Written August 25th, 2011
We lost one of ours today. He was one of the good guys. He was respected, loved, and passionate. He cared. He lived for one thing… to bring the name of Jesus to the nations, and he did just that.We lost one of ours today. He was a brother and a friend. He believed in true love. We lost one of ours today… But, I’m a twisted mess of thoughts and emotions. People die all of the time, but I’ve only had a couple of people in my life, thus far, that I have mourned over. One of these, was this man’s wife. Three years ago to the day, my friend Sarah died. Sarah was my friend. A dear friend, that impacted my life tremendously in the short time I had the privilege of knowing her. She showed me what it looked like to be a sweet, woman of God, who loved… her friends, her family, her husband, her community. She loved and she loved. Everyone that knew her, knew they were loved by her. It was genuine, heart-felt love. She was the perfect fit for Mark, and Mark was the perfect fit for Sarah. They were the first couple we met when we moved to Hawaii. There was instant connection. At this point, they had just gotten engaged and were planning their wedding. I loved Sarah and I loved Mark. One meeting and I knew we just found two incredible friends. From that point on, we just clicked. Nine months later, they got married. We had the amazing privilege of witnessing this event. We got to be part of the wedding. We were invited to stay with the wedding party, to be a part of every detail. I got to witness Sarah putting on her wedding dress and making sure every detail was perfect. I got to be there when Mark first laid eyes on his beautiful bride. I had never seen a man melt so completely, so fully. Mark burst into song, “Beautiful, you are beautiful…” The lyrics were not contrived or thought of previously. He just prayed that his heart would sing, and it did. We watched the waves crash and the breeze move through the palms as the couple exchanged their vows of eternal love for each other. We later were apart of the reception, where it was Sarah’s turn to outwardly show her love for her new husband, in a hula choreographed just for him. There was nobody that walked away that evening without a heart full, a picture of true love in their mind, and a desire to be better people. That’s what they brought. That’s what flowed from them always. Together their love for Jesus, turned into a body of believers who loved. We loved the people, we loved the city, we loved the state, we loved the country, we loved the world. Elevate… Mark and Sarah’s baby. The goal- to Elevate Jesus for everyone to see. We again, got to witness something incredible. We got to be apart of something amazing. Apart of the core group, we got to plan a church. How were we going to spread the name of Jesus over Hilo, Hawaii, and the nations? We worked intimately with Mark and Sarah to try to figure out what it would look like, and a year later we launched. We set up and tore down every weekend in the old Elks Lodge building in downtown Hilo. The doors opened and the room filled to the brim. It wasn’t just the first weekend. It was every weekend. It grew every week. Outreaches were done. Everybody was welcomed. Everybody was loved. During the third year we were in Hilo, we started making plans to move back to the mainland. We were pregnant with our first child, and felt like we were being called away from Hawaii. We stayed apart of Elevate while we were there, in fact, it was at one of the services that we discovered what are son’s name was going to be. Cavin was born in Hilo Hospital and Mark and Sarah were our first visitors, besides my mom. They held Cavin, just hours old. We were loved by them and we loved them. We moved just a couple of months later. We knew that they were lifetime friends. Tragedy struck a few months later. An accident. Sarah fell off of a cliff into a river below. Mark dove into save her. She had head trauma and was air lifted to the hospital in Oahu. Miraculously, she lived. But Mark had almost lost his love. She physically recovered in an amazing way, but the emotional and mental recovery took much longer. They understandably clung to each other and stepped back from everything that was going to take away the energy they needed to recover. About nine months later, August 25th, 2008, Sarah laid down to take a nap and never woke up. I was sitting with my sweet 18 month old boy at my in-laws house when I got the call from our dear friend in Hawaii, Denise Drake. My world got rocked. The only thing I knew to do was try to connect to the the other people that I knew loved this couple. I mostly watched on facebook as the comments, prayers, and thoughts flooded in on their pages. A memorial page was set up and the comments continued to flow. We grieved all together. Of course, I was not sad for Sarah. I knew she was in a much better place, but I mourned the loss of my friend. I grieved for her sweet mom and brother and her closest friends. My heart broke for Mark. His love was gone. For months, we got reports from our friends that were with Mark. “He’s not the same, Mark.” “The life is gone in his eyes.” He left Hawaii. He traveled. We all thought that this was the way he needed to grieve. He needs to be away from everything that reminds him of Sarah. He needs to be away, physically, mentally, emotionally. A year went by. He kept traveling. We could only keep up with him on facebook. We looked at his hundreds of pictures, trying to stay somehow connected. And then, we found out he was going to be in Los Angeles. We had to see him. We didn’t get to say good bye to Sarah, but we loved Mark. He made time. He got to meet our 2 1/2 year old boy and Cavin loved him. He even dumped ice water in his lap. We spent a few hours reminsicing, talking about what was next, and genuinely enjoying each others company. We hugged. We left. I don’t know that we ever thought we’d see him again. Another year went by. He kept traveling.
Today, we got word. We lost one of ours. A good man. A passionate man. A man who loved fully and genuinely. But here’s the twist- the mind-boggling, heart wrenching twist. This wasn’t an accident. People die all of the time. As believers, we say, “It was their time. God didn’t need them here on earth anymore, He wanted them home with Him.” We can let go a little bit easier when a believer dies, since we have hope and faith that they are in a better place. We mourn for those left behind, but there’s joy knowing that they are okay. But, what about this. Mark, a true man of God, believing whole heartedly that life here on earth was not worth it anymore. God didn’t make the decision that it was time for Mark to come home to Him. Mark decided. Can he do that? With his whole heart, he believes he’s going to be with Sarah. I hope he’s right. This man that I have looked up to, respected, and loved, decided to take control. He said he was at peace with God and that God was at peace with him, but does that mean he had permission? When do we get to make that decision. If God wanted him home, wouldn’t He or couldn’t He have figured out how to do it on His own? Why? Mark, why? I truly do hope you are with Sarah. I hope Sarah slaps you across the face and says, “what are you doing here!?” I hope she slaps you again and says, “God had an amazing plan for your life, what the heck were you thinking?” I hope she then embraces you and you live eternally together. As we are finding out more, we’re learning that Mark had a secret life the last three years. We all thought he was grieving, just traveling to ignore his feelings. I now believe, he was truly grieving, but then he was also truly living. He decided it was time. He methodically planned. He planned for months. He said his good byes. And, in the place where he made a vow to love Sarah for eternity, he took his life. I miss him. But here’s the twist in my brain- apart of me is happy. I read his blogs, watched his videos, listened to his favorite songs. In his ending days, his old self, the Mark before Sarah’s accident, was showing. He had hope and an odd joy. I don’t know that any of else will ever comprehend. Maybe he was really just sick in the head, though he promised he wasn’t. But, I don’t think I have to understand. He left an indelible impression on my life and hundreds if not thousands of other lives. I will remember him for all of his love. I will remember the passion that burned in his eyes. I will remember his hugs. I forgive you, Mark. I do. I might have moments of anger but I love you. And, regrets could flood in, but I know there’s nothing I could have said or done to stop you. You and Sarah will forever be in our minds and our hearts. We did name our daughter after her. I look forward to the day that we will all meet again. I hope love truly does win.