretty sure this is how the conversation went:
“Alexandra, this is unacceptable.” (He liked to call me Alexandra, instead of Alex, and I let him do it because he had the most wonderful accent)
“You have got to do the work. I will fail you this semester if you keep turning in things like this.”
“Uh…” And then the tears started coming because I don’t think I’ve ever had a professor threaten to fail me, certainly not in an English class. Mark was kind, but firm and I got myself together and things got better over the next semester and a half. More importantly, Mark morphed from the jerk professor who threatened to fail me, to a truly inspirational mentor who recognized my talent and constantly pushed me forward. I remember being so irritated with him because he was going to miss graduation, in fact I think our whole class was. To make up for it he made us dinner at his house. We drank a lot of wine, ate good food and did one last workshop of our stories.
Today, and I’m sure the days that follow, sucks. It blows my mind how you can spend one year with a person and they embed themselves in the crevices of your life. So here I am, in a hotel in Oklahoma, crying because he’s dead.
All you need to do is look at his facebook page to see how he affected so many people: students, colleagues, friends, those who read his books. He left his finger prints all over us.
The older you get the more you are confronted with death. And death moves on its own time. I think death botched this one up, but who am I to say.
I found this video on my phone. It’s from my advanced fiction writing workshop I took with Mark. He threatened to destroy me if I ever shared it, so I’ve kept it tucked away. We all know that grieving is for the living and I think this video might help all of us grieve such a wonderful human. I'm sure Mark would understand.