Mark J. Presterone
December 1, 2007
Given by Marnie
I want to speak this afternoon
about Mark and about mental illness. Most of you here, know that Mark had a
substance abuse problem, but many of you may not realize that Mark suffered from
mental illness for many years and unfortunately by the time it was diagnosed, he
was too old to receive any of the resources that are available to children. His
mother, Ruthie, was also not willing to let him live on the streets, in order to
“maybe qualify” and “maybe to get help” … what little help there is. You see,
there are no coalitions for the mentally ill. There are no politicians worried
about how the mentally ill will vote.
I’ve known Mark since he was a
toddler. I spent time with him before first grade and then for the last 10 or
so years. Some of you may be able to speak more of those in between years. My
daughter and Mark went to Sunday school together. Ruthie and I had their
birthday parties together. Our kids played together and they were in all of the
Christmas and Easter pageants and Sunday school plays.
In Sunday school, they learned
about Jesus and they sang of His love. They learned how to pray and talk to our
Lord. They learned about the great hero’s of the Bible like Daniel, Moses, and
King David. Their minds were young and trusting and had no doubt about Jesus
and His father, God. And they believed and trusted Jesus to save them. In
their young hearts they had a love for Jesus, though their spirits were still
weak and immature. I wonder today if Mark pictured God as “Superman” because he
wore his Superman cape (towel and Underoos) it seemed like forever. Maybe that
was a boy’s way of acting out how powerful God is.
Being in different grades, as
they grew you they saw each other less, as did Ruthie and I, because of my
constant work. My daughter, Nicole, went on to be very interested in “words,”
i.e. Talking, writing, and acting. That was how she communicated what she was
feeling. Mark became very interested in writing music as well as learning to
play the guitar. That was Mark’s way of communication. By the time he was in
Junior High, his path was set for writing musing, singing, and guitar. He had a
group that got together to sing and play and record. Besides recording their
songs, we know about that group because they took pictures of themselves. And
you should look at them, what innocence, what fun they were having. It is
interesting that Mark chose this church as a backdrop for the pictures. Was it
because of the architecture, was it because he felt it was a safe place, was it
because he felt he belonged to the church and God would bless his work? He was
a young man trying to find his place in this world and his place with God.
As he grew older his passion
for music only intensified. He loved the music of Elvis and his gospel songs.
He could play them over and over. His spirit was still searching to know more
of God. He was a nice young man, a good son, a good brother, and it seemed at
least to me with a tendency to be shy, except when he was on stage. Some of you
who knew him as a friend, may think, Mark, shy, no way! Yesterday, as I
listened to some of the music he loved, there began to develop a "theme" to the
music that drew him. It was dark and sad and searching. Listening to his mom
and the words of the music, it became clear that Mark had begun to think that he
was un-loveable. He could accept the fact that his family loved him, but about
the rest of the world? Did the people in church love him, did his friends? Was
he worthy of love? Was he good enough to be loved? How could he live in this
world without love? If God loved him, how could bad things keep happening to
him? Remember, Mark's spirit with the Lord, was still weak and immature. His
spirit never had a chance to mature, because Mark's mind didn’t work right and
so he made bad choices. Mark never seemed to realize how many people loved him
and were rooting for him to be successful. Mark's mind wouldn’t let him. And
so gradually, almost imperceptibly he moved from a young man who loved gospel
songs, into depression and mental illness. Ruthie has told me that Mark's mind
would often play a theme over and over, like his mind couldn’t shut off or be
satisfied with an answer. His spirit would often struggle with God, but his
mind wouldn’t stay still long enough for an answer. He was a prisoner of his
I would like to read Psalm 142 for you.
Psalm 142:7 Set me free from
my prison, that I may praise your name.
Mark must have called out many
times for God to set him free from the prison of his own mind. And finally God
did, just not on the way that you and I might have planned. The Bible tells us
that some healings are caused by prayer and fasting, but we also know that some
healings only occur in heaven. In heaven there is no confusion, no sadness, and
no doubts. And so today, Mark's mind is finally healed. He has no more tears,
no more questions, and his spirit is no longer poor.
In closing, I would like to
give you a few definitions.
Footnotes: for Matthew 5:3
Mark trusted Jesus to save him
when he was a little child, and no matter how much Mark struggled with God for
the last years of his life, it doesn’t change the fact that he had put his trust
in Jesus. The Lord God made Mark and he knew that Mark would struggle.
Mark was not spiritually proud
and he was not self-sufficient, but his is the kingdom of God.