1000 Days of Mark

At this point in my career, it is very rare that I am shocked by a death related story.  But the story of Mark Rife is like nothing I have ever heard.  It goes against everything we, as a western culture, believe to be true about life.

And by “life,” I am referring to the kind of life in this photo.  Propaganda life.  Jumping through the air with your face towards to sun and a profound sense of well being and adventure and yoga and charity life.  The type of life that if we just get our damn hands on we know we’d be happy.

Mark Rife’s story was not reported by the national media.   My best friend from high school had this status appear in her facebook feed earlier this month.  Since Hilo, Hawaii is a small town,  she did some intrepid googling to see who he was.

Here is the background to Mark’s story, a write up from a blog of one of Mark’s friends.  It’s worth reading.

“Last Thursday, a guy I went to college with, Mark Rife, committed suicide. As I understand the story, three years ago his wife Sarah died due to complications from a fall off a 75 foot waterfall. She fell; he dove in after her. Against all odds, they thought she had recovered. Life had returned to some degree of normal; but then six months later, she died in her sleep. Mark was devastated.

In a video he left behind, Mark describes leaving Sarah’s funeral, driving who knows where and simply wanting to die — but he remembered the time they watched the film Juliet and Her Romeo, a film he loved, and he remembered Sarah’s question: “Do you think Romeo would have still killed himself if he’d waited 1,000 days?”

So, Mark went on a 1,000 day odyssey, with funds from Sarah’s life insurance policy, to give him time to see if his choice would still be the same. Would he still want to kill himself? Mark traveled, explored, met knew people. He says he “followed every impulse.” Mark had been a pastor in Hawaii, and he left his life behind.”

Long story short, after 1000 days of living and exploring 22 countries around the world,  Mark Rife decided that he DID want to kill himself.  He didn’t want to live in a world without Sarah and he was out.

This is his vimeo suicide note:

The video is difficult to watch.  If makes you feel far too intimate with Mark, privy to some wild secret pain.  Yet he made a very calculated decision to make his suicide public.  It’s his own vimeo channel, his own editing.  You would almost think this was an art project, or a mean spirited internet troll pWning the day away.  But here is Mark’s obituary from the local Hawaii paper.  This is a real person and he is really dead.  Less than a month ago he was alive, and now he’s dead.

Mark’s death was actually incredibly transgressive in its way.  It just doesn’t end where we are comfortable with it ending.  Popular culture tells us that when you lose your wife and you spend 1000 days traveling the world- learning, loving, experiencing, etc- you always decide you want to live.  Renounce death and learn to love once again, save some children, suck the marrow from life.  Look at all the life lessons you’ve learned along the way.

The makes Mark Rife a cruel reality, he who dared say, quite publicly, “yup, tried that, still filled with unrelenting ennui and despair, I choose death.”

If Mark had made the choice to continue his life, he could have sold his 1000 day story to a publisher and ended up with an Eat Pray Love style romantic comedy.  Simply because that is the narrative that people like to hear.  A happy, life affirming ending to a tragic tale.  Become a Buddhist and travel the world and slough the burden of grief.  Be born into new life.

Mark kept a detailed blog of his 1000 day adventure, which we may never see because Tumblr took it down immediately after his suicide.  I do not know whether or not this was at his family’s request, but it is distressing because he clearly wanted us to see his work.  He painstakingly blogged, created content, made videos.  In his suicide video he says that the website explains, “a bit more of my process, how I came to this conclusion.”  To keep the blog censured is not the way to honor his death.  God forbid we face the reality of a man’s decision to die when we could all just be re-blogging that picture of a squirrel in a ballgown instead.

 

Mark obviously did not view his life or his death as a personal matter.  He wanted to live them both out loud, so to speak.  You can see in his eyes that he truly believed that he was going to be with Sarah.  His life since her death was not as sweet as the chance that he could be reunited with her again, in whatever his conception of the beyond.

Do not think I condone his decision.  Of course suicide is a horrific choice when you are young, healthy, and have friends and family who love you.  But suicide is the choice that Mark made whether we agree with it or not.  And we cannot ignore or censor that choice.


We’d all like to believe that if we had a 1,000 days, enough money, and a mandate to rediscover the joys of life we’d be able to do so.  That there exists enough love and compassion and natural wonder out there to sustain us. But for Mark there just wasn’t enough.  I do not know Mark, but I believe he lived as a man who knew death, but not as a man who knew death acceptance.  He set out to travel the world and find ideals outside of himself. But make no mistake, grief will wait.  As it waits for all of us who dare not look it in the eye.

 

Mark’s Friend’s Blog

Mark’s Obituary

Pictures of Service

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  • Jillienk

    I find this story both tragic and fascinating.  Mark seems to have made his choice to die at the moment of his wife’s death.  He chose to honor her words, her memory and the people who love him by “trying” to live his life, but ultimately his goal never wavered.  At no point (as far as the information provided shows) did he actually try to deal with his grief.  He ran from it every way he knew how, spending 1,000 days reading, traveling, experiencing what we culturally think of as living life to the fullest, but how do we work through grief and acceptance if we never let it catch us? How do we know what life is like after a loss if we never take the time to learn what every day life will look like from our new perspective? How do we live any kind of life if we refuse change with it? Without facing the unbearable sadness he must have felt, living any kind of life, even the one we think of as full and fortunate, would have been contrived. 

