September 2nd will always be a “bittersweet day” for Mark Wahlberg. The 50-year-old actor took to Instagram on Thursday to wish his daughter Ella Rae Wahlberg a happy 18th birthday, sharing a throwback photo of Ella as a baby. In that same post, Mark also shared a throwback shot of his late sister Debbie Wahlberg, who died after suffering a heart attack and septic shock from a kidney infection on Sept. 2, 2003, the same day that Ella was born.
“Happy B day my Ella❤️🎁18 years old 😚wow how time flies. So proud of you !!” Mark wrote, before turning the attention towards Debbie. “Always A bitter Sweet day . Missing my big sister Debbie💔Ella’s Guardian angel🙏❤️🙏😇,” the Renaissance Man actor added. Ella responded to her famous father’s touching post, commenting, “Love u dad.”
Mark’s post also garnered comment from some of his famous pals, including Jeremy Renner, Mario Lopez and Mariano Rivera, all of whom gave some loving birthday wishes to Ella. Mark’s wife Rhea Durham commented as well, and used a few sentimental emojis, including the crying emoji and Latin cross emoji, to remember Debbie 18 years after her death. She also used a heart emoji to send some love to her and Mark’s daughter. The couple, who have been married since 2009, are also proud parents to Brendan, 12, Grace Margaret, 11, and Michael, 15.
Mark, who is the youngest of nine kids, including brothers Donnie Wahlberg and Robert Wahlberg, has been open in the past about the impact Debbie’s passing had on their family. “My mom really went into a big, deep depression after my sister passed away,” Mark told Entertainment Tonight in July 2019 of his mother Alma Wahlberg, who died earlier this year. “It was the same day my daughter was born. It was a long time ago, but no parent should have to lose a child,” he added.
Alma struggled with losing her daughter, but Mark has said that doing their hit reality show, Wahlburgers, which was based on the dining burger chain the family started, helped Alma heal from the tragic loss. “You know, once my sister passed, it was very difficult for her,” Mark EXCLUSIVELY told HollywoodLife in May 2019, just a few months before the A&E reality series concluded after 10 seasons. “The restaurant, it’s given her a fresh start and a new lease on life, so it’s made her happy.”