The Mark Mains Prayer Vigil Of 2013, 10ᵗʰ Anniversary Retrospective

“I’m asking for all your help to lift up prayers for my friend Mark Allen Mains, who was admitted to the hospital last night. Has pneumonia and an irregular heartbeat, and is in ICU for observation. I believe he had a massive heart attack and I do not expect him to make it through the night. Let us all pray for each other.”

In early March, 2013, The Sci-Fi Guys’ own Mark Mains was admitted to the ER and later moved to the ICU for heartbeat irregularities. He made it clear to us that it was nothing severe, no need to come to the hospital, and that staying overnight was largely just a safety precaution. During what could have become a serious medical event, Mark took the time to make sure his friends knew he was alright. It was both thoughtful and responsible. And I’m sure as you’re reading this you’re saying to yourselves, “I bet Chris reciprocated in kind. I just know good ol’ Chris did the right thing. I bet he respected Mark’s wishes and stayed home.” And of course I did. I stayed home. But I like to think of myself as a good friend, and I always try to do just a little bit extra whenever I’m able. So I gave Mark what I like to think of as my bonus plan. Chris Staying At Home+, if you will. Click the pic, brothers and sisters, to join us in fellowship and praise. Amen.

“I know that Mark Allen Mains appreciates all of your prayers and can feel the healing spirit of the Lord, all praise be to Him. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.”

“Hoping all will be well for your friend…” – Stacy

For those of you not in the know, I am the least spiritual person you will ever meet. Every syllable of my pleading to the Lord for Mark’s deliverance and salvation is absolute horse shit. Mark, likewise, has little patience for that kind of thing. We are both of the mind that just one hand doing actual work accomplishes infinitely more than two hands folded in useless prayer. But one way in which we are not alike, and which can only be said of three people in the entre world, is that Mark and his two brothers have a particularly… enthusiastic mother. For the purposes of this article, we’ll just call her Mrs. Mains. And sometimes Mrs. Mains is a LOT.

“Prayers coming right now…” – Julia

“Prayers are going out to mark, hope all will be well..” – Ed

Don’t get me wrong, Mark’s mom is loving, thoughtful, generous, giving, kind, considerate, funny, genuine, compassionate, and deeply caring. She treats me like a second mom, and I love her. She is wonderful… to me. But she has perfected the art of driving Mark right up the fucking wall. She taunts him. And she corners him. Then she pokes at him, like a cruel child with a sharp stick prodding a feral raccoon in a trap. And there are only so many times that raccoon can be jabbed before it goes absolutely goddamned berserk. But Mrs. Mains isn’t afraid of that berserker fury. Oh, no, my friends. She loves to watch that raccoon go insane. Sometimes I think she lives for it.

“Sending you all my prayers, strength and courage.” – Sherry

“Mark is in my thoughts and prayers.” – Jerry

From my perspective, it has always appeared that most of the tortures Mrs. Mains saves for Mark are undeniably deliberate. I’m talking at least 75%. But in this case, I think her reaction was sincere. When Mrs. Mains heard that her baby boy had been admitted for heart troubles, her response was large. Mark was not just in the hospital for observation, he was surely dying. It was all over for him, and the only thing that could be done was to pick out the flowers and the casket. How was she going to break the news to Mark’s dad and brothers? How long did Mark have left, in hours? Why didn’t he take better care of himself? Where was his will so she could dispose of his belongings according to his wishes? Who was going to be there for her and her husband when Mark was dead and buried? Didn’t he care what would happen to her? These weren’t just hypothetical questions fueled by a mother’s grief. These were the kinds of things she was frantically screaming at Mark WHILE HE WAS IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM. When Mrs. Mains wants answers, she demands them at full volume.

“May the healing light of the lord our savoir bring a speedy recovery.” – Kristina, one of the few people who instantly saw what I was up to, and jumped right the hell on board without a word.

“Our God is an AWESOME God” – Christopher Woodall. Because sometimes I can’t help but pile on.

It will be helpful for you to know that not too long before this, Mrs. Mains had posted some wildly inaccurate medical information about Mark on Facebook, and needlessly scared the shit out of a LOT of people. And I have to admit, I was a little jealous of how successful she had been in upsetting so many innocent people, plus Mark. She’s a social media goldmine. So when I heard how poor Mrs. Mains had responded to this current news of her son’s imminent demise, and how her subsequent relentless badgering had raised Mark’s blood pressure enough for the hospital’s diagnostic equipment to measure it, my heart went out to her. What must she be going through? How helpless must she feel as she watches her eldest son wither away with so much of his life unlived? And most importantly, if Mrs. Mains became too distraught to type, who would rely on misinformation and wild conjecture to assume the worst about Mark’s condition, then post dire and factually incorrect prognoses to Facebook? These things don’t just write themselves. I knew I had to do something. The Mains family was in need, so I stepped up. Surely what this situation called for was a little Chris Woodall magic. So I thought it through. Mark loves attention. And Mrs. Mains shouldn’t have to bear the burden of worry all by herself. Yes, I had promised to stay home, but what they both needed was people. Lots and lots of people.

“You have them! Love you….” – Jackie

Filled with divine inspiration, I took to Facebook, which was Mark’s social media platform of choice. For Mark, Facebook was a communication tool not only for personal updates, but for work. Mark maintained a vast network of friends, family, and professional contacts across every state, and as far away as Japan. And so I thought it would be fitting that there, in the midst of Mark’s intricately woven social tapestry, was where I should start the Mark Mains Prayer Vigil Of 2013. And start it I did, my friends. I posted the sad news of his mortal predicament and, as I had hoped and predicted, Mark’s army of prayer warriors showed up EN MASSE.

