As I drove into work today, my iPod began to play a random song from a British band called The Zutons. Instantly my mind wandered back in time, about 10 years, to a man who made a huge and profound impact in my life, a man who encouraged me to dream big and pursue those dreams. A man who inspired childlike joy and creativity to everybody he knew. A man I am honored to have called a friend and mentor. That man is Mark Esposito.
Mark was the son of a famous Marvel comic illustrator, Mike Esposito but to those who knew him, Mark was a father figure, a friend and a strong Christian.
Mark was a business partner at a marketing agency my design firm shared a space with in the early 2000s. When I think of Mark, I recall one of the first interactions I had with him. In my first week in business, Mark walked into my office, smiled and extended his arms wide, to his left and right and said, “Come here!” I looked at him and said, “What?” Being Asian, I grew up like many other who share my ethnicity, a home void from physical affection focused on business, success, and material things.
Mark again said, “Come here Jonnathan!”
I again hesitated and asked him, “What do you want?”
You see, Mark was a big big guy, my estimate was at least 6’ 3”, probably 280 pounds and had an abnormally large wing span for his height.
Mark smiled and said, “I felt God prompt me to come in and give you a hug. So here I am.”
You see, I would learn later that Mark was a man who lived with great convictions, a man with a wonderful relationship with God and was extremely obedient when he heard God prompt him to do something.
Hesitantly, I stood up and gave Mark a half hug, as I tried to retreat back to my seat, Mark wrapped his giant arms around me and said, “God told me that you grew up in a broken home and that your father wasn’t much of a father. He asked me to tell you, that if you ever need a father to listen, provide sound advice or to just give a hug, to come to me. God loves you so much Jonnathan and I am here for you, for anything.”
Mark gave me a father’s blessing. Even though he was, at the time, a man I barely knew, emotions flooded my heart and tears began to flow. I answered him with a simple, “Ok, thank you.”
He smiled, cracked a joke and went back to his office. I closed my office door and cried for what felt like an eternity. Over the next 5 years, I spoke with Mark countless times, seeking his guidance on life, advice about church, friends, business and women. He was always there to listen and as he promised, he always gave sound advice.
In Psalms 68, God states that He is a Father to the Fatherless. Mark was the perfect example to me of how to be God-like, childlike and a father to those needing a father.
Years after “The Hug”, the world lost Mark to cancer but his legacy still lives on through the lives of those blessed enough to have known him, God’s gentle giant.