Remembering the Morning Marc Died

Remembering the Morning Marc Died

Remembering the morning Marc died, January 21, 2015.

The night before Marc died I said to him, Honey, if there is any way you can be in touch with me after… Marc looked at me with dismay. Perhaps the way Jesus looked at his disciples, How long have I been with you and yet you ask such a question! That was the look he gave.

I haven’t heard a word. But I have not been abandoned. And there are a couple of things that happened the morning Marcus died that have given me solace and sustained me ever since.

Marcus rose before the sun on Wednesday January 21, 2015. He died at 7:05 am. Shortly thereafter the petals on the two-dozen multi-colored tulips HarperOne (Marc’s book publisher) had sent Marcus started dropping. One by one. Then in silent clusters. As if they were falling from my own face. In a matter of minutes they pooled together on the table where they once stood.

I had randomly picked out a funeral home about a week prior. I didn’t know one funeral home from another. We had recently moved to Central Oregon. It was new geography for both of us. In many ways. A high desert landscape. Rural. Somewhat isolated. On that Wednesday morning, my stepson made the call. To our surprise the director of the funeral home arrived accompanied by a male aide. She was in her thirties. Pregnant. Lovely. She said, “When I heard it was Marcus Borg I had to come… I took classes from Marcus,” she told us, “at Oregon State. He was my favorite professor [mine too]. I learned so much from him. He gave me a new way of seeing and understanding. He is the best teacher I ever had. I just had to come.”

There are over forty funeral homes in this area. No one knows us here, I had thought. In this unfamiliar landscape, on this day I felt lost to everything, I was located. Here, with us, someone who had experienced Marcus. I couldn’t believe it. She brought her sorrow and her own witness. She could share our immeasurable loss, a loss personal and public. (Kelly had a daughter, by the way, or I would have insisted on the name Marc.)

Along with a stretcher a patchwork quilt. Red and green squares with little Christmas trees and snowmen and a Santa here and there. A hold-over from the season that had just past. Did you ever hear Marcus talk about the patchwork quilt? I asked Kelly. She didn’t recall. At his classes at Oregon State he probably wouldn’t have mentioned this. I told her, When he traveled to churches throughout the country he was often asked: Marcus, the world is in such trouble and turmoil, it is all so overwhelming, it seems like just too much sometimes… how are we to make a difference? Marcus, borrowing an image from Sallie McFague, would say: Consider the patchwork quilt. (Perhaps we can add this to the lilies of the field.) Consider the patchwork quilt. Figure out what is yours to do and do that. Do your part, do your “patch.” And together we can create something that is more than we could have imagined or done alone.

I took handfuls of the tulip petals and sprinkled them over Marc’s body. Then we covered him with the patchwork quilt. And tucked him in.

The tulips, Kelly, the patchwork quilt… a few other things happened that morning that have sustained me. Including the sight of our Glen of Imaal terrier, Marcus’s four-legged soul mate, Henry, lavishing him with kisses… “kiss the joy as it flies,” wrote Blake, and “live in eternity’s sunrise.”

Tulips, Kelly, the quilt, Henry. When I saw them I really saw them. Borrowing from Mary Oliver, “as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.”

And from the same poem (Snow Geese): “Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last! What a task to ask of anything, or anyone, yet it is ours, and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.” To love what is lovely and will not last. What a task… and yet it is ours.

“Though this body be destroyed,” writes Job, “yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Life left Marc’s body on that morning and all that I saw and experienced… God.

I still haven’t heard a word from Marc. Yet in the silence the thinnest sound. Something like, I never left you. Perhaps it is the beating of my own heart. Or the whirl of my own psyche.

I have no doubt you have had a moment or two or countless ones or glimpses of something that has sustained you in times of loss or disbelief. Or perhaps moments that for the passerby might seem ordinary but you know they are not. Share one, if you will.

10 Comment(s)
  • Christopher J. Armstrong-Stevenson Posted January 16, 2018 9:23 pm

    Marianne: I have always loved your and Marcus’ teachings while you both were at Trinity…and I miss them. So I was happy when you began this Foundation and website, to become a supporter.

    Until recently, I looked to the weekly publication of “enlightenment” writings of +John Spong. Unfortunately, while not because of death, but of ill-health, he no longer writes those weekly commentaries. I grieved the “death” of John Spong. And then you began this website.
    How can I NOT see some God-like wisdom – even “intervention” of a God-like, unexplainable “hand” at work?

