I was engaged in my daily reading of Noozhawk when the banner changed to read, “Body of Woman Found at Leadbetter Beach.” I clicked on the story and, as is my ritual, said a quick prayer for the woman. These things happen, too often of course. Fortunately, our interest in self-preservation prevents the story from really sinking in. It doesn’t get personal.
Later the following day, the identity of the man involved was released. One news outlet suggested the man was a transient. Although he shared a name with an acquaintance of my wife and me, it was easy to dismiss that possibility. The Chris Marks I know is certainly not a transient.
On Saturday morning, we got the heartbreaking news that it was the Chris Marks we had known for 15 years. I taught his oldest son, and my wife taught all five of his gifted, attractive and successful brood. This is a family that could step right out of a utopian family portrait.
The school community where my wife works and our oldest daughter goes to school is tight-knit and deeply connected. I taught there for six years, and the connections I made there remain some of the most important in my life. Chris Marks and his beautiful wife, Kristi, are among those.
The news of Chris’ passing hit like a medicine ball heaved into my chest. He was a man for whom I have profound respect and admiration. He remains one of the kindest and most engaging people I have ever known. Any encounter I had with him left me feeling better. He was the kind of guy who touched all of those he met. You couldn’t meet him without feeling better about yourself and the world.
I am woefully inadequate to speak with any authority about this man, and that is not my intention. My intention is to give this man depth, some dimension, because he so deserves it. At one of the lowest points in my life he took me aside and let me know that everything was going to be OK. Through his compassion and concern he saved me. And he never knew.
I have no doubt he did that for a lot of folks. Sincere and genuine are the best words I can use to describe Chris. I personally never encountered him when he wasn’t smiling and didn’t have something nice to say.
If a man can be judged by the character and accomplishments of his children, Chris was a rock star. They are kind, compassionate and, although they certainly have reason to be arrogant, they are humble and deeply caring. They are also bright. They graduated from some of the best universities in the country: Notre Dame, USC, Villanova, Tulane. And by all accounts they are successful.
I can’t imagine their grief, but they have remained in my prayers since the news of Chris’ passing touched my ears.
There is no moral to this story. There is no meaning-filled purpose in committing these words to paper except that I want you to know, I want others to know that there is profound dimension to that man found on the beach and countless empty spaces left in the wake of his departure.
Godspeed, Christopher Evan Marks, Godspeed.