Mark was an active, intelligent man, always stimulating to talk to. His devotion to Helen was obvious. Helen was quiet and sweet, with a wonderful impish sense of humour that could take us by surprise at times.
We lost touch in the early summer. They had been beset with difficulties, and found it hard to come all the way to Coventry (they lived in the next town). Also, I got the impression that Mark found the way his heart was being opened up by the love of a big family rather scary: when hurts run deep, it's not easy to open up.
We remained on very warm terms, I exchanged friendly emails with Mark from time to time, and they popped into Coventry Jesus Centre sometimes, too.
So imagine our shock and grief when we heard, the other day, from Mark's mother, that Mark and Helen had been found dead in their house.
In all the pain, in the fond memories now tinted with sorrow, in the regret, the inevitable stabs of guilt ('could we have done something more?'), in the anger ('why were they failed by the system?') and the helplessness, I cling to this: they tasted love - for each other, certainly, and also, for a time, among us; they knew Jesus; they received his love; they're in heaven.
Another friend of mine wrote a poem just recently after the death of his mother. But as I read it, I was thinking of Mark and Helen.
It was a long time
But she could see now.
All those tears that had poured from her eyes
And those inside
Blurring her vision and drowning her heart
Were all wiped away
She could see.
She came from a long line of broken hearts
Just an ordinary woman longing for righteousness
But she shone brighter than any celestial body
When she landed here upon this New Earth.
She used to be my mother,
But she is taken up with bigger things now.
It’s been a long time,
Something like and not like a thousand years
All spent gazing at this daisy
But as she will tell you
Its fascination is endless
(Like everything else here)
And there’s no rush,
For if time is here at all
It is a river without end
If not, then time has poured into a shoreless ocean
Either way there is no rush.
Mark and Helen - you will be sorely missed. Until we meet again, rest well - and enjoy those daisies.