We here today to lay to rest the remains of Mark Link. As we do so we want to remember him, give thanks for him, and also strengthen our grip on the promise of life beyond the grave.
We hold to this promise from the Bible,
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.
With this eternal focus I ask you to pray with me.
Our Father, we come to this place . . . this lonely place to lay Mark’s remains to rest. There is something surreal about the whole thing. Help us this day to understand . . . just a little. Help us to understand that life is about more than being born and being buried. Help us to see beyond this life to that which you hold out to us through Jesus Christ.
Help us to this end we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
Gary Baker had planned to share some memories of Mark but was stranded because of the air traffic control fire yesterday in Chicago. He sends his regrets and his greetings to all his classmates. So I will share memories that were shared with me.
I’m told Mark was always active. He walked early and was pretty active from that point on. As an infant he loved bananas and would even climb to the top of the refrigerator to get them. Even then he liked a challenge and was a bit of a daredevil at heart.
Mark had a lot of good friends who remained good friends all of his life. There were his Disco friends (Max Burg and Ken Foster among them) and then his Durham when they changed schools (Steve Ketchum and Stephen Butler).
Mark was popular in High School. All the girls wanted to “bomb the strip” with Mark. He drove a Mustang while in High School. He had a purple and blue car. Leila used to wash his car just so she could drive it around the house to where she washed it.
Mark had lots of interests. He was involved in wrestling and FFA in high school. He rode dirt bikes as soon as he had a license. Leila says he had a125 souped up bike that he rode constantly. He was involved in Motocross competitions and won several trophies.
Mark also liked to ski. He went to Colorado several winters with Alan Covert. It was where Bob Hoffmeister and Bob Hensley lived. Alan and Mark also purchased a boat and they spent many nights and days on the river skiing. Once they purchased a parasail . . . that didn’t go so well. Alan took off and Mark went straight up in the air. Alan “freaked out” and cut the motor which meant Mark came straight down (like a missile). There were a few days recuperating on the couch after that adventure.
Mark always helped on the farm as he was growing up. When he was in High School he worked for Michael Butler. Mark respected and learned a great deal from Michael and treasured him as a friend throughout his life.
Mark began farming on his own after graduating from High School. Mom, dad,nd “the girls” moved to town. Mark, Danny and Roger Freeman stayed on the farm. When Leila graduated from High School she also moved to the farm and became the cook and housekeeper. Leila and Mark decided they should plant a garden. Leila got ambitious and planted the whole garden one day only to have Mark come home and tell her she would have to move all the tomatoes and beans because he had just sprayed the field there.
What many people don’t know is Mark didn’t get interested in horses until later in life. When Wendell and Leila were married, Wendell started working for Mark. Wendell always had horses and this is when Mark started riding. He quickly got “horse” fever. He went on trail rides and soon wanted to compete. He started team penning. He even put up his own penning facility in the hayfield west of the house.
Eventually he had to get out from under the financial strain of farming and decided to quit farming and move to Brimfield. He made a new life there. Springcreek Farms became Springcreek Equine Facility. He boarded horses there. After a few years he put up a large building so people could ride during the winter. He also did jobs on the side. He also did welding and helped a farmer during harvest. He enjoyed baling hay.
Mark became involved with Ranch Sorting. His daughter Celsey shared his love for the competitions. She became his traveling companion and worked alongside of him.
One of the toughest things about the cancer was not being able to ride anymore.
However, to some degree these are descriptions of things Mark DID. What made him extra special was who he was. He was man who didn’t talk bad about others and people didn’t talk bad about Him. He was quiet but always willing to lend someone a hand. When he made friends, they were friends forever. Mark loved being a dad.
Mark laughed because he had such a wide age span in his children. He commented that when he was at his 40th class reunion he was the only person there who needed a babysitter for his kids.
He was wonderfully patient with his kids. Cole who is now 28 had an adventurous childhood. He set the carpet on fire in the house, he set the garage on fire, and the soybeans in the barn on fire. (I assume these were at different times). Mark didn’t chew him out (though maybe if he had chewed him out the first there wouldn’t have been other times . . .I’m just saying). Mark simply shrugged and dealt with the disaster.
When Shelby was little and started to get worked up about something Mark would pinch his hand together like he was holding something and would say, “Here, have some patience and put some in your pocket.
Rachel who is 9 spent every Friday night with him until she was 4. She rode the tractor and the combine and often fell asleep in the farm trucks at her dad’s side.
Lydia, who is 5, shared lots of jokes with her dad and sat by his side during his whole battle with cancer. She would climb up on his bed and tell him about her day, her dolls, and how much she loved the movie Frozen. She would sing him “Let it go” and “Do you want to build a snowman”.
Mark met Kristi when she boarded her horse. She talks about the time her truck broke down back before she knew him very well. She was in Pontiac and her truck broke down on Christmas Eve. She had two dogs in the car and two horses in her trailer. Mark drove up to Pontiac in bad weather, on a holiday, to save a crazy “Carrot Lady” (which was a term Mark used to describe women who treated their horses as pets rather than as working partners).
