Mark Rife: Give Life a Chance

Last Thursday, a guy I went to college with, Mark Rife, committed suicide. As I understand the story, three years ago his wife Sarah died due to complications from a fall off a 75 foot waterfall. She fell; he dove in after her. Against all odds, they thought she had recovered. In fact, in one of the messages he left, he reminisced about her caring for him during his recovery while she had landed back at work and routines. Life had returned to some degree of normal; but then six months later, she died in her sleep. Mark was devastated.

In a video he left behind, Mark describes leaving Sarah’s funeral, driving who knows where and simply wanting to die — but he remembered the time they watched the film Juliet and Her Romeo, a film he loved, and he remembered Sarah’s question: “Do you think Romeo would have still killed himself if he’d waited 1,000 days?”

So, Mark went on a 1,000 day odyssey, with funds from Sarah’s life insurance policy, to give him time to see if his choice would still be the same. Would he still want to kill himself? Mark traveled, explored, met knew people. He says he “followed every impulse.” Mark had been a pastor in Hawaii, and he left his life behind. Apparently (though I didn’t see it) he suggested that perhaps he left his faith behind. I don’t know what to say about all that, but Mark spoke of the many places where he spent time volunteering and serving the same marginalized and forgotten people for whom he had always felt compassion. This much is obvious: Mark was a man searching.

After 1,000 days, Mark determined that yes, he still wanted to end his life. This man searching had convinced himself that taking his own life was the best way to discover whatever it was he was looking for. He put up a website, called 1,000 days (which Tumblr took down over the weekend) and told his story, with images, videos and posts about his long journey, his experiences, his questions, his grief. He spoke often of the power of love, and he asked forgiveness from anyone hurt by his decision. And then he signed off.

I didn’t know Mark well. Other of my friends knew him much better. The last time I saw Mark was probably 2003 or 2004 at a conference in Atlanta. But Mark’s death, the story of his last few years, has sat heavy on me the past few days. Late last year, another friend committed suicide. This isn’t the way things are supposed to go. I’m angry at death.

If you are contemplating suicide, don’t play that card. Talk to someone. Ask for help. Pursue hope, not death.


30 Replies to “Mark Rife: Give Life a Chance”

  1. This really makes me think deeply. What have I done in the last 1,000 days? Have I really lived?In what ways have I ingested poisonous ideas and activities that have put my life in jeopardy? For your friend to go on such a journey and experience so much, I wish he could have found the strength to go on living. I'm sure had some great stories.And the losing of stories is always something to mourn for.I pray for all of those who are dealing with such pain and I pray that those like me who are not truly living will find whatever it takes to go on our journeys.

  2. Yes, my husband & I went to college with Mark, as well. My husband, Bryan, was in Chi Sigma Delta with him. This tragedy breaks my heart. I can hardly bear to think of it.

  3. Thanks for vocalizing what I have been feeling the last week since Mark's death. I knew Mark from a distance at PCC as well, but this has affected me. I have known two other friends that have committed suicide over the last five years. One was a close co-worker. Life isn't suppose to end this way.

