Twenty years ago I was a sophomore in College and I had a friend named Mark*. I want to relay a story about Mark that has shaped part of who I am today. Mark was always such a nice person, but I know he had long battled his demons. One day at college Mark called me and told me he needed to borrow money because he had run out of his anti-depressant medication. I met him and lent him $10 so he could buy his medication. We went on our way.
Later his girlfriend called me to check on him because she was worried about him. I called Mark and he answered the phone. He was crying, he told me he lied to me and had taken the money I gave him to buy alcohol (& drugs?). He was so ashamed. He didn’t sound good so I walked over to his dorm room to check on him. He was crying and calling himself stupid. At some point he started banging his head and fist into the wall saying how stupid he was. I could see his soul was tormented by his mistake. I called his AA sponsor and really don’t remember too much of my conversation with him because Mark then pulled out a knife.
He told me he was going to kill himself, when I told him, “no,” he threatened to kill me. Though that sounds horrifying, I never actually believed in my heart that he would hurt me. He continued to wave the knife and punch the wall.
All the noise alerted the Resident Assistant. The RA came to the door and asked me through the door if everything was okay. I said, “no,” that Mark had a knife and I was afraid he was going to hurt himself. The RA called the Police.
The Police sent in the SWAT team. The building was evacuated and I was inside the room as he deteriorated. The RA convinced Mark to let me out of the room if he came in. I don’t even remember the RA’s name, but he traded places with me. I was whisked out by SWAT. Eventually they were able to trade the knife for a cigarette and they carried him away. I was left a little terrified.
My prayer for him was always that he would recover and get better. I don’t really feel I ever got angry at him, just felt heartbroken for him. A year later, a clean and sober Mark came into one of the Lecture Hall classrooms I was in. He sat next to me he handed me a $10 bill and said, “Susan, I am so sorry.” I told him I forgave him and I told him that my wish for him was to live a good life and be happy. I never saw him again.
After that incident and two other incidents at college where I witnessed a murder, and I was mugged by 5 girls, I pretty much went into a spiral of anxiety and depression. I was having panic attacks that plagued me for a long time. I moved away from the area in an attempt to escape the anxiety, but the feelings eventually caught up with me. I had to face all the reasons why which was a long journey that brought me to where I am today.
Fast forward 20 years and I am on Facebook and I was informed that Mark passed away and that he was in the Seminary when he died of a heart defect he had since childhood. This was about one year after my friend Veronica’s murder. I cried. Reflecting back on my life, I fully believe that God put me in that room with Mark for a reason. It was for me & it was for him. For him, because I truly believe if I had not been there that night, I don’t know if he would have made it out alive. For me, part of that night and my further journey brought me to my knees to know the Lord and all He means to us.
I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) the following that explains in words what I have learned in my heart; We live in an imperfect world. Because of this world’s imperfections many of us suffer. But God walks with us; Scripture assures us that God has special care for us even in moments of suffering and death. “Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s notice,” says Jesus. “As for you, even the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!” (Matthew 10:29-31) Even Jesus did not want to suffer. He asked God to let this cup pass Him by, but He took part in complete Human suffering as a part of this world and He did it for us. When it comes to suffering, we need only to look at Jesus’ final words & actions, in the face of suffering, he trembled from fear, anguish and the ultimate terror: abandonment (being forsaken)—separation from Love itself. Yet, Jesus trusted that his loving Father was with him. His final prayer was: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” I think of this often and try in every way, everyday to put my spirit in His hands.
That meeting with Mark, one that contributed to me leaving the area, it was a blessing. His life changed and so did mine. I moved, I met my husband, I have 3 beautiful children. Mark played a part in my journey. When I heard from that he was in the Seminary when he passed, though I was extremely sad about his passing, I rejoiced that he was in the Seminary because that meant that before he passed he had made it home. He, found his calling. We both found the Grace of the Sacraments. How Awesome! I know that when he passed, he was able to meet the Divine Mercy of Jesus who looked upon him and said, “Well done, my Good and Faithful Servant.” This was ALWAYS my prayer for Mark. In heaven he is whole & perfect, he is surrounded by a love we cannot comprehend. I am reminded that God knows all the hairs on each of our heads and He is holding us in the palm of His hand. We just have to open our eyes to it. I also realize, that God knows the bigger picture. I could never have imagined the blessed life I lead today when I was sitting in that room. I could never have imagined that Mark would have found his way to God in the Seminary. God really does have a plan for each one of us.
*Mark is not his real name. I have changed it to protect his privacy for the sake of his family.