    There is an ancient tradition in the work of iconography, propounded by early, Christian Ecumenical Councils, that we iconographers may never show an image of “God” when creating icons. Could those ancients have also felt the impossibility of defining whom, or what, “God” is or was?

    Thank you for doing this for all of us who still yearn for “believable” and not “belief-driven” enlightenment.

    Chris

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted January 17, 2018 6:34 pm

      Chris So good to hear from you I too miss the work with Marc and the work at Trinity I think Jack Spong is focussing his efforts on writing about our current reformation. He’s not done yet!! Love the iconographer’s wisdom, the impossibility of defining God. The day we think we have done so we will have lost more than gained. Continue your good work of providing widows to the sacred. Continue to be in touch. Deep peace to you.

  • Ann Coberley Posted January 13, 2018 7:28 am

    Marianne, I’m so glad I followed the link in the Foundation’s newsletter and found your lovely remembrances of the morning your husband died.
    Your words touched me on so many levels. My own husband died very young in 1999, and I remember asking him beforehand to find me after he died if there was any way he could. Like you, I have had no word from him, but also like you I have had experiences that seemed to me attributable to his continuing love.
    It was also comforting to learn that Marcus died in the presence of someone he loved. Although I never saw him in person, his books have meant more to me than I could ever explain. They are in my personal library, well worn and marked up with my own thoughts written in the margins. When I completed reading The God We Never Knew for the first time, I put my face in my hands and cried. Marcus’s words gave God back to me.
    Bless you for continuing his work!

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted January 17, 2018 6:42 pm

      Ann thank you so much for this. Yes, Marc was in the presence of love….his own deep sense of trust helped him cross into safety….and love showed the way. I am so glad Marcus has been a liberating and homecoming presence for you. May it continue. And our work of love, with and without our husbands. We will never get over it. But we live on. Changed.
      Deep peace to you.

  • Cynthia McCarthy Posted January 11, 2018 10:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing the remembrance of those moments.

    Approaching midnight on what had always been marked as our parents’ anniversary, the end of a long illness, our mother died.
    On leaving the hospital, heads lowered to the double-cold of winter and our loss… Fireworks!
    It took our breath away as in that moment we heard with our hearts, ”Do not despair children, but rejoice!”
    It was New Year’s Eve. We had forgotten, in that other-world of the day’s vigil.
    Fireworks had always been a particular joy for Mom. And that night (timed so perfectly) they burned away our sadness as surely as her loving hugs had supported us all our lives.

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted January 11, 2018 11:07 pm

      Cynthia. Thank you for this. Amazing isn’t it….the timing. The perfectness of it. A symbol of celebration and release and endings and beginning….that display said more than reams. I don’t believe in a God of supernatural intervention. But the awe and wonder of this event and its deeply personal power exceeds the notion of a god of Supernatural Theism. And you don’t have to “believe” to earn such a grace. These remarkable moments happen, they arrive, we don’t construct them, we perceive them, and as Oliver writes, when we see them, we really see. Fireworks. Do not despair. Thank you.

  • Gary Peetra Posted January 10, 2018 11:37 pm

    WOW – Thank you for sharing.

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted January 11, 2018 5:58 am

      Gary. In my reflection I did not use the response Wow….but the tender details of that morning emerged like stars in a deep night sky. No shadows cast. Just points of light. That held their own against a backdrop dark. Those points of light continue to shimmer for me three years hence. And have helped illumine my way. Wow indeed.

  • Peggy Ziegler Posted January 10, 2018 5:36 pm

    Thank you for this message. It is so needed especially now. I will pass it on whenever I can.
    “When he traveled to churches throughout the country he was often asked: Marcus, the world is in such trouble and turmoil, it is all so overwhelming, it seems like just too much sometimes… how are we to make a difference? Marcus, borrowing an image from Sallie McFague, would say: Consider the patchwork quilt. (Perhaps we can add this to the lilies of the field.) Consider the patchwork quilt. Figure out what is yours to do and do that. Do your part, do your “patch.” And together we can create something that is more than we could have imagined or done alone.”

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted January 11, 2018 5:47 am

      Peggy. Yes, the patchwork quilt. A wonderful image. The way you weave pastoral care and the practice of the art of prayer with your own tender and strong presence helps sustain the community you and I share. My friend, you do your part with grace. And you make a difference,. Thank you.

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