  4. I did not know Mark, but I go to church with someone who did, which ultimately led me to his 1000 day website. I was deeply disturbed by his website. Yes, he had awesome experiences throughout his 1000 days, met great people, etc. but the fact that he sat there and tried to tell anybody in the world who just happened to stumble upon his website that 'he was perfectly fine" was not right. He said that "the grief had gotten better, but he had a choice to make: live life without Sarah or he could take his own life with what seemed to me almost a belief that if he did so he would be reunited with Sarah. This man was NOT ok. He can talk all day long on his goodbye videos to try and convince his friends and family he was fine and he was actually having happy/ejoyable times, but no one spends that much time contemplating and planning his own death, leaving behind an entire website of messages if he is 'OK'. Remember, I am a complete stranger here…at first I was saddened by the entire situation…but it just festered in me for days and I don't know Mark but I am angry at him. How dare he do this to his family/friends. Yes, he was a grieving man that obviously needed so much help, but he was living a lie telling people was 'fine' and 'ok' only to find out this way that he was not? From some of the video where he was speaking directly to the camera about why he was doing what he was doing, he did claim to not know what came after his death…only implying that yes, he did in fact waiver from his faith. He was hoping that it wasn't just some big, black hole of nothing because that would really 'suck' in his words. He cautioned whomever was listening to be careful of the cockroaches in their homes and not to kill them, refering the buddist faith and reincartion saying 'one of those cockroaches might be me'. And then of course he referenced to the Christian heaven…streets of gold with Jesus and God, etc., simply saying "if that is the way it is…then ok, I accept that to." This man had obviously waivered far from his pastoring days and didn't know what was going to happen after he took his life…all he was focused on was finding Sarah again and in order to do that, he actually believed that killing himself would lead him to Sarah. I personally can only go off of my faith and convictions, but my guess is he has not found Sarah, nor will he. It is such a shame that he was so lost and so NOT 'fine' that he couldn't figure this out before planning this most "spectacular" death of his…and the website he created 'for' his friends and family with, what I consider a pretty lousy explanation of what he did, has now been removed so his story does not live on either. I pray for his soul. I pray for his family and his friends. I pray for the anger, hurt and resentment that Mark Rife has caused complete strangers throughout this country…he caused more hurt trying to leave this explaniation and website than he would have leaving nothing. Suicide is NEVER an acceptable thing, but it is my opinion it would have been easier to swallow and move on from if he hadn't tried to justify it. My heart and prayers go out to all of you hurting because of his actions. May God find grace on Mark Rife and save his soul and may every one he left behind…friends, families and strangers be able to forgive him and continue to LIVE!

    1. I wrote this note nearly 3 years ago. I did not know Mark or any or his family – nor do I still. I’m pretty sure the people who knew him that went to my church no longer go there. Yet still I think about this…every few months…every time a new suicide makes headlines I think of Mark Rife and it sickens me. Was that his purpose of leaving the horrible video behind? So that every time someone thinks of him they are tormented over the selfish act this man did and then how he tried to make it ‘acceptable’ because of his video? I wish I would have never seen that video. I wish I would have never known about Mark’s journey and suicide. I have to ask forgivness everytime I’m reminded about Mark Rife because of the utter resentment and anger I feel towards a complete stranger…who by the way…isn’t out ‘searching’ or ‘finding’ his deceased wife…because he is dead! AND…if I ever do have a cockroach in my house, I will step on it just in case. I beg of God to please take these memories of this selfish man from my head when they arise. Nobody else should have to be subject to ‘coming’ across his video he made…it should be completely removed from the internet…yet it’s still out there…on people’s blogs (not necessarily this one) who are trying to make excuses for him and what he did. There is no excuse for his actions or behavior. I hope his family has been able to move on from this, but I also hope they do not ‘glorify’ him in any way or try to make some sort of ‘legacy’ for him…he chose his legacy himself…it was to kill himself and make a video trying to convice everybody who watches it that killing himself was an acceptable action. That is NOT a legacy that should be remembered…his memories and his video needed to die away with him when he went.

      1. I stumbled upon this site randomly today while looking for the goodbye video of Mark to hear his voice one more time as the anniversary of his death approaches and I find your comments to be completely heartless and rude. You may not know Mark but I did. He was my cousin and although he did something no one in his family will ever fully understand or agree with we all love and remember the person he was for all the years leading up to Sarah’s death. Do we wish he asked for help and chose a different path, absolutely. But who are you to judge him? In the amount of time you have spent being angry at a complete stranger perhaps that time could have been better suited helping others in need, volunteering at a grief counseling center or suicide helpline. Bashing a stranger who clearly was broken doesn’t make you right or a better person. Your cockroach comment is cruel to those who new and loved Mark. Have some compassion for those who were left behind. I pray that my aunt and his siblings don’t accidentally stumble upon this site as I did today.

  5. I hear your anger. There's a lot to these stories, as there are to each of ours. Grace on us all.

    Timber, grace on you too : ) Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Mark touched many lives, and even though I did not know him personally, when I did come in contact with him at college and at church, he was genuinely nice and full of passion for the Lord. I'm glad you wrote this blog encouraging those who are suicidal to look for help. I think by looking at Mark's 1000 days experiment we can learn alot about trying to help our loved ones who are experiencing suffering and depression. Ultimately, the choice is theirs. What can we learn from this? Mark went off on his to travel the world to experience life and see if that would change his decisionown; to me, that was a dangerous decision in itself. There was not a friend around to encourage him and remind him where to keep his focus. He sought companionship and solace in other women, but they served as a reminder that Sarah was everything they were not. He came off as "ok" to everyone around him. I read somewhere after Sarah's funeral that someone commented that he looked ok, but that obviously was not the case. I pray now that his soul finds peace in the arms of God, and I pray for comfort for Mark's family.

