Let’s celebrate those we’ve lost by living passionately alive.
“Death is the destiny of everyone; and the living must take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes
As an awkward St. Louis University freshman, with few friends on campus and little idea who I really was, where I fit in, how to act, or what to major in, I met someone who positively changed my life.
Mark Haberberger was so vibrantly alive, charismatic and joyful I wanted to be just like him. In fact, I pledged Phi Kappa Theta fraternity because Mark was in it. I majored in Finance and Information Technology because Mark said it would lead to a good job. I spent the majority of every afternoon in the quad because Mark took up residence there and his magnetic personality attracted everyone to join him.
In addition to being gregarious, Mark was also selfless. Knowing I loved St. Louis Cardinals baseball, he took me to Ozzie Smith’s final game. Knowing I loved the St. Louis Blues, he invited me to the game where Brett Hull would score his 500th goal. Knowing I had nothing to do on Valentine’s Day, Mark insisted I get out of the dorm room, join a bunch of friends out, and toast collectively to our love of life.
Mark’s smile lit up entire rooms, his energetic demeanor made everyone near him feel as if they were the most important person in the world and his exuberance for life made us all want to be more like him: passionately alive.
Which made the phone call on August 6, 1997 impossible to understand.
In the kitchen of my childhood home, those gathered heard me answer the phone with a courteous, “Hello.” What followed, though, grew steadily louder and more demonstrative. “What’s wrong? … Dude, slow down …. What are you talking about? …. Who told you? … Are you sure? … Are you serious? … How did it happen? …. Who else was with him? …. When? …. Where did it happen? … Are you sure he is really dead?”
In a dazed mix of disbelief, brokenness, anger and raw despondency, these were my first pain-filled questions after receiving the call my dear friend was involved in a late-night, single car accident.
But the question quickly shifted to a far angrier and harder to answer, “Why?!”
Why did this happen? Why was he driving? Why would the most joyful, vibrant person any of us knew pass away at age 21? And why would God allow this to happen?
I’ve been hearing the question “Why” a lot over the past few days as we wrestle with another profoundly painful loss in our community.
A soccer teammate of my oldest son, Jack, was involved in a fatal, single car accident last weekend. Cole Anello, Rhegan Sajben, and Jacob Keifer all passed away in this accident. Two other passengers were severely injured. The sadness can be felt far beyond the schools where these young people attended.
And the question many are asking is a reasonable one: Why?
The righteous anger, suffocating heartache and agonizing grief demanding the answer to why forces us to pause our lives, take inventory on where we are and reassess what matters most.
Mark’s death challenged all of us to recognize that if the most vibrantly alive person any of us knew could pass away, then none of us were as invincible as previously thought.
If a few seemingly inconsequential decisions could lead to an accident that would change all of our lives, then we should be far more intentional in our lives than we’d been.
If we were all transformed positively through the goodness, kindness and joyfulness of one young man, then we should strive to do likewise through our lives for others.
And if the previous goal had been to merely get through college in order to secure some job, we should aim much higher, shine brighter, and strive to be used for something truly good, meaningful, lasting.
Following Mark’s death there was an agonizing season of profound sadness, doubt, darkness and unanswerable questions. Enduring it required us to grieve in our own ways, lean into others, cry often, ask for help, pray for strength, and somehow keep moving forward when it was often the last thing any of us wanted to do.
In time, though, came an unexpected season of renewal. This period led to a far greater engagement in faith, developed far deeper friendships, lead to greater involvement in the community and a desired boldness to live well.
While alive, Mark revealed what living inspired looked like in action. His death taught us to stop merely observing it in someone else and start living it ourselves.
Knowing that tomorrow is not promised, let’s actively, vibrantly, faithfully and joyfully live this day. And let’s keep those enduring heartache this day both in our prayers and memorialize them through the manner in which we lead our lives.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
11 replies on “How Shall We Live?”
Life is fragile and tomorrow is not promised. As I reflect on a teenage dream my late husband and I embarked on what seemed too early in his opinion, as he was not near retirement. As teenagers we dreamed of living on a yaght. At 51years old, he said he’d like to shop for our dream, but felt it too early since he was still working. I replied we do not know what tomorrow holds…let’s go for it. We had 5 1/2 years living aboard our ‘Seas the Moment’ yacht, commuting back/forth cross country to east coast. Then he took ill at age 56, passed after just turning 58.
As I reflect on this, God’s nudges in life are gifts he is reminding us of to live life now!
I really needed this today! I don’t know what it was that captured my full attention in the email I received, that led me to this “Monday Motivation” post, other than divine intervention, a little God-wink and angel wink. I have struggled so much the last few months after losing my precious son, Hunter, after he sustained life threatening head injuries from a fall, a freak accident. He gained his angel wings on July 5, 2020. All the peace and comfort I initially felt after the first several weeks is just gone. Like your friend Mark, Hunter was a vibrant, positive, giving and compassionate young man, a great example of what living inspired was “in action”.. and seeing the positive impact he had on so many has made this Mom proud, but grief has just taken over and I’m devastated all over again and can’t seem to find comfort in my faith the way that I used to. I’m lost. I’m hurt. I’m empty. I feel abandoned.
This grief journey isn’t easy. I’ve prayed that through this tragedy, I can be a light for others and help them through their journey too. And I think I actually was a light for a long time, and people continue to say how strong and inspiring I’ve been, but deep inside my light feels as though it’s dimming. Hunter used to sign his emails with a tag line, “spend life living”.
After feeling all the grief feels today, talking with some of Hunter’s friends, trying to find my light again, I stumbled across your post. It’s a huge nudge to continue to be a light, continue living inspired, put it into action.
My heart goes out to you and to all the families of those who have shared their stories here and who have lost loved ones and dear friends.
Just saying thank you to ALL for inspiring me today, when God knew I needed it, and for making my light shine a little brighter. I’m inspired to live life inspired and to spend life living. God bless all.
Tomorrow is never promised…..we must all keep that in our thoughts every day – live each day as if it were your last……I visited a dear friend over the weekend who is struggling with the loss of his soul-mate, Pamm. It’s been a year and he continues with the difficult task of grieving…..he needs to read todays blog…..thank you for today…..it couldn’t have come to me and my friend at a more deserving time……
As we all awake to another morning filled with a news report of another tragic loss… may we recognize all that we have and all that we can do to Inspire Gratitude and Love in all that we meet.♥️
Thought- provoking and inspiring! Thank you, John.
John – So sorry for your loss. I lost a dear friend a few years ago to cancer. Matt changed my life and I remind myself to live everyday in his honor. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, John, for sharing what this beautiful man, Mark, meant to you. And to me now. /what a gift friendship can be!,
John, this blog post hits home for the FDLIC family as we grieve the death of our dear friend and coworker, Efren, over the weekend. Efren sounds a lot like your friend Mark, and was definitely a pillar of vibrant enthusiasm. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and reminding us how precious life is.
Thank you Mark for sharing this story about Mark
I too at Ball State University had that Mark in my life-
His name is Bob Lindhorn-
We shared the love of our Cardinals-Cubs rivalry- our love of the Bears and attending professional ball games together.
I am blessed that we both are still alive and believers in Christ can share stories after 43 years past our graduation.
After loosing my only son because of a car accident where he was hit by a speeding car.
Really touch home my heart my soul.
I feel their pain .
I send my love to you and to the family.
Specially during this holidays tines.
John thank you for sharing this story .
I will keep them in my prayers.
Someday I will want to share .y story .
Thank you for sharing. We will keep these families in our prayers.