Life’s Too Short for Fear

                          “Is anything worth more than
your soul?” –Mark 8:37
“Are you afraid to die?” the
words came out too quickly for me to stop them. From my peripherals, I could
see every head in the room turn to me, and I could feel the heat from their
eyes narrowed in on me, shocked and slightly upset at the question I blurted
out in front of everyone.
“Ha, ha… um… I don’t know,” he
laughed off his response, eyes fixed on the TV in front of him.
How could I gently continue the single most important conversation I
could ever have with this young man with everyone now staring at me?
the nurse was staring, her hands frozen from her initial duties of checking the
machine that kept this young man alive.
A million thoughts were going
through my head. I wanted to have a private conversation with the
eighteen-year-old who was once my student, but I didn’t know if I’d have
another chance. I had been told the previous day that he wouldn’t even make it
through the night. I had prayed fervently when I received the news and felt
confident God wasn’t done with this young man yet. So, I drove from Madison to
Rochester, Minnesota the next morning, praying the Mercy Chaplet nearly the
whole drive. I prayed for miraculous healing. I prayed Christ would cover him,
blood for blood, and replenish the blood that this warrior teenager was losing.
And more importantly I prayed for his soul.
I thought about what I might say
to him, how I would lay hands on him and pray for him, how I could lead him to
Christ so that he did not have to fear death. But I was nervous. I had been his
teacher in the past (both when he was in 7th and 9th grade), I had been in a
role where I couldn’t openly preach Christ or even share my faith experiences
with him. What would he think? What would the other students surrounding him
think? What would the adults think? Would I offend someone? Would I pray boldly
for healing and put a false hope in his life? Would they think I was weird?
Would they believe?
God, I need confirmation. What
do you want me to do or say when I get there?
I prayed.
My phone rang when I was still
an hour and a half from Rochester. My friend Kirsten asked me what I was doing
so I told her the whole story. With a rush of joy, she poured out her
excitement for me and told me what we all needed to be reminded of. “It’s not over
yet! He’s still alive! God still has a plan for him.”
She was my answered prayer. With
renewed courage I had set into the hospital room with the purpose of bringing
joy and life back to the incredible young man who refused to give up the fight
for his life. If he was refusing to give up, why should we? I encouraged the
students to fight for him and not give in to the looming fear of death hanging
on the shoulders of everyone present.
“You don’t need to be afraid,” I
told him. “Death is something every single one of us must face. There’s no
escape, there’s no way around it. We should be prepared for it, but we need not
fear it.”
He seemed to soften and enjoy
the idea of not having fear.
A few others joined in the
conversation when I turned it towards the impact that this young man has had on
so many. I told him of the way my girls in Swazi have prayed for him, how we
watched videos of him reenacting a scene from Romeo and Juliet, and he played
Juliet. They saw pictures of him on stage for Freshman English Oscars, looking
handsome and smart in his suit and cane, and acting silly when he put on a
blonde wig for a comment about Romeo and Juliet. One of my girls said, “I want
a husband like him,” after seeing the pictures and videos. This same girl
fasted and prayed for him (without me knowing) on the day that we were notified
he wasn’t going to make it through the night. She didn’t know this news. She
simply decided (with the help of a volunteer) to not just pray for Mario but
fast for him as well. (The day after their fast, was the day his bleeding
While at the hospital, I spent
some great time with his mom. I prayed over her as well, and she asked me to
speak to her son about Jesus, about life after death, that he doesn’t have to
be afraid. The nurse began to clear out the room so Mario could take a nap when
his mom nudged me to have the conversation with him. I didn’t have much time to
speak, and he didn’t respond much. He just listened. When everyone cleared out,
I laid my hands on his chest as he closed his eyes, and I prayed for him,
especially healing over his loss of blood.
When I finished, he opened his
eyes, said thank you, and left me with his smile. A smile I will carry with me
for the rest of my life. A smile that said more than words ever could.
I drove back to Madison that
night, belting out the song, “It’s not over yet,” over and over, filling with
joy knowing that God was not going to take him home yet. He still had time.
Doctors said he didn’t. But then
again, that’s why God is God and we are not. He lived through the night, and
the next night, and the next and the next…over a month since that day he fought
on. And it was the most crucial month of his life. When I left him that night,
I didn’t know what he really believed or if he would go to heaven. But I
trusted that his loved ones surrounding him would take care of the most
important details. And they did.
I was on the plane, settling
into my seat and waiting for my travel to Swazi to begin when I saw a message
that he had passed away. I gulped down the lump in my throat and squeezed back
the stinging tears. I wondered many things. I hurt, but I trusted God that He
wanted his son home.
A few days after arriving in
Swazi, I received a message to contact his mother. The only way to do that was
to call her cell through my Skype account. But my internet is so poor it
doesn’t load skype. “Lord, if you want me to talk to her, please make Skype
work,” I uttered on a limb of doubt. Without hesitation, Skype popped up
immediately. I smiled to myself. Only
you, God, only you.
She talked to me for awhile,
thanking me for loving her son, and letting me know that he was ready to go.
That he told his family and his brother, “I’m ready to go home.” Another woman
who had been at his mother’s side told me, “I thought you’d like to know that
he accepted Christ into his heart.” It was a conversation my heart desperately
needed. I was grieving but now I could also rejoice. It was the miracle I had
prayed for. 
I was overcome by chills and
tears of joy. I believe God, in his great love for his son, preserved Mario
while he battled fear until he came out victorious. Indeed, he was home, he was
loved, he wasn’t afraid. God knew what he was doing. When everyone else thought
the fight was over, God was just beginning. Beginning to prepare a place for
the incredible warrior we lovingly call “Super Mario.”
While it pains me deeply that I
cannot attend his “Celebration of Life” with the La Crescent Community
tomorrow, I am so thankful for the time I shared with him and the smile he gave
to me to keep forever. Tough times are still ahead for all his loved ones. But
I know the way he fought for his life on earth is how he will fight for his
loved ones in heaven. Like this picture, as he stands tall with muscle arms, He will look over us, stand behind us, and remind us that
life is too short for fear.
Are you afraid of death? Beloved, find strength in the legacy of Mario;
look to the cross, for you needn’t live in fear.  

Recent Comments

  • AngEls

    Friday, 29 Jul, 2016

    Mary-Kate, this was the most beautiful thing I have ever read! My daughter Alivia Kistler loved you as a teacher and as a person now I know why. Thank you for being an amazing role model for our kids! Mario and all the children you touch as blessed to have known you!!!

    • Mary-Kate Martin

      Saturday, 30 Jul, 2016

      Wow, thank you so much for your comment and words. This, too, blessed me. Those kids are such a big part of my heart; I love them all dearly. Thank you and many blessings to you and Alivia! <3


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