A message to his sons finds Mark Weber a wider audience
In early December Lt. Col. Mark Weber's book Tell My Sons will be released. Weber, who is dying of Stage IV gastrointestinal cancer, wrote the book to his three sons Matthew, Joshua and Noah but decided to publish the book as well.
Beaver's Pond Press published the book, which Weber calls a story of empowerment, encouragement and inspiration. Here, Weber answers some questions about the book and what it was like to write it. The book can be purchased at the website www.tellmysons.com.
Weber will speak about the book and sign autographs at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Robert Trail Library.
We talked with Weber by email about the experience of writing the book.
Tell us a little about yourself and what led you to write "Tell My Sons."
I'm a career, active-duty, Army Military Police officer who spent 16 years away from our Minnesota home. Two years ago, General Petraeus asked me to join his team in Afghanistan working as a military advisor to the newly appointed Afghan Minister of Interior. Just a few weeks later I was told I had stage IV cancer - intestine, pancreas, lymph nodes, and 75 percent of my liver. When a massive surgery left me with inoperable cancer and numerous severe medical complications, I was given about four months to live. For reasons too numerous to mention, I have beaten that deadline (pun intended). The details of that journey are best left to my online blog at www.caringbridge.org/visit/markmweber. What I can tell you is that I didn't waste a lot of time asking why or how - and still don't. I'm on my fourth chemo trial, which has merely slowed the growth of the cancer, and I'm still coping with some breathtaking surgical complications. Everyone's clock is ticking, but mine - we can here. So I went to work organizing 20-plus years of my journal entries and e-mails with the idea of leaving my three young sons the next best thing to being here for them as they cross into adulthood. This is a story about empowerment, encouragement, and inspiration; its primary message is to focus not on what will be lost or what you don't have, but to focus instead on what you do have, and what to do about life when it doesn't give you what you want or expected.
What do your sons, Matthew, Joshua and Noah, think about the book? Have they read it?
The boys haven't read the book yet, because the finished product isn't back from the printers until the first week in December. I want them to read their own copy, so I'm waiting.
What was your wife's reaction to you wanting to write a book about your lives and battle with cancer?
Kristin knows that "an occupied Mark Weber is best for all concerned." I may have cancer, but I don't act like it, which means I still have energy, and passion, and goals, and a drive of purpose that all needs an outlet. She knows this about me. It's who I am. And it's the closest thing to normal that we have in light of the mind-spinning reality of a fight with cancer at age 38 in the prime of life and profession.
There are some pretty personal things in the book, what made you decide to share it with the world?
Army Chaplain John Morris did the best job of convincing me that we're all someone's father, mother, son, and daughter, and we're all working through the adversities of life. Not everyone is willing or able to share their experience with such struggles, but I am. The more I shared, the more I realized just how thirsty people are for inspiration. So I figured, "why not?" I'm already writing it for my boys.
You wrote this book in a pretty short time frame, considering your health. Was that difficult?
Sort of. But death is one heck of a motivator, and I had a healthy determination and sense of initiative before the cancer. The way I saw it, this was a new mission, and there's nothing more motivating to a career soldier than the idea of a accomplishing a new and challenging mission.
Now that the book is coming out, how do you feel about it?
I'm excited and anxious. Self-publishing this book cost over $40,000, and the last thing I want to do is burden my family with debt as we stand at the threshold of losing the main breadwinner for the family. Aside from that, I told myself at the very beginning of this effort that the only three people I was going to worry about liking this book were Matthew, Joshua and Noah. If others got something out of it, all the better.
You and your wife Kristin have committed to give half of any proceeds made to help other parents' sons and daughters overcome their hardships, what led to that decision?
I struggled with the idea that we should make money from such a tragic and emotional story. I recognize that this may sound excessively fussy, but it didn't seem right to me. I initially had plans to donate all the proceeds (after expenses), but I was roundly shouted down as short-sighted by everyone but Kristin, who was more silent on the topic, because she knew my thinking. All our lives we've scrimped and saved to ensure good financial planning for the sake of our boys if something should happen to me. Call it prideful, but we did that very successfully - even with my death, we'll be able to help our kids with college and with their first homes more than our own parents helped us. Why should our tragedy earn them more than that? And what better example to set than to show them what to do with an income that well exceeds a comfortable life?