Monday, July 21, 2014

Remembering an Old Friend

A friend of mine from college died recently. He was known for encouraging others in the faith, and loved by many friends. But he took his own life this April, overwhelmed with a heavy burden.

These two short pieces were both written by friends of Mark for a recent memorial service. They were both written independently of each other. The Lord knows us fully -- but our friends know us more than a little, too.

Remembering Mark
Scott Redd

I consider it a great honor that I was able to call Mark Finch a friend for so many years.

I suspect that many of the remembrances of Mark highlight his intellect and sense of humor. Mark’s depth of knowledge became more apparent to me over the years as we would talk about topics ranging from theology to politics and social life. Usually there was some topic that I had recently discovered only to find that he was not only familiar with it but had thought about it from several different perspectives. Mark was a consummate self-learner, broadening his own intellectual horizons far beyond the material covered in his formal education.

Much of his intellectual energy was, of course, directed toward memorizing lines from Saturday Night Live skits and Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey and then reciting them back at just the appropriate moment, when the situation was particularly fitting. The man could deadpan. I remember standing by the drink fountain at the William & Mary “Caf” when Mark sidled up, resting his arm on the ice dispenser, and saying in accented character, “You lika the juice, eh? Juice is very good, eh?” (from an SNL skit).

Mark was also a loyal friend. He helped me through several difficult times in my life, reminding me of the comfort that we have because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was immensely interested in the personal struggles Christians experience throughout their lives, and he would listen to me as I gave expression to my experiences. I knew he was listening, because he would often ask me about something I had said a week or a month before and inquire about how I was doing now.

I knew that Mark wrestled with deep things, personal things. The life of the Christian is often marked by conflict, spiritual and otherwise, and I know these matters concerned him deeply. I am profoundly saddened that the conflict isolated him and that his burden seemed too great for him to bear in this life.

I am so sorry for you, Mark’s family, grieving the loss of a dear brother and son. I have been lifting you up in prayer, for comfort in the Lord and the grace to grieve as ones who have hope (1 Thess 4:13-14).

I miss Mark. We had fallen out of touch in recent years, but he is one of those people whom the Lord used to influence me in my early Christian life. I miss him sharing this world with us, but I do know that our Good Shepherd lives, and he gathers his sheep to himself. He knows them and they know his voice.

Thank you, Lord, for letting me know Mark Finch.

Here is a link to my brother's blog about Mark's death.


Mark and I knew each other in college at William and Mary, we were part of the same social circle of InterVarsity friends. 

I best remember Mark's sense of humor. He enjoyed both nuanced and frank humor. He could tell a good joke -- and also he could spot a good joke from another source, and recount it with flawless timing and inflection. Mark would start to laugh while he was telling a joke and be overcome mid-sentence -- shaking with laughter and holding his side while he tried to get out the words.

In school Mark worked as a night guard in the foyer of the English building. This meant he sat at a big wooden table and checked people's ID cards. I would meet him there to study (we were both in the same classes), but more often than not, we ended up either in muffled laughter over something ('Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey') or in sharing good lines of Shakespeare. (Well, I guess that last part helped me in my classes a little bit!) 

Other people would come by to sit and talk. I remember that Mark was always game for a good discussion about Scripture (he was reading a tome called Hard Sayings of the Bible at one point) or Literature. In his studies, he could catch -- brilliantly -- the whole meaning of a passage, including the pathos and humor of any story. 

Mark loved photography and taught me some basic things about taking good photographs. Once we spent a day on Cumberland Island in Georgia, with its beautiful modern ruins and white sands and dripping trees covered with Spanish moss. He taught how to catch just the right angle to make a shot interesting -- and to make one picture tell a story. His pictures could make you want to climb right into the shot.

Mark loved literature and read it with insight and understanding. In writing and in conversation and in humor and in photography, Mark was a master of nuance and understood something not just in the obvious way, but for what was implied, however subtly. 

It is a sadness to me that Mark is not here to listen to his friends remember him, and that such a gifted and insightful person is not here any more. I trust and hope that he is now with the One who fully knows him and loves him and enjoys him as he was made -- the Giver of all of his personality and significant talents and gifts.

-- Anne Chamberlin 

1 comment:

Marty Purks said...

Thank you so much Anne for this rich picture of Mark's life!