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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A legacy of life and love

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Words are the conduit through which my emotions have always been most effectively expressed. When even they fail me, I am truly at a loss.

Such has been the case in the three weeks since the death of Marcos Morillon. Even now, writing those last five words feels awkward and painful. And wrong. Just wrong.

There are people in all of our lives who seem invincible. Who radiate life and love, and we assume no being so filled with both could succumb to anything less than a ripe old age. When one of them is taken too soon, our world is turned upside down, as so many in Artesia experienced upon Marcos’ passing.

I don’t need to tell you what sort of person Marcos was. The adjectives come easily to all who encountered him: genuine, kind, compassionate, selfless, strong. For as long as I knew him, I never heard a cross or even indifferent word spoken about him. That in itself is rare.

Instead, I need to tell you how hard the guy made me laugh. From post-game epiphanies about his episodes of intensity on the basketball sidelines (“Oh, man, I think I accidentally went nuts out there… were words coming out?”), to the sight of him heading off a rogue lawnmower during a cross country race from atop his trusty four-wheeler, to my first interview with him as coach and reporter.

Halfway through that phone conversation, the noise from his Spanish classroom steadily increasing in volume despite his intermittent shushing, he paused mid-sentence – “Hang on one second… (his voice became slightly muffled) I’m about to open up a can in this class!! You hear me? Open up una lata in el aula!” – then picked up exactly where he’d left off.

Tongue-in-cheek discipline aside, I also need to tell you how much he enjoyed being a teacher and mentor. The sight of him running alongside his cross country teams or pacing his track athletes around the infield of Bulldog Bowl, shouting words of encouragement, were well known. Anyone who wondered at the number of students willing to compete in sports as physically demanding as cross country and distance running in the often brutal Southeast New Mexico heat didn’t wonder for long; he was a master motivator, and his inspiration left the recipient willing to give everything they had and more to make him proud.

And he was. When extolling his athletes’ efforts, work ethic and perseverance, he sounded like a delighted child. “That’s the best part of being a coach,” he would often say. “Seeing them realize that hard work pays off.”

My interviews with Marcos on Saturday afternoons were rarely less than a half-hour long, and that wasn’t counting friendly conversation. He had something to say about each individual runner on his teams, including those on junior varsity. As such, cross country articles in the Daily Press were typically quite long – long enough to prompt a colleague from out of town to once remark, “Wow, that’s the longest cross country article I’ve ever seen. You need to trim the coach’s comments down; who’s going to read that?”

The answer was, of course, the cross country runners. And even if no one else in town opted to dive into that sea of words, there was no way on Earth I was editing Marcos. Those articles were messages from him to his athletes, saying “I care about you, I appreciate your hard work, and I want everyone to know it.”

I share sports stories because those are the easiest to recount. The personal stories are too difficult to reflect upon for now, but I know I speak for many when I say they will be cherished always.

Every day, people pass suddenly from this world. It’s one of those variables that make life at once terrible and beautiful. We never know what’s ahead. We walk toward it, and we discover. Knowing exactly what the future holds sounds nice in theory, but a world without wonder would be a bleak place. So we accept the risks, the threats, the unknowns for the inevitabilities they are, and for the sake of the better days between.

When the worst happens unexpectedly, the most devastating side effect is often unanswered questions. We can’t help but feel that so many things have been left unresolved. But one of the greatest gifts I believe Marcos gave all who knew him is that we will never have to wonder how he felt about us, our lives, our ambitions, our potential. He made absolute certain we knew – regularly and eloquently. We should all be so lucky to leave such a legacy.

My own words still feel inadequate, but in the end, the best will likely be the most uncomplicated and honest, much like the man to whom they’re spoken: I love you, Marcos. I will miss you. And thank you – above all, thank you.


Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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