Ten years ago seems quite awhile ago, especially for someone like myself who is only thirty years old. However, I recall that day near the end of May like it was yesterday. It was May 28, 2000. It was a nice Sunday afternoon. Our college group was starting a softball team within our church and we were going to meet up at a park in Ballwin, MO to get to practicing. We were meeting there at 1, so when church ended I raced home to change and get my gear. I got ready to go and the weirdest feeling hit me. I realized much later what that feeling was but at that time, I just felt weird. So I got a glass of water and sat down in the living room. About three minutes later, the house phone rang.
It was a friend of mine who for the sake of the article, will be called Robert. Robert and I had been friends for a few years now. His family had started coming to our church when I was 15. Robert and his older brother Mark jumped right into the youth group. The three of us hung out ALL the time. We lived about 30 minutes from each other; however, we still made time for some late night stupid movies and a LOT of Hawaiian Punch. They would crash at my parents place and I would crash out at their parents’ home.
Anyway, Robert was on the other end asking what I was up to and I told him I was about ready to head out. He asked me if I had talked to a mutual friend of ours at church and I told him I had not seen her. He then asked if I had heard the news and I told him no and was getting more and more worried. He then told me that Mark had passed away. I do not know much of our conversation after that as I was left speechless. I remember him telling me that he had taken his own life the night prior. He told me he was picking up his youngest at the airport and that is about all I remember.
I hung up the phone and did not know what to do. I could not call my dad’s cell because this was before everyone had cell phones. I went next door to our nearly life long neighbors but they were not home from church. I had my very ancient cell phone but had no clue who to call, so I went to softball practice. As I went to practice, I left a message for my folks to call me when they got in from church. I got there and all the guys had started taking batting practice. I started to let people know what happened and everyone stopped what they were doing. We just stood there and prayed. No one had any idea what to say or do but pray.
We played for about an hour and we prayed again. Near the end of that prayer, my cell phone rang. It was my mom. I told her what happened and I lost it. I remember driving home to go talk to them. As I pulled in to the house, my dad was up in the circle working on the flowers. He saw me and made a beeline for me. Right there in the middle of Greenridge Manor, we hugged and cried. My mom came out and joined us.
I remember going to College Group that night in a daze. My ex-girlfriend (and God bless her for driving that night!) came over and cried with me. We were in shock and had no clue what to say or do. We sat around at college group and cried and prayed. I did not sleep that well that night and a few days later, a friend (God bless him too!) drove us to the funeral a few states away.
We rarely slept that trip. There was a lot of crying and talking at Steak ‘n Shake and poker with one of their uncles.
I have talked in previous blogs that life happens and how we respond to life happening is what makes us who we are. I will say this: I did not respond appropriately at all to Mark’s passing. I kept busy throughout the summer with work but started to develop a bit of a drinking issue. Late in the year, it turned into an issue with the liver (all cleared up soon after though).
That tragedy still hits home after ten years. Robert, Mark’s brother, graduated from college in May 2001 and soon after, we had a falling out. We have talked maybe ten times since then. He is married and has a few kids now. I have talked to their other brother once or twice online and the parents I have not spoken too since Mark’s graduation.
Even through all this pain, I learned life is tough. I learned that when you do not respond correctly to a bad situation, you can make it worse. Since then, I have had a few other tragedies and each time I surround myself with people that love me and care for me and I am grateful for that. Each time this has happened, I remember that we all have hope in Jesus Christ and that Him alone can save us from an eternal feeling of hopelessness and despair.
That gives me hope. That is the only thing that can give someone hope after something like this has happened.