Friday, October 28, 2011

In Loving Memory...

I don't think I've ever really deconstructed this phrase. I've surely said "In loving memory" about someone or something off-handedly before, but never have the words meant more than they do now to me. I really do want to express my love for Mark in respecting his memory.
I can't understand the facebook notifications telling me that everyone is celebrating the life he lived. I just can't bring myself to "celebrate" yet. I need the time to grieve the loss of someone so special to me.

Mark Spencer Wooldridge:
To most, he was known as that quiet kid in class who made lessons bearable with his underplayed snarky (one of his own favorite adjectives) comments about the ridiculousness of life. Or maybe the genius who had a perfect score on the SAT and frequently set the curve on all the physics tests.

Others may remember him for his outstanding acting debut as the awkwardly hilarious Willard in our high school musical, Footloose.

Or possibly when he was crowned Mr. Mustang in 2009 after he stole the show at the mangeant our senior year with his performance of an original comedic monologue he wrote which had the entire crowd in tears we were laughing so hard.


But I feel like I personally knew a Mark not many people got to see.

I knew the Mark who sincerely wanted to know what life was about and loved to spend hours having deep conversations about things that really mattered.

I knew the Mark who finished his Eagle project partially (and he'd deny that this had any sway with him at all) because my mom once told him she would never let her daughters marry anyone who didn't finish their Eagle Award in scouts.

I knew the Mark who understood me. He could just sense the days I was exasperated and ready to give up on everybody. All I had to do was make eye contact with him during class or in a rehearsal and he knew exactly what I was thinking--without fail.

I knew the Mark who struggled to find a place for God in his life. There was a time I watched as he went from extremely confused and hurting, to full of faith and happiness. It was amazing to discuss the things that transcend this life with someone so brilliant.

I knew the Mark who spent the majority of his weeknights skyping with me when we both went off to college. He could always find something humorous in life's situations, even in the worst of times.

I knew the Mark who had an amazing way of lending support. He had a gift for instilling confidence in others, and he was so sure of his own gifts and abilities, it was refreshing.

I knew a Mark who doubted he'd ever find anyone who'd completely understand the way he thought about life and made a pact with me that if we both turned 3o and were still single, we'd just elope and get married.

I knew a Mark who was brilliant. He could do anything he put his mind to. He was truly incredible.


As I sit here pondering the loss of such a great person and close friend, I struggle to define my emotions. My first thoughts are of sadness and grief at the idea I will never be able to call him up to chat again. Then my thoughts turn to his mom and brother. My heart aches for them more than I can explain. I just want to pour all the love I have out to his mother and assure her of the many times Mark told me of his love and respect for her. I want to hold her and let her know that I am praying God will help her find peace and comfort through this awful experience.

Once I muster up the energy and courage to look past the immediate pain, I can't help but think of the implications. What would have been different had I taken more time out of my life to check in with him more frequently in the past year? Why did I lose contact with him? He was struggling emotionally, I knew that much. What in the world was I so caught up in that I let one of my good friends go months without hearing me tell him how much I appreciated and cared for him?

It would be presumptuous to assume that I alone would have changed the outcome of his story, but I can't help but feel like I neglected one of God's greatest commandments: "Love one another, even as I have loved you." I hate that it feels too late for me to show Mark my love for him, but I simply have to pay my respects to his memory. I wish he had known how much each conversation, each sarcastic remark, each "look", each day with him had meant to me. I wish I had told him more often how frequently in the past few years there was no one I wanted to talk to more than him.

I hate to diminish this entire experience to a simple didactic message. But I think the only way to cope with my emotions here is to resolve to do better at telling those people in my life I love that I really do love them. I'm not even close to accepting the fact that Mark is really gone, but I think all we can do in this situation is do as Proverbs says and, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding".


Memories of Mark

I first met Mark in Footloose. He was hilarious as the awkward hick, Willard. Such a blast watching him work with my mom at our house on his song "Mama Says...".

Then Mark joined "Off The Wall" the next year and our friendship took off.

Countless nights out with the gang...

Mark would find humor in popping my icepack with a fork and drenching me...

"Up the Down Staircase". While Mark and I were both one of the few teachers (rather than students) in the play, we had hours and hours of downtime backstage to become best friends. This play reminds me of some of my fondest memories of Mark.

I will never be able to read "A Midsummer Night's Dream" without picturing Mark hilariously playing Peter Quince with us. He was amazing.

I love this picture; it shows how genuinely happy I was at the time. Mark had just flipped me through the air :)

His brilliant wall costume for me...

Such a good moment...

His performance as the dentist in Little Shop completely stole the show. He was everyone's favorite.