They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. Mark 9, verse 10.
Before moving on from these verses about the Transfiguration, I want to say a few words about a friend who just passed away. That’s a funny phrase, “passed away.” It seems we say it to soften the blow of death in our lives, as if our loved one has just joined with nature in some ephemeral process that fades us into the winds. That’s not what happens at all, even for those who put their faith in Mother Gaia. No, we die. There’s a reason for it and lets not go into that right now; suffice it to say that death happens to all of us by God’s comman. I won’t sugar coat it or blow smoke at you, and I won’t try to comfort those who are hurting now because death hurts like hell when someone you love is the dying one.
And for folks like my friend Mark, it happened yesterday. The thing is that it’s a good thing. For him, for Heaven, even for those he loved yet left behind.
My friend Mark died after a long and heroic battle against cancer. We were friends from church and friends online; we even attended a few social gatherings over the last nine years. You couldn’t say we were close or best friends, but we were good friends all the same. When my family first joined our church, Mark and his wife welcomed us and were always open smiling people. I grew to appreciate his talent in music (he was a twenty-first century hippie), and the fact that he sang with the praise band. Later, I grew to admire the sheer guts he displayed in fighting that damned disease as long as he could. That’s a special kind of courage there.
He and I also debated extensively over the last six years on all kinds of political, social and ecclesiastical matters. He had a solid conscience, a discerning mind, and a bohemian outlook: all things I sometimes find in short supply when I question the man in the mirror. I wouldn’t be surprised if my friend had told you that he thought my political beliefs were bat-guano-crazy; I think some of his were. I also know that those things don’t really matter much because the man I called my friend was one of the most solid, faithful, dependable and good men you’d ever want to know. If you could choose a team of that kind of person, you’d have chosen Mark for your side. Whenever we would debate something, if Mark responded, I always had to tell myself “maybe he has a point” because, more often than not, he did.
He, too, wrote a great blog and spent his last few entries talking about leaving things for the folks you love. About things that really matter. His muse was the lady at his side, and she inspired him to say things from the heart, things that mean more than just words.
Thus, Heaven is a brighter place today for the presence of such a good man there. Mark’s in Heaven because He believed in the life, death, and life of Jesus Christ. The music, the bohemian outlook, the keen mind, the faith and family: all those are made complete for him today because he’s there, face to face, with the Lord as you read this. It really happened; he made it all the way. He did it because his Lord made it possible for Mark to say “I believe” and then encouraged that faith to grow all the way to the end. That’s a great testament to life.
And it’s one my friend left for his family and friends temporarily exiled here on the Third Rock. Even in exile there is hope; even for the exiles there can be faith. That faith matters in a tough world with things like senseless wars, senseless debates over senseless politics, senseless killer diseases, and senseless sin in all of us. Music is angel-speak to help us get past the rough edges of that senselessness, and that’s a language my friend understood well. Now he sings it in heaven, with the angels, for Jesus. Some day we’ll see him again and join in the chorus. I think he’d like that.
Mark Gertenbach is survived by his wife, three children, and hundreds of friends and extended family in Texas, the Midwest and elsewhere. Go rest high on the mountain, good friend.
Read Mark 9, verses 14-29.