Family and friends gathered Wednesday to honor and remember 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez -- a young man whose faith, his parents say, stretched far beyond his comprehension.
Mark died Friday night after being shot by 29-year-old James Brown. Brown began randomly shooting as he drove southbound on Chesapeake Boulevard. One of the bullets hit Mark inside his own vehicle as he headed home from a graduation party.
The memorial service was held at Tabernacle Church on Wednesday afternoon. Mark's parents, friends, teachers, and other family friends spoke at the service, and there were musical performances as well.
Mark was a student worship leader at Norfolk Christian Schools. You'd almost always see him with a guitar or a camera.
The memorial featured slideshows with pictures of Mark's talents and his life. Mark's parents spoke at the memorial, both touching on Mark's life and how he impacted the lives of others.
"There are a lot of "why" questions. Why couldn't he have been five minutes earlier, five minutes later? Why couldn't he have dropped off somebody else? There's so many "why's." But there's a "why" question that I'm trying to focus on. Why did God let me have Mark? Why did I get so lucky? Why did I get him for 17 years? That is a huge question. Why did you somehow, someway encounter Mark? Why did God let him cross your path? Ask yourself -- What is God showing you through Mark that he didn't want you to forget? How did Mark impact you because of his relationship with the Lord?" his mother, Leigh Ellen Rodriguez.
"For me, this is a time of hope, a time of celebrate. I'll have the rest of my life to mourn. But for me, I'll use today as an opportunity to celebrate the life of my son, who I'm so proud of," said his father, Carlos Rodriguez.
Mark's girlfriend, Carley Schanck, also spoke to the crowd and said she struggling with a variety of feelings from pain and sadness, and numbness, but also joy.
"But the last thing, and it's really amazing, that I feel and think, is this incredible joy. And some people might be asking how can you possibly be joyful when the love of your life was just murdered? How is that possible? And I don't have any answers and I'm just reeling with deep, awful grief, but even more real than this pain that I feel is the hope I have in Jesus Christ and I don't know why this happened, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is sovereign and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is good. I know that He loves, not loved, loves Mark so much and He loves me," she said.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church has established the Mark A Rodriguez Memorial Fund to benefit the family. Checks can be made payable to Redeemer Presbyterian Church (with a memo of : MAR Fund) and mailed to 913 First Colonial Rd. Ste 102, Virginia Beach, VA 23454. Secure donations can also be made online here.