    • Anonymous

      I agree, like others here I knew Mark very well. He was never the same after he saved Sarah and even worse after she died. Though he had a different spirit about him what he did was a shock. No one saw it coming, looking back now it’s evident that he neither dealt with it nor wanted to at all…which may be the saddest thing of all.

  • Ccrosarito

    My brother went to his church, and was heartbroken at his suicide. After hearing about it I did see/read through the entire blog. It was down within a day or two.

    • Your Mortician

      I’d really like to know what you thought about the blog when you read it.  There has been a real debate amongst people I know as to whether or not it should have been kept up.

      Did it seem like something that would have stood as a testament to him, and help show his friends and family why he took his life?  Or do you think it romanticized his death?

      Thank you for commenting, and I’m so sorry for your brother.

      • Sunnyrileyhawaii

        I knew Mark…I firmly believe he suffered from post tramatic stress disorder,severe depression, and possibily undiagnosed trama to the brain from his fall. He was a different person after he jumped off that cliff to save Sarah.

      • Anonymous

        It’s still accessible if you followed it on Tumblr prior to it being “removed”

  • guest friend of Mark

    I went to college with Mark. He was a friend of mine. Not a day goes by that I dont think of him.  I can’t even hear someone say the number 1,000 without thinking about him.  I think of his last moments on the earth and what he was thinking. I wonder what his afterlife is like, if he is “with” Sarah, or if there is NO afterlife and everything is just OVER.  

  • Yoyoma

    Mark’s suicide is tragic. And the colored lens he held after Sarah’s death is also tragic. A big reason that Mark struggled was that he slipped/fell, bumping Sarah and that’s why she fell off the falls. He held that blame close and could not forgive himself.

  • Ed

    I knew Mark very well in college.  He needed help because he obviously was dealing with severe depression.  There was nothing romantic about his journey or what he did.  

  • Ccrosarito

    The blog was probably the most depressing writing that I have ever read. Knowing that Mark had committed suicide made it all worse. A script writer could not have come up with a story like this. The most tragic thing about the blog was the lack of any hope or desire to look to Jesus for help or healing. In fact, (personally) I don’t remember reading about Jesus being mentioned once.  Even in his closing words, it wasn’t about going to heaven or seeing Jesus, but going to be with his wife forever.

    • Nelson

      Why would he waste his time with nonsense?

      • Tien

        because he was a christian pastor??? mayyybe??? No need to bash (atheist myself so don’t assume my opinion is invalid).

        • Femaelstrom

          Another atheist here. I agree that there’s no need to dismiss someone else’s belief in god as nonsense.

          But I disagree with the OP’s statement that not mentioning Jesus is the “most tragic thing” about the blog. It seems also to imply that there is tragedy in the fact that he did not discuss “going to heaven or seeing Jesus” when he made the decision to kill himself.

          If you ask me (not that you did), the most tragic thing was not that Jesus was not involved in his decision. The tragedy is that he ultimately decided that it was not worth living with, and ultimately living *through,* the pain and grief and loss that followed his wife’s death.

          That’s what’s truly tragic — not that he chose to die, but that he did not choose to live.

  • Christina Sprout

    My husband and I were very close with Mark.  He was the best man in our wedding. We both watched all that he posted before Tumblr took it down. His family requested that his site be removed because of the potential to encourage others who may be contemplating suicide.  I agree with Sunnyrileyhawaii, he was a different person after Sarah died.   

  • Stephen Lee Contreras

    Its hard to understand if he is still upset. Has this decision taken a toll, or the love lost? I cant imagine losing my wife but i know my wife and i know she would be totally against killing myself. If anyone is contemplating suicide. I would say to you ” Dont give up, Give yourself a chance.” Sometimes we lose focus, get selfish and sometimes we just need to get outside of our own head. Please i urge any of you to not let this video or what he did be an example of a good death. Suicide is not a good and honorable death in this regard.

  • Colin P. Müller

    I think there’s a pretty good chance he would’ve decided to live had he not been brainwashed into believing he’d “see his wife in the afterlife”. Mark another tally on the religion Death Count.

  • Amy
  • Karen

    I’m just coming upon this story which I learned about through people who knew Sarah and Mark. I didn’t see the links here to the profound and moving talks they gave to their church in the months before Sarah’s death (but after the accident), so I just wanted to post those here. I think those talks explain a lot, and the talk Mark gives really shows what a deep, connected, and wise soul he was. I do believe he tried his best to recover from the trauma of her fall, and then her death, but he just couldn’t. But the words he offered here should be listened to by anyone suffering a loss. I’m grateful he left so much of his journey behind. http://www.sermoncloud.com/elevate/downloads/