Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sheffield Brothers Band circa 1990. Mark is the smiling guy down front.

By Skip Sheffield

How do pastors, priests and rabbis console the inconsolable?

I pondered that question as I listened to Pastor Forrest “Buddy” Watkins, who was officiating at the funeral Dec. 17, 2011 or our dear friend Mark Winans. Mark was only 56-year-old. He was loved by so many the chapel was overflowing and standing-room-only.
Buddy Watkins, 89, had known Mark since Mark was a child in the “King’s Kids” choir of his Baptist church in West Palm Beach. That’s where Mark first started playing piano. I never knew that about him.
I guess there were a lot of things I could never know about Mark, although he was a friend of 30 years and a band mate of 25. I know there were a lot of people thinking the same thing. What went wrong? Why did I not see the signs? How did I fail him?
Grieving is for the survivors. In a way it is feeling sorry for ourselves. Mark is out of his pain.
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it is the only way we know we are alive. There are many things I will never understand; but there is one thing I know for certain: life is precious. I have a rather special perspective on this because of something that happened to me at age 7. I survived a near-death experience and lived to tell about it. I learned on that day that miracles do happen. One can never give up hope, but even as life ebbs away, peace comes. It is called “the peace that passeth all understanding.”
So I know in my heart Mark is at peace. We are the ones who have the problems, but we will work through them. The pain may never end for Mark’s widow Donna, his daughter Lindsay and the rest of his family, but over time it will lessen. Life without pain is not life at all. To live in one’s memory is to live forever.
I know I could never be a pastor because I have no easy platitudes. I am not 100 percent certain about anything. I am in no position to judge or even give reliable advice. Life is fully of mystery, and that is what makes it so fascinating. I prefer it that way.
So I salute you men and women of the cloth. You soldier on even though you may have doubts of your own, and somehow you make us feel a little more… not exactly better, but more at peace.
Rest in peace brother Mark.

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