Below are the words I used at a funeral service of a close friend, confidant, and father figure. I received permission from his widow to post.
Why the world doesn't stop?
Saturday morning came to an abrupt stop. Plans to clean the house and to mow the lawn were scrapped. This Saturday was not going to happen the way I had wanted or planned. There are times in our lives when our world stops for a moment before we enter back into the main stream of life. I remember another Saturday that this happened to me, the day my daughter, Evelyn, was born. That day too, plans to clean and get together with friends and family were quickly canceled. One difference between these two Saturdays was when Evelyn was born, I was able to quickly enter back into the stream of life. I WANTED to enter back. I was excited to share with the world that there was a great new beginning! This other Saturday, I am having to find the strength to enter back into this stream of life. And, as I find strength here and there, all I seem to want to do is SCREAM. “How can you all still go on with your lives?!?!?! Don’t you realize that the world is missing someone so important and valuable to our existence?!?!” Mark Brinkman is no longer here.
Mark Brinkman has finished his pilgrimage. He is no longer physically here with us. He will not be here to give us life lessons. He will not be here to tell us corny jokes. His pilgrimage is over. And what a beautiful pilgrimage it was!
I had the joy, privilege, and honor to see this pilgrimage for the last 12 years. I have the joy to say that Mark was a friend, mentor, and father figure. One thing that Mark Brinkman taught me was to never waste a teaching opportunity. So, Mark, I will not waste this moment only on you. Rather, I would like to share some things that I have learned recently that relate to my relationship with Mark.
Statistics of this Fatherless Generation:
• 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
• 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
• 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
I bring up these statistics because we need to see the truth that is the world that we live in. You see, Mark was a father to me. I was 21 years old when I first met the Brinkmans. My father, though physically never abandoned me, was not really a father to me. I had a house growing up, I never needed/wanted for much growing up. Except, I needed a father that was there to love me, protect me from the horrors of the world, and to guide and teach me.
Mark Brinkman was that for me and many, many other young men and women.
A couple examples include Mark and I going to help a young mother find a place to stay for a night away from an abusive boyfriend. Or when we loaded up the back of the Brinkman family van and drove me up to my day at the seminary.
I have seen Mark console many broken hearts in his living room.
This is the teaching moment: We NEED more heroic examples of Fatherhood in our nation. Mark Brinkman cannot be the only one! For every fatherless home, we need another Mark Brinkman to fill that void. We need men, like Mark, to love, protect, and teach the world.
Mark was not perfect, he was always the first to let you know that. I remember one instance in particular. It was probably 5 months after his double lung transplant. I was staying with the Brinkmans; and Mark and I were outside putting up the Christmas lights. Matt was still at Texas A&M, and Marie was suppose to be home from school already. I could tell Mark was getting frustrated. When Marie pulled up and got out of the car, Mark couldn’t control his anger, and he laid into Marie. Marie, in tears, runs into the house. Mark looks me in the eyes with tears rolling down his cheeks and says, “Why does God even have me here? I was ready to go.” Mark knew of his own shortcomings, he knew when he was not living according to God’s will. But, he also knew that God’s will was greater than our will. He made mistakes, but that didn’t keep him from doing his best to love, console, teach, protect, and guide those that God chose to put in his life. I think we all can attest that though Mark may have made mistakes like each one of us, he did so much more good.
You see, Sanctity does not come from our strengths, it comes from our weaknesses. This is something that Mark Brinkman learned in his pilgrimage. He learned that God takes our weaknesses and uses them to make us holy. St. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong. So that no man may boast, because their strength comes from the Father.” Later in his second letter to Corinthians he says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
We need more men like Mark Brinkman. We need more men to choose to fight through their faults and rise up to be fathers after the Father in heaven. We need the world to STOP, in order to recognize that greatness doesn’t just happen. That fathers are not perfect men that get it right every time. Fathers are men that take the time to teach and guide.
One more story. My wife and I wanted to have cupcakes for our wedding and we needed to have a way to display them. I asked Mark to help me. In typical Mark fashion, he took this as an opportunity to educate me, show me the right way of doing things. I had the plans and he got the materials, but he wasn't going to lift a finger without me there. (He could have built it all by himself in half the time that it took us together.) "Measure twice, cut once." Mark must have said that phrase 50 times that day.
For many of us, our world came to a stop when Mark finished his earthly pilgrimage. Yet one look at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat will tell you that the world kept on going. It is getting close to that time for us to enter back into the world. Let us enter back in to the world with our memories of Mark Brinkman, but more, let us go back into the world with his mission to be a father and mother to those that are abandoned, or feel abandoned. Let us live as Mark would want us to live, after Our Father in heaven. With love and knowledge that His will is much better than our will.