Year’s ending brings a review of loss

The thing I hate about the end of one year and the start of the new one is the review of loss.

It comes to the newsroom in the form of year-end lists and stories from the Associated Press, all the reminders about famous people, young and old,   who have passed away.

It’s not necessarily always a shock as some may have been elderly and in failing health, but then there are those ones you don’t expect, the many who died, for example, due to accidents, overdoses and what have you.

Those always make me wince.

I am always surprised at this time of looking back, this opportunity to reflect, often because I’ve forgotten someone famous has passed away.

Or I step back and think, wow, that happened this past year?

The bookends of a 12-month calendar year can sometimes seem much farther apart than they actually are.

With the review, I feel a renewed sense of sadness, of loss, of holes left no one can fill.

While the famous people list has an indirect kind of impact, the local losses are quite the opposite.

Our newsroom family, for instance, mourns a fresh loss with the untimely death on Christmas Day of 54-year-old Mark Miller, a reminder that this day-in, day-out rhythm of living is not something that we should assume beats on without subject to change.

When you’ve worked in a newsroom for as many years as most of us here have, you tend to think you’re immune to that sort of thing until a slap of reality leaves its sting.

In the cast of characters who star in the day-to-day production process of a hometown newspaper, Mark Miller was a unique part of that undertaking in everything from his approach to the job to his wardrobe. He was the reporter armed with a notebook, a guitar case and opinions he was at ease with sharing.

What I appreciated most about him, though, was his musical teaching talent he shared so richly with so many, including my son Adam, who has become the confident musician he is thanks to Mark Miller.

He took Adam under his wing, working with him as the hands-on learner that Adam is, not as a study-the-book person that others might be.

And Mark Miller wasn’t just the  gifted musician, he was an encourager, too, and that is a true gift, a teacher character quality to not just be appreciated, but admired, too.

I don’t think it has sunk in yet for any of us here, though, that the guitar-toting Mark Miller won’t be walking through the newsroom, his signature hat on his head, no longer here to interject political or local news commentary.

I’ve looked over at his desk in disbelief — a desk some would say was always in chronic need of serious housekeeping but what others might view as confirmation of the  work environment of a creative genius.

We will miss him to be sure here in the Land of Misfits that we often joke that we are.

Our newsroom family won’t ever be the same.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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