  7. that is one of the things that struck me most as well, his isolation from his community and those who loved and knew him best. I wish he had stayed with his friends – and allowed them to wrestle through it with him.

  8. One thing I noticed from Mark's story that I find as a caution to us all is that Mark seemed to have left his first love, Jesus, for Sarah; it is possible that he replaced his passion for and adoration of Jesus with his passion for & adoration of her. Then when she was gone, he was left paralyzed, but it didn't have to be that way. True, the extreme sorrow and weakness he experienced can happen to anyone, no matter how strong. Satan looks for weaknesses so he can devour. No one & no thing can replace Jesus & God's Word for healing and giving victory over the hard things we go through in life. Jesus Is the Way, the Truth, & the Life. There is always hope–in Him! Read His Word, ask God to show you the way out, find His promises, which are always true, and claim them in faith. Don't let Satan shake your faith. The book of Psalms is a wonderful source of strength & great place to start. There are so many discouraging "voices" in the world, telling those who are depressed to turn in the towel. But don't listen to those messages. Listen to God's Word. Speak the truth of God's Word to yourself, too. Keep telling yourself and reminding yourself of His promises. Jesus can't be replaced. Faith in Christ is the victory that overcomes the world, and if you know Jesus as your Savior, greater is He (Jesus) that is in you than he (Satan) that is in the world.

  9. Wow. this is shocking and tragic. I guess I'm most surprised that he could so fully explore his feelings and articulate them and not be freed somewhat by that action. When my father attempted suicide when I was 16, it wasn't something he talked about doing beforehand. I would venture to say most don't. This is definitely an abnormal case, do you think?

  10. I agree with you, Cara, I think this is an unusual story on many levels. I didn't know that about your dad. I bet that was really hard.

  11. Not necessarily wavered from faith that he had. He had been calling Much attention to himself and putting on shows and bringing violent video games into the church. Stressing passion. Yes, he lifted his hands when he sang, but this is a testimony that that lifting of hands is not true worship, but self-control, not passion, is an attribute of the Holy Spirit. His sermons revealed that he did not honor his father, and in so doing, he spread the same feeling of disrespect for the fathers of the youth that he led. Some have had extreme problems since and turned from the LORD or even rejected their own family. Others have recovered some. Let this be a lesson – don't think that raising hands and calling attention to one's self is an indication of truly being saved and living in Christ, and a good thing to look for in a youth pastor.

  12. I don't know how we manage to take these tragedies and jump on soapboxes, to score points about such trivialities as raising hands. At least, let's not do it here.

  13. Wow-so now it goes from tragedy and sorrow, showing that there IS hope, to judging how effective of a preacher he was? The thing that does not lift depressed/suicidal people up is pessimism. Pessimism also does not help Mark's family or others who were affected by his suicide. I choose to remember and acknowledge all the good in life that Mark has done, and there were many. Did you see how he spent the life insurance money? It must have been bittersweet for him to have been able to help those orphaned children in Asia, knowing that it was possible only because a loved one died. God doesn't weigh the good deeds against the bad. I hope that Mark still believed in God and His Son Jesus Christ. There is hope for Mark's family that they will all be reunited in Heaven one day.

  14. Winn, thanks for posting this blog. Mark's story is very sad but maybe it will remind us that many are hurting even within the walls of our churches. Many have lost sight of the Life we have in Christ. My prayer is that I reflect true Hope.

      1. Colin, let’s have constructive conversation, not name calling.

        In Mark’s final video, he made it clear he had no idea what he believed about such things and that he no longer had confidence in this kind of eternal future. So, no need to use the occasion of Mark’s tragic death for whatever ax you have to grind.

