Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ten Years

In ten years, I have never walked into a church without thinking of Mark.

Mark died ten years ago next week, on Friday the 13th of June, 1997. He was 31, the same age that I am now. He was survived by his parents, his brother Bryan, his wife Julie, and his four-month-old son James.

I have never missed him more than I do right now.

Mark was the youth director at the church that I attended and I know that he sensed my ambivalence toward religion. I know he would be sad to know that my ambivalence only multiplied after he died. I know that a lot of people who loved Mark found comfort in their faith after his death. I was not comforted. I felt abandoned.

At the time that Mark died, I was deeply depressed. I talked a little about that depression a couple weeks ago, here. I was beginning to understand how deeply depressed I was and that I would not shake it on my own. Mark knew I was troubled, but he knew me well enough to know that I would talk when I was ready.

I was almost ready. I drove past his office that morning, but his car wasn't there. Later that afternoon, Joy called me from Tennessee to give me the bad news.

There is an urban myth about the song "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor. In the lyrics of the song, he says, "Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone/Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you."

The legend was that Taylor was hospitalized for depression, and his friends, hoping to bolster him, flew his fiancé across the country to see him. The plane crashed and she died, and the song was a tribute to her.

It never happened, of course—I mean, he was hospitalized, and Suzanne was a friend of his who committed suicide, but "flying machines in pieces on the ground" referred to the breakup of Taylor's band The Flying Machine.

Nevertheless, that song always made me think of Mark, because I was deep in a lonely time when I could not find a friend, and trying so, so hard to fight my way out of the dark, and I thought I had time. I thought I had time to pull myself together and deliver myself to Mark's doorstep, and he would sort me out, just like he had throughout my adolescence.

That's the thing: I always thought that I'd see him again. I waved at him and Julie and Jamie walking to their car from across the parking lot after church, then I got into my own car and drove away, because I always thought that I'd see him again. And then he was gone, just gone, and I had to accept it.

In accepting it, I found that I could accept other things, like: when the boy that you like decides he likes your best friend enough to marry her, you can either be a real bitch about it and make everybody miserable, or you can just fucking cowboy up and be a friend and support them and be happy for them, and fake it until you make it. And, when the next boy you like turns out to be schizophrenic, you can accept that probably under no circumstances was he going to be an acceptable life partner, especially when he's not ready to seek treatment.

Mark's legacy to me is that when he died, I turned a corner. I learned so much more from his death than I did from his life, which is so sad, so unbelievably sad. I would have liked so much to have known him for a longer time, to still know him. He would have liked my husband. He would have loved my son. He would have continued to push me to know myself better. He would have continued to force me to be honest with myself and real with the people around me. He would tell me when to get over myself and when to stop feeling sorry for myself and to have a little faith, just some belief in something bigger than me.

A couple weekends ago, my in-laws were visiting. I love them, I do, but they're like trying to eat an entire jar of pickles in one sitting. There is such a thing as too many pickles. On Saturday afternoon, we drove down to Point Lookout, where there's a state park with a fishing pier. My mother-in-law was tired and she set up her folding chair in the shade on the beach. Dan and his dad and Max and I walked out on the fishing pier. At the end of the pier there was an old man with a guitar, and he was playing "Fire and Rain" and singing so unbelievably sweetly that I buried my face in Max's hair and let the tears come down, because it was a sunny day I thought would never end, and that song always makes me think of times when I never thought I'd see another one. The people I love most in the world were so close that I could touch them. There was a school of stingrays circling in the water of the Chesapeake below us, and they were so graceful and beautiful. I'd never seen them in the wild before. There were turns and gulls flying, and the air smelled like salt. Max and I watched the stingrays together, and it was all just so good.

Jesus H. Christ, shut up, wouldja, big fake Ernest Hemingway? It's time to wrap this up for another year.

This year, on June 13th, I am going to take another pregnancy test. Everything on the chart that I keep is pointing towards me being pregnant, although that's been true a lot lately and so far, I haven't been. But I have high hopes. I have sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground. I've seen fire and rain and sunny days I thought would never end and lonely times when I couldn't find a friend. Next week, I'm hoping that I'll see two pink lines, and if I don't, we will continue to try.

I think that Mark would like that very much.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

I hope you get (got?) your two lines, Molly.