Doing what he did best… Mark Gunter, 1974–2015. Picture: Kirsty Baxter

The terrible waste of a life cut short

Of my friend, Mark Gunter


In his last days, my friend Mark was a wreck of human life. So ravaged by illness he was a wraith, his hair gone, his skin, papery white. The only solace I take is that perhaps his end was painless, so dosed on morphine that he exited this world numb, but even in that, there is little to be thankful.

I was lucky to visit Mark twice in his cancer treatment. On the first visit we happily shared dumplings and beer at his parent’s house where he and his wife Lee had created a makeshift hospice. Anthony Tan was there too, and it could’ve been any other night of any other year. We tried not to talk about the disease. We pretended, we played along. We laughed together. We shared memories. The prognosis then, was positive. Mark and Lee had gone so far as to book their accommodation for Adelaide and next year’s TDU. We can cancel it of course, they said, but who knows?

I’m in tears just thinking back to it.

The next day I’m told, with his umpteenth round of chemotherapy working its toxic magic, Mark lost his hair in the shower. The next time I saw him, which, with the weeks lost in my own life became far too long, was also, tragically, the last. His father and mother were beside themselves in sorrow and grief. Lee was managing, you know, as good as one can expect, she said. What is there to say at such times? To do? What consolation makes up for such a terrible loss? Mark wasn’t really conscious. He was in a haze of drugs. His life slowly escaping him with every shortened breath. Death is ugly and this was as ugly as it gets.

How can one resolve the vision of the man I knew just a few months hence, and the cruelness of this foul end? Mark was a strapping, young, vivacious man, blessed with a brilliant, artistic eye for photography. He was a big kid in many ways, jumping on to motorbikes and travelling the world to perform his craft. To those that he touched, and there was so very many, he was the kind of guy you’d happily share a beer with after a long day of work and who’d happily sit and listen. He was generous with his personality and time, almost to a fault, working in an industry that is unflinchingly cutthroat. He was a new husband to Leeanne, and he was a recent father. His sandy-haired son Lucas, a new beacon in his life.

And yet, that man is lost, and I’m mute. I despair not for everything that Mark was, but for everything he could’ve been. Life is so precious, and this, at such a bright time in Mark’s life is such an irreconcilable, terrible waste. Why, for what? I’m left with no answers, only sadness.