Nine hours with my friend, Mark (1)

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.


8 Comments

  • Joseph

    I watched his videos and I wish I could have met him. I wish I could have heard him tell his story. I wish I could have sat with him, and listened to his soul. And I am sorry for your loss.

  • Jenny

    Thanks, Dale, for sharing. Mark’s story has really touched my heart, and I only knew him from a distance. Maybe it’s because we shared the same place (college) at the same time and experienced some of the same things there and visited the same buildings, even possibly sitting in the same seat w/o even knowing the other had been there. It touches me how a man, this man, could love a woman so much that he would give his own life to be with her again. This just seems so surreal, almost like a movie. I am touched by his story, and I am amazed at his generosity and kindness to others. I look forward to reading your reflections. I want to know more….

  • George Ordway

    I’m still waiting from a response from Tumblr – - I put a request in just after it was taken down – - private me if you have a connection there. . . I was able to see a lot of it, what some, even Mark, would consider the important parts. . . for me the other parts are more important- – I made a PDF of the archive before I left off ( I decided after seeing his explanation and then tracking down his introduction on Vemio) that I would go from first post to the last, so that I might somehow get a sense of his ebbs and flows. . . it was taken down shortly there after. He had 3 posts on July 30(or 31). . . silent until August 3 – 121 posts that day – - then silent until he did his last 3 posts on the day he took his own life. Those spans of time mean a lot to my understanding – - what did he do, who did he talk to, and what was in his mind for those 3 weeks. -G

    • Dale Fincher

      George, the dates for the postings do not seem to have much logic behind it. He made the explanation video a month before posting it, but he dated it to it would appear at the top of the blog. The audio recording he made the night before he left, was dated for Aug 1 on his website and bored about halfway through the blog. So I have a hunch, most of the site was put together during August but backdated on the blog (I backdate things from time to time on my own blog). I’m not sure the reason for this. Also, some of it just feels out of order. I don’t know if that show tumblr lists it or if the time stamps for the same day are all over the place.

      A person contacted me saying they have an earlier version of the blog and, in comparison, saw that Mark was careful to re-edit to make sure it said exactly what he intended. It’s still a shame it’s offline. I do hope it returns.

      do think if you get a chance to sit in the blog in it’s entirety, you’ll *feel* what Mark was trying to communicate… some of it the pure angst of unavailable love.

  • Jenny

    Yes, my computer won’t even allow me to hear but only 5 seconds of his 2 posts where he is speaking on vimeo. So frustrating. I at least would like to hear those.

    • Dale Fincher

      Jenny, that’s a bummer. Hmmm. Get another computer! :) Or go to a library and see if you can access it there.

      • Jenny

        Finally I was able to see the entirety of Mark’s last 2 posts on vimeo (used someone else’s computer). Wow! Thoughtprovoking! He really loved her so very much!

 




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