I would have liked to see a Tumblr weblog of Mark’s documenting “1000 Days” that weaved his wife’s story (her tragic and premature death) into his own legacy… to conclude that, while life may not be better again on earth, he was ready to make it better for others, to help them taste a grain of the glory that he had tasted… as long as God allowed.
So grieved was I to hear of his decision under the Eiffel Tower that, 1000 days after her death, he was ending his own story, though along the way he did help others with that taste.
He was my college friend. And I have good memories… he was a character study too, a man of multiple faces, but he included me in a way that made me feel important even when I felt like a peon. He was a deep feeler and in our circle, being a feeler meant being unapproved. We became peers of mutual respect through those tumultuous years. And I kept an eye on his goings from a distance when he moved west. During his 1000 Days, I had invited him to join us (me and a very close friend of his from college) when we were all together in Colorado. It didn’t work out. I’m sad we didn’t get a chance to reconnect as I do believe he would have found kindred souls on his journey… who appreciated many of the experiences of his 1000 Days, and drank from some of the same creative sources.
These days have become lonelier for many… for me too, the dying hope of what might have been.
I was given special permission to view Mark’s 1000 Day blog after Tumblr removed it. It began as my Sabbath meditation. In three sessions, totaling nine hours among my other duties, I looked at every picture, followed every link, google searched many locations (bars, retreats, etc), and listened to every audio and video to the very end (except the Kanye West video, which went on forever). Viewing the site as Mark suggests watching a movie… to take it all in before making any judgment; and even thing sleep on it a few days. I moved my eyes over his tattoos as with a slow touch. I saw with Mark in every moment that he asked of me, listening, often with my eyes closed, weeping at times (like to Kim Walker’s video of “How He Loves Us”), groaning, (like to Damien Rice’s “Elephant” and The Killers’ “Goodnight, Travel Well,”), forwarding links to friends without their even knowing where I found them.
It is easy to bring our own conclusions to the table before listening to another soul. I’ve heard many voices since Mark passed Thursday. Looking at the few comments on Mark’s blog, I saw name-calling and unkindness born dispositions that could hardly bring anyone back from the brink. And few available to defend him, to interpret him. I’ve read other comments that make me believe some knew Mark less than they thought they did. I saw other comments of shame, wanting to remember the old Mark but not updating to understand the real Mark.
Some, however, wanted to digest Mark’s “last words”… the trail of crumbs he deliberately left behind (he said it was born from vanity, so he wouldn’t be quickly forgotten), so we could follow his trail, smell the odors, hear the sounds, see the sights. His trail was profoundly moving in places, humorous in others… and consistent for the most part.
Mark’s 1000 Days is open to interpretation. What was really going on? Was Mark aware of all that was going on? And I’m sure my thoughts will be different from another’s. And over the next few days I’ll be sharing some of those… and I hope I can be forgiven when any evaluation is out-of-bounds. One of those is that I believe that Mark always longed to be understood… to even understand himself. And I want to put to words some of what I’ve come to understand, as feeble as it is. Perhaps at the end, we can hear his real self, his passionate soul in search of meaning.
When I first saw the 1000 Days site, the day he passed, I was tempted but refused out of respect to post up a question on Facebook, “If you knew you would die in a few weeks, what message would you leave behind?” We have Mark’s. Sadly, it is unavailable to most of the people who need to see it… and by “need” I mean people who want to immerse into Mark’s final journey… to step into his shoes and walk around a while on an emotional and creative road.
The day after the site came down, I watched his 18 minute “explanation” video (lacking the emotional strength to watch the long version the night it happened). The credits at the end list the website, www.markrife.com.
Watching that rise on the screen boiled my belly–a feeling related to betrayal. That was the website, the story, the last words, the memory of an old soul… and they have been deleted from their home. Whoever watched the video would never find the bread crumbs, to spend time with Mark on the journey, to feel what he felt. I imagined having my own legacy, my own final words deleted at the whim of another and wondering who would come to my defense… who would find me worth listening to, who would continue to love me even after I had left.
Tumblr said someone requested (not family) it come down initially. Negative feelings and fear of copycats. So Tumblr obliged. I hope for love of Mark and his legacy and for human decency that it will be republished for others to see, to take the journey, to stop censoring a life that likely felt censored from a young age, to step into the emotional story of the last 1000 Days that was my friend, Mark Rife.