  15. Sometimes a decision to leave the church rather than object and be potentially cause division is wrong. That decision was made before he ever got involved with Sarah. His "ministry" revolved around passion and drawing attention that like so many tele-evangilists. It's the same trap of glitter and pride that Satan himself fell into. Even Mark's website was focused on passion and drawing attention to himself. That's so messed up. And I even helped him at first in some of his productions like so many others. Perhaps he was saved, but perhaps he should have been corrected about his passion for passion before it consumed him. It was the gospel of Romeo and Juliet whom he so admired, not the gospel of Christ. Proverbs 14:12 warns us about the way that SEEMS right. I knew Mark, and knew of the problem, and I regret not doing my duty to correct a fellow believer. It could have saved his life to be driven more by knowledge of God's Word instead of by feelings of what seems or feels right at the time.

  16. Yes God says do not murder, but being sad is a "heart" sin. If he had pray " lord I'm yours, you guide me and shape my path. All I ask this I can deciesd when I am done."
    It seem to that giving up the ghost is not Sudice. I have to kill myself oof pain and safeness, but if I am go to hell I don not want to be because sudice. So now that I'm save I see that my life is not mine but his.
    Of mark rejects that or found diffence way to live it put it not our place to say. Remember we ALL shall be judge for how we each spend our time while the Bridegroom was away. Share your throughs and viewpoints, but let Him do the judging.
    As for me, I hope and know God hears prayers and if He used Judduist to help the Kingdom, this too can bring Him grlordy. That is the point of life.

  17. Selfish; in one word this man turned out to leave one legacy. Selfish! All about himself. Glorifying him in some way frankly, it stinks, and leads others of sick minds to think they can too do this pitiful deed. I don't care who you are; this is pitiful and should not be glorified in any way. He still has "followers" out there. They may not even know they are followers of Mark. But when he is somehow glorified and attention brought to him instead of the Savior that he refused to follow, then it is pitiful.

  18. Who exactly is glorifying Mark?

    I think we all agree that Mark was selfish and that suicide is a horrific, hopeless act (the point of my piece). But I'm amazed at the lack of kindness and mercy for a man who obviously was in deep pain and for many who are in the same place. There's nothing to glory in with Mark's choice, but there definitely is something to be sorrowful over – and to offer kindness toward.

  19. Mark couldn't shake the pain; the pain of Sarah's death or his unfortunate part in causing her to fall. He simply slipped/fell into her…crap happens.

    I've watched the vimeo videos now a couple of times and it simply grieves me. His family, friends, church members…all were not only somehow touched by his life, we are all now also touched by his death.

    Sarah's fall, hospitalization and death were tragic, and Mark's selfish act just adds to it.

    PAIN, just more pain.

  20. I have been struggling once again over these past few days with all that Mark did. I’ve been hospitalized almost 70 weeks in the last 10 years….and if I were to be completely honest…have also experienced the deep, gut-wrenching pain that many times comes as we wrestle within ourselves to understand all of the “whys” that God allows us to face. I’ve also faced some seemingly “unfixable” trials with my family and a couple of close friends. I still just can’t wrap my brain around who “Mark…the man” really was and how his life ended….this was not the man that I respected (from afar) during my college years and his early ministry. I have walked down the road of suicide 2 other times….both of those men left no messages or “whys”….those are much easier to swallow than all of the things I read on his website before it was taken down…and the things that my head has thought since his passing. I just don’t understand….and it frustrates me. Anyway…thanks for talking about what happened. It helps the hurt and disappointment a little….

  21. Why have Mark’s videos apparently been recently reposted? I had not seen them before but I believe it does more harm than good for the general public to view them. The videos indirectly model a concept of a good suicide which I & most do not think it ever GOd’s plan but rather a false belief from the enemy. I believe it would be better to simply allow his memory to be honored with the general knowledge of how much God must have used him as a very successful and loved Pastor & friend without offering the open public the horrid details of his confused yet somewhat appealing thought process in his romanticism and idealism of love toward his beloved late wife. Whatever the “honor” bestowed on Mark’s life by allowing his wishes of the video to remain posted online is NOT worth the level of mental/emotional/spiritual risk of harm being allowed, especially to those who did not know him well. Perhaps there is a better way to offer the video posts to those who did know him well and have the felt need to see them. Either way, the grace of Jesus be on us all!

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