"Spend your life in the pursuit of perfection. Though, you will ultimately fail; do not lose heart; for along the way, you will most certainly attain excellence." - Craig Kent Marks (January 8,1960 - November 5, 2015)
This is going to be the most difficult piece that I have ever written. I am not entirely sure how it will end up, but please, bare with me. The sole intent of this piece is to pay homage to my, now, deceased Father. The first thing that I can guarantee you is that as my Father's Son, I am not going to stand here and tell you who God is, or what you need to do to become closer to God. In my Father's own words, I will offer you this. Do you believe in God? Good. That's all I need to know. The other stuff is there for you to figure out for yourself. When considering what to say about, arguably, the most influential male figure in my life, I believe that it is safe to say that I would not be the person that I am today, if Craig Marks had never entered my life. He was an example to me on how to be a proper and honorable man. He was never perfect, in fact, at times, he was what a hormonal teenage boy would call, a jerk, but he was an amazing Father, no matter my adolescent logic. He was always there for me, and he never failed to back me up when I was in trouble.
The reason that I can say this is because, I know, while I had my moments in life where his chest swelled with pride over his Son, I too had more than my share of moments, where any lesser man would have willingly labeled me a little brat and would have been justified in doing so. My Father, however, spent most all of the time that he had with me, working to help build me up on a good foundation, rather than giving up and watching me fall. Though, admittedly, a fall was what I needed from time to time.
I suppose I can begin by recounting some of my most significant memories of my Father. My earliest clear memory of my Father was in a swimming pool. I was only about two and half years old, and my parents had just gotten married. My Father was in the Navy, and we followed him to his Advanced Job School, where the Navy was training him to be an Electronics Specialist. He had the weekends off, and he used to take me swimming. The imagery is fuzzy, but the joy of the moment is as clear as if it had happened yesterday.
The next memory that most stands out to me is how I was taught to swim. Some may think the proposition to be slightly barbarous, but consider that birds teach their young to fly in much the same way. After my Father was out of the Navy, we stayed in San Diego, and he went to work for Packord. We lived in a small apartment complex located at the corner of Imperial Beach Blvd and the beach. Not far from our building was a very long and very tall pier. It was early summer, and in that area that meant that pods of Nurse Sharks were in the local waters. My Father, then took me out into one of these pods, and let me go. I was not aware, at the time that Nurse Sharks are passive. I learned how to keep myself above water very quickly that day. I never needed swimming lessons after that. I was also never afraid of the water after that day. In fact, if I could swim in open water every single day of my life, I would be a very happy man.
This is followed by an encounter that I had with a bully in the eighth grade. I have never been one to enjoy violence. It makes me uncomfortable, to the point of even making me sick if I hurt someone. That year, there was this particular young boy, who turned terrorizing me into his personal fun time. This went on for most of the year, until I finally snapped and bruised the boy very badly. I got in a lot of trouble because I hurt him so bad. When the school called my Father, he left work, came to the school, and asked me what had happened. He then turned to the Principal of the School, and said that if he prosecuted me, he would make sure that his next birthday was spent broke and homeless in the street. I ended getting the minimum punishment for that offense.
I must admit, now, that he had to have been putting on a little bit of a show, but that is not what I got from the experience that day. I learned a very valuable lesson that day, one that has stuck with me to this very day. Violence is not a good thing, and it is certainly not okay to hurt people without cause, but there comes that rare day, when you are forced to inform the offending party that their day has come. There comes a day when you have to let people know that they have gone too far, and that if they cross any further, they will pay for it. Of course, he told me, use your judgement, but never let anyone abuse you or tell you that you are worthless. Stand up for yourself, no matter what.
I am sure that there are many more childhood experiences that I could bring up , but I would like to shift to High School Graduation and further. From that day on, no matter the situation, whether I was in the wrong, or I was spot on, my Father always spoke to me like a man. This means a lot to a young man trying to find his way in the world. He has also been there for all of the lows. Every time I achieved a goal that I set for myself, he was there for me in pen or person. He made it to all of my graduations, and he was there for me when I was struggling to just get out of bed in the morning. He also never stopped pushing me forward. What's Next? He would say this every single time, and every single time, it drove me to do yet more to improve myself.
My life has been forever plagued by a very poor sense of self worth. I have second guessed myself, questioned my morals, and even attempted to erase the past. At least, up until my father died, that is what I thought it was. What it really was, was an ability to constantly evolve and to each day of my life, work to make myself better than I was the day before. It is the ability to compromise, the ability to the see the world from another person's perspective, and the ability to admit when I am wrong and make adjustments accordingly. This is accompanied by a sense of integrity that is stronger than my own conscience. These are the attributes of a man of courage, sacrifice, integrity, duty, faith, and honor. These are the things that my father sought to teach me my whole life, and I am grateful to the heavens, to say that he was successful. I have never been perfect, but in the pursuit of perfection, I have achieved great things for myself that have changed my life for the better.
Today, we bury a man who, despite his flaws, embodies these attributes to the fullest. He gave up his entire future to attend to the needs of myself and my mother. He raised good children, and leaves behind him a good family. As we sit here today honoring his memory, I can imagine that there is a wave off the coast of Waikiki that is calling his name. He has done his duty, he has fought the fight, he has run the race, and he has left only good memories in his wake. Let us, then, offer him this prayer, as we watch him Surf into the sunset to his meeting with God.
Merciful Father, we have squandered our days with plans of many things, but the time that we spent with Craig Kent Marks was not among them. For all that we ought to have thought, but have not thought; for all that we ought to have done but have not done; for all that we ought to have said, but have not, we pray thee, God, for forgiveness, and ask only that for the rest of lives, we retain in our hearts the memory of a man that changed our all of our lives for the better. This we pray in the name of God. Amen.