I pick up the phone and dial (303)-457-3209. A husky voice answers, “Hello.” “Hi Dan, it’s Dale. Is Marc there?” “Oh, hi Dale, hold on,” he says. “Marc!, It’s Dale!,” he yells up the stairs. From the time I was 10 years old until I was at least 18, I made this phone call hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. Sometimes Eric answered. “Hi Eric, it’s Dale. Is Marc there?” I say quickly. “Who’s this?” he says gruffly. And before I can say anything, “We don’t know anybody by the name of Dale.” Then, there is a long awkward pause and finally laughing as he says, “Hold on! Marc, it’s Dale. Pick up the phone!” Sometimes Amy would answer and sometimes Helen, but always there was a playful kindness, always love in their voices, and always a familiar holler that bounced up the stairway: “Marc, its Dale.”
I don’t know about you but today but I need to talk to Marc. I need another phone call.
I need to hear his voice today, and I don’t think I’m alone. There’s so much I didn’t get to say to him, so I’m going to say it right here right now with all of us on the line.
How about we make this call together?
I grab my cell phone and dial (303)-547-6016. As the phone rings, my lip trembles a bit because I don’t know if I can do this. Marc picks up and I quickly say “Marc, it’s Dale.” And just when I think I’m going to burst into tears, he hollers, “What’s up boi?” Marc, it’s so good to hear your voice but I’ve got to be honest. I didn’t want to say goodbye this way. I’d have preferred mimosas on the beach to an investigation by police; I wanted more for you than the tragedy that was reported on TV and across Facebook and Twitter feeds. I’ve got to be honest, there’s some anger inside me about your death. I’m angry with the unknowns, but I’ve lived enough now to know that we may never get the answers we want and even if we do these answers can’t bring you back. I need peace and I don’t think I’m alone. I need hope and courage for the days ahead. I’m angry that the end of your life was not like your beginning and middle. I’m angry that your sufferings snuffed out your blessings. I wish that the world could have seen the person I knew, the person that I knew you could be.
Marc, I never thought that I’d be standing here at your memorial service haloed and held up by the presence of those who loved you fiercely. I need to tell you that when the sparks from your eyes, the oxygen from your lungs, and the kindling from your soul mixed there was fire. You were a catalyst, a firestarter, a passionate leader. You conjured the elements of heat, oxygen, and fuel turning embers into flames, dark nights into daylight, and calm winds into wild fires. You did this all with that goofy grin on your face, a riotous sense of humor, and a restless search for adventure. You were the bonfire and we are the ones who got to stand by and warm up beside you. You gathered us in and we left different.
Marc, I need to say—and I know I’m not alone—I need to say, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know if it would have made a difference but if there was anything that I could have done, if there was any way that I could have helped through a phone call, a text, or a one-on-one basketball game to 11. I’m sorry, Marc. If there was anything that I failed to do for you, I’m so sorry. Sometimes the speed of life diverts our very best intentions. There were so many times I didn’t know what to say or how to help or even if I could or should. It’s not always easy to find the balance between providing help, healthy boundaries, and compassionate love. But all that is behind us now, and I need you to know that I’m sorry. Would you forgive me?
Marc, do you remember the time I slept over at your house and in the middle of the night was awakened by the crazy cackle and bare white ass of your brother pointed six inches from my face? Do you remember when he lit the fuel from his intestines with a squeeze and that stinky ball of fire assaulted me? I wanted to scream. I wanted cry. But you laughed and laughed and that laughter was contagious, and Eric and I laughed with you. We couldn’t stop laughing. Your mom and dad didn’t find it as funny as we did. The next day, when your mom told your sister what happened, she scrunched up her face and just said with disgust in her voice, “Oh Eric!”
Marc, I have so many memories with you, and most of them I can’t share here.
Do you remember the time we rode the roller coaster at Elitch Gardens over 30 times because there was no line? How about the water balloon fight inside Jamie’s house? Or how about throwing snowballs, water balloons, and small rocks off the deck of my house at oncoming cars? Do you remember when the Bulls won the NBA Championships in 1996 and you were so excited that you talked my brother and I into taking a life-size cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan near the highway exit? As the rain poured, we stood there for hours jumping up and down celebrating the win as cars drove by and honked their horns. I never told you this before but the passion in your eyes—that fierce fire—I didn’t think anyone or anything could diminish your light. Do you remember all those 3-on-3 tournaments we won with Brandon and Kevin including the national championship at Clement Park? Do you remember your dad coaching us, challenging us, always pushing us to become better players? How about your skill at getting phone numbers and first kisses at Skate City?
