Copyright 2006 Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved
The elders had decided to do something special for Mark’s family – a tree had been dug up on the shores of Sugar Creek and would be planted in front of the church.
“Something about this bothers me,” I confided in Betty as she poured me a cup of coffee Saturday morning.
“But I can’t put my finger on it,” I said. “Was this Mark’s parents’ idea?”
“No, I think it came from some of Mark’s friends at Southmont.”
I knew Mark was pretty much a loner in high school. Except for the losers who helped him scare Cory at the church Sunday school party, I was pretty sure he didn’t have many friends.
But, it would be pretty hard to mess up something like planting a memorial tree.
“Did they get a plaque for the tree?” I asked.
“They’re not nailing it to the tree, are they?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
We had the ceremony after church the next day.
Marks parents were there. They looked very uncomfortable and I suddenly realized what had caused my reticence. They had enough to bear without that constant reminder their son was dead.
I was asked to say a prayer during the service. I also found some scriptures from the Psalms and read them.
I had an early day that Monday, so I left Victory right after the tree ceremony.
I found a letter on the pulpit the following Friday night when I returned to Victory. It was from Mark’s dad.
“Thank you so much for everything you did.
“Please don’t come to see us, but this is to let you know that we won’t be back to church. It’s just too hard.”
“Now, what do I do?” I wondered.
I walked over to their house, praying all the way. My prayers were apparently answered – no one was home.
Mark’s parents were as good as their word. They did not return to church. I also heard that they were divorced within the year.
Later, I could understand why they made that decision. The death of a child often rips a couple apart. There is often guilt – “What did I do wrong? What could I have done that I didn’t do?”
Then, there are the theological questions – “How could a good God let something like this happen to our family? Doesn’t He love us or is all that just a lie?”
Instead of spending Saturday in Victory, I drove to Lafayette and hit the bookstores.