Mark faced his cancer as he lived life: with courage, dignity, and as a challenge to overcome. He continued to do the best he could. Even near the end he wanted to be clear headed. In the last days he worked to help Kristi plan for the future without him.
He was truly a “good guy” in every sense of the word.
That makes this a very difficult place to stand. It feels like this is the end of Mark’s life. In fact, if you really think about it is to be overwhelmed with what seems to be the futility of life. We live, we die, and that’s it.
However, I remind you that the message of Jesus was different. He proclaimed that those who believe in Him would live even after they died. Jesus taught us that this life is the prelude to something deeper and better for those who put their trust in Him.
It is fair, appropriate, and even necessary to ask, “What does it mean to put our trust in Him?” First, it means putting our trust in Him rather than ourselves. Most people have the mistaken notion that we “earn” Heaven by living a good life. The problem with that is that we define “good” in ways that make us look good. If we measure our lives by God’s standards we come to the conclusion that “there is no one who is good . . . not even one.” (Romans 3) So, the first step to putting our trust in Jesus is recognizing that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
Second it means embracing what He has done for us. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to do for us what we could not and cannot do for ourselves. He came to settle our “sin debt”. Jesus gave His life as a payment for our sin. He came so justice would be done and we could be forgiven. We must believe what he told us.
The third part of believing in Christ is to embrace the reality of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus was tortured and crucified. He was put in a tomb. Three days later He not only came back from the dead . . . He visited with the disciples for another 40 days before ascending to Heaven. Anyone who is willing to take the time and actually look at the evidence for the resurrection will be stunned by the mass of evidence that points to Jesus actually rising from the dead.
There’s a good rule of thumb in life: if you have to choose who to follow with your life . . . follow the guy who rose from the dead!
And that is the fourth step. It is possible to know all these things and still not put our trust in Christ. Putting our trust in Him means embracing Him as our Savior and following Him as our Leader and King. The “unchanged Christian” is a contradiction in terms. A person who continues to live as they always did has information but has not put their faith in Christ. They are not real followers otherwise . . . they would be following.
I like the old riddle: three frogs are sitting on a log. Two decide to jump into the water. How many frogs are left on the log? Most people say “1” but the answer is three because deciding to jump and actually jumping are two different things. A person who truly has faith in Christ doesn’t just talk about trusting the Lord. They do it. They jump. They change the direction of their lives.
So where does Mark fit into all of this? My understanding is that Mark went to church when he was young but stayed away from the church as an adult. Part of that was because he saw all the people who claimed to be Christ-followers who gave no evidence of faith. He wasn’t always treated well by those who said they were part of Christ’s family. Mark didn’t like the phoniness of the Christians he saw around him. Honestly, you have to respect him for that.
Mark however did not turn away from following Christ. He visited with Pastors, he told Christy that he believed in Jesus and claimed him as his Savior. He just didn’t go to church. He wanted a faith that was more “real” than what he had experienced.
I wish Mark had been involved in a church. I think there is great benefit in belonging to a church. However, church membership is not required for salvation; putting our trust in Christ is the true measure of salvation. It sounds to me like Mark’s life gave ample evidence of someone who possessed the fruit of the Spirit or the character of Christ.
So, I am confident in proclaiming that Mark Link in not in this urn! This contains the remnants of his worn out shell. The person, the man you loved, is not here . . . He has risen.
I encourage you to remember Mark. Remember
- His love of the challenge of competition
- His love of farming
- His involvement in his community.
- The items he made for the St. Jude Auction
- His love for his family.
- His love of the Lodge and the strange story of when he and Kevin Beals shared the Honeymoon Suite at a hotel.
- His enduring friendships.
- His purple and blue Mustang
- The way he fought his cancer.
- The way he was always there if he knew you needed help.
But as you remember, remember also that just because we no longer can see Mark it doesn’t mean Mark is truly gone.
I like the illustration of a person going on a trip. If you are flying, taking the train, sailing on a ship or even taking a bus there is a departure “gate” and an arrival gate. The people at the departure gate are usually sad. This is a time of separation, loss and pain. There are even some regrets. At the departure gate there are often tears.
However, there is also an arrival gate. This is an entirely different experience. The people there are excited for adventures to begin, relationships to be restored, and joy to be shared.
Today we stand at the departure gate. There is a heaviness about what we are doing here. However, it is important that we remember that there is also an arrival gate. Family members, friends, and influential people line the hallways. Best of all, Jesus is there to welcome us home.
If I may make a suggestion, in the times when loss seems greatest remind yourself that someday you will hit the arrival gate and Mark Link will likely be one of those waiting to greet you.
So with this in mind and heart we return his ashes to the ground from which they came.
In the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer we read these appropriate words,
Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.