Mark Wegener has shut up shop for the last time.

As news of his death reached me here in Italy I have been trying to understand why I have been so affected by the death of a local shop owner whose personal life I knew next to nothing about.

From our arrival in Australia 17 years ago, the Maytime Deli or just ‘Mark’s’ was our local deli. “Just nipping over to Mark’s” was code for solving the eternal ‘no milk’ crisis, curing the no Sunday paper deficiency, and satisfying those inexplicable cravings for munchies late in the night.

From early morning to late at night, seven days a week, Mark was there with a warmth of welcome out of all proportion to the paltry nature of your purchases. In 17 years, I never knew Mark to ever ‘have a bad day’ in his shop. Would that we health professionals were able to say the same thing.

The conversations and comments in Mark’s were never so scintillating that they were going to land you your own chat show, or the gig hosting the next Oscars. They were never meant to. That was the point.

Hi Mark.
Good evening and what can I get for you today friend?
I’ll have a bottle of Krug and a box of your finest Cuban cigars.
Sorry, just sold the last ones 10 minutes ago.
Oh well, make it a pint of milk and a two dollar mixture.
Easy done.

These chats had nothing to prove, they were devoid of ‘an angle’. They were instead the sublime social surfactant that makes our coming together as human beings so smooth and effortlessly enjoyable.

The word ‘community’ has been so grotesquely overused that it has become little more than a coded ‘niceness’, a linguistic bauble to be attached to any term in need of some ‘humanising’, hence Community Medicine, Community Policing and so on ad infinitum. Mark and his little Maytime Deli was ‘community’ without even trying.

So today, I have been sobbing openly for a man that I’ve barely known for 17 years. But something makes me think that a great deal more may have died on 5th April 2013 than Mark Wegener, deli owner.

Vale Mark.

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