Marc, I need to say—and I know I’m not alone—I need to say, “Thank you.” Do you remember how we became friends? I was the fat kid in the neighborhood; I was the proverbial 5th grade, chubby-cheeked wannabe who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. And my mouth got me into trouble and I became the neighborhood punching bag. One day, I got beat up real bad at Livingston Park. They left me in a ditch and I couldn’t move the pain was so bad. Do you remember that you picked me up, carried me to your house, and cleaned me up? I’ll never forget your kindness to me. You taught me church. You shared your fire with me, and over time taught me to believe in myself. You changed my life. I need to say, I need to say and I know I’m not alone, “Thank you”, Marc. “Thank you.” I wouldn’t be who I am today without your light, without the love and friendship you shared with me.
From that day in the park, you were always dragging me onto the basketball court. I’ve never told you this before, but at the beginning of our friendship I didn’t want to play basketball all the time but I did it because you were my friend. Livingston Park is where we put in our 10,000 hours. You loved to play one-on-one or three-on-three or five-on-five. If there was a basketball and a hoop, you were there. The bigger the challenges the better as far as you were concerned. You were fearless on and off the court.
Do you remember that when we first started playing you used only your left hand? But hour after hour, game after game to 11 by ones and twos, I improved. Thankfully, my chubby frame grew taller and workouts with you toned my love handles. When I finally was getting close to beating you, you told me that you were going to play your hardest from now on. When I beat you, you would immediately say, “Let’s play again.” Of all the crazy things you used to say—from quoting Easy E to Snoop Dawg to TuPac (and yes you could even quote a verse from Tim Mcgraw) to the creation of your own strangely interesting language—my favorite words were “Let’s play again.” Let’s play again.
Marc, I do have some questions that I’ve always wanted to ask you. How many pairs of Jordan’s did you own? Do you ever wear the same hat twice? What led you to believe that the city of Northglenn, CO was just like city of Compton, CA? And, hey, why did Josh get all the good pictures with you? You two are photogenic. How did you get your mom to not only listen to rap and hip-hop but to like it? One more. Are you dancing with your mom now? I can see her, as you start shaking your butt and gently elbowing her in the side, rolling her eyes and saying, “Oh Marc.”
Basketball is how your channeled your fire. Your killer crossovers, three-pointers, and no-look passes were your art. Hours and hours of one-on-one battles turned into three-on-three tournaments, four years of high school basketball, and finally a full ride scholarship for you to Mesa State. Did I ever tell you how proud of you I was when you signed that scholarship?
I’ll never forget during our senior year, during the end of the season, how angry you got with me. You told me that my effort was lackadaisical, you said I was “candy-assing it.” You said that I was letting down the team. I was fuming but I knew what you were doing. Because of your fire poking, I had my best two weeks of high school basketball. You were a catalyst, a firestarter, a passionate leader. After that, my season turned around, in one game in particular; I played really well and you were so proud. You wouldn’t stop yelling and screaming in the locker room. You were vocal to everyone about how well I played. Marc, I need to say and I know I’m not alone; I need to say, “I love you.” I know now how rare it is to find and keep true friendship.
Marc, I need to tell you that I saw the sparks from your eyes, the oxygen from your lungs, and the kindling from your soul. I saw the way you mixed these elements together and made fire. Did you know that Plato once said: “We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods…?” Karl Jung taught that within human beings is “deep, unalterable, archetypal energies which structure our very souls.” Doris Lessing said “a certain voltage within us, a thousand volts of energy for love, sex, hatred, art, and politics.” I don’t know why sometimes the fire within us burns too bright; I don’t know why there’s almost unbearable suffering in human life. I don’t know why there are times we can’t control the fire within us and it gets the best of us. I don’t why you had to go the way you did. Sometimes the choices we make with the fire within us harms us and those we love.
Hey Marc, Marc are you there? Damn. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this T-Mobile contract.
Marc, here’s what I do know. I know that you were the bonfire and we were the ones that got to stand by and warm up beside you. I know that I saw the divine image of God within you. I know that St. Augustine said it most profoundly: “Our hearts are restless until they rests in you.” I know, through all your struggles, through all your joys and sorrows, that you had a deep love for God and that you’re finally home, finally free. I need to say—and I know I’m not alone, Marc—I need to say three things: “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”
Hey everyone, Marc’s on the line. What do you need to say? ‘Cause he’s listening, he’s listening now, speak up, and shout out briefly what you most need to say….
Hey Marc, What’s that? You’ve got something to say as well? We’re here and we can hear you pounding within our chests. Friends and Family: I’m sorry, will you forgive me? Thank you. I love you all. Dad: I’m here with Mom now. Eric and Amy: I’m free, I’m free, I’m free. Mason, a.k.a Macy mace, massers: Don’t forget that love is greater than fear. Live in love, my son.
One last thing, when your eyes are dry don’t forget use your lungs and sing.
“If I die young
Bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song”