“Hoping for the best for you and your friend.” – Karla, my cousin from California, who has never met Mark.

The response was immediate and fantastic. Mark is a social butterfly, so his scores of colleagues and well-wishers lit up Facebook like a fucking Christmas tree. I was getting scads of Likes and responses, and the personal messages that rolled in were just unending. It was heartwarming. Not only because I could see firsthand how my efforts had lifted up prayers to He Who Is Called I Am, but because I just knew that for every private message I got, Mark was getting ten.

“Omg my thoughts and prayers are with Mark and his family. It’s been years since we close but hes never left my thoughts! I love uou Mark and ill be praying.” – Raylene

“We are definitely praying for Mark Allen Mains and his entire family and friends.” – Jodi

Yes, I knew Mark’s phone was blowing up. And I was so happy that it was my fault. But what I didn’t know, and what was too perfect for me to have ever successfully planned, is that the whole time this was going on, Mark was asleep. The hospital had administered whatever they administer when hundreds of people post online prayers for a miracle. And it knocked Mark out. At any time, Mark could have ended this whole thing with a simple post saying he was fine. Or just a couple of replies to the right people to get the word out. And, because I am not as much of a dick as this story makes me seem, I made sure he had that option from the start. Mark was in the hospital and I wanted to mess with him, not cause legitimate stress. I had been sending him updates so he would be aware of what I had been up to the whole time. I had tagged him repeatedly so he would know what was said and when I said it. And he knew the context of his mother spreading fake news about his health. He was in on the joke right from the start. Or at least he would have been, if he hadn’t been unconscious.

My prayers are with him, family and friends. Always recall him being such a friendly, welcoming person.” – Brianna. Yes, he surely is. Just like his mother.

“We need an update please!” – Raylene

Mark is a social butterfly, remember? And in 2013, before the oppressive responsibilities of fatherhood, his phone was permanently affixed to his hand. In those days, when you would text or tag Mark, there was no delay in his response. His phone was his life. So his unprecedented radio silence created the perfect crucible to burn away the hopes and positivity of those who reached out to him, leaving behind the pure, nagging, white-hot dread that only comes from no news. Mark Mains had received countless requests to know if he was alright, and he had failed to respond to any of them. For hours. This could be nothing but bad.

“i hope he is ok. please keep me informed.” – Daniel

“Any update on him Chris? Praying!! What hospital is he in?” – Rosanne

In the decade since this happened, Mark has regaled me with the story of waking up to a phoneful of abject digital chaos. Voicemail, texts, email, Facebook; there was no avenue of computerized communication which I had not managed to choke with worried associates or people saying their last goodbyes. It warms me to this day. His notifications were going off so frequently that he had difficulty placing a phone call to, you guessed it, his mother. And as pleased as I was with this cellular calamity I had manufactured, the thing I was most proud of were the number of people trying to physically get to him. Despite making it clear that he was in the ICU and had requested no visitors, people were determined to be there. He was legitimately worried by the number of location requests that there would be an actual candlelight vigil. And I’m telling you, my friends, at the very thought of that possibility, my heart was SOARING. If I would have managed to get even one person there holding a candle in the dark while saying a prayer for Mark Mains, I could have died right then and been perfectly fine with it. That would have made my whole life complete. The idea still makes me smile. But I could tell Mr. Buzzkill was serious in his concern, so I issued a retraction of sorts. Too bad the doctors didn’t remove that stick up his ass while he was there.

“In respect for Lent, in lieu of a candlelight vigil Mark asks that we all reflect on his situation in the privacy and comfort of our own homes where we will each light a stick of his favorite patchouli incense. I have mine lit right now, buddy, and I’m thinking of you. God bless you, Mark Allen Mains.”

“I lit a nag champa and prayed to Ganesh. That counts, right?” – Michelle, who didn’t buy my bullshit for a minute.

Mark hates patchouli. And I mean he fucking HATES it. This was my subtle revenge for him ruining some of my fun. I still hope someone buys him some. But, like I said, I wasn’t trying to cause anyone any actual distress. I immediately fessed up to anyone who asked me a question about Mark or wanted to know if I was joking. I don’t know if I can really define the difference, but posting a lie about Mark’s heath seemed acceptable, while lying to someone in a one-on-one conversation just seemed cruel and unfunny. I can’t specify why, exactly, but it felt like that would be crossing a line. Like I was mocking personal good will and concern, which is a douchebag move. So if anyone asked me a direct question, they got a direct, truthful answer. But surprisingly few people did. I got the feeling most of them were not interested in interaction. Most of them were sincerely worried about Mark and wanted to wish him well, which was nice. But it was likewise clear that a few of them just wanted that sweet, fleeting bump that comes from being a performative Christian in front of other performative Christians. To each his own.

“Been up all night maintaining the prayer vigil. Thank you for all of your calls, emails, texts, and faxes, but I’m too tired to go on. Would anyone else take over as prayer lead? I’m exhausted. Jesus, take the wheel!”

“Staying up all night burning incense and reading prayer faxes is no joke, Lori.” – Christopher Woodall. My cousin Lori saw through my schtick early on and called this out as a prank for my inclusion of fax machines in the list of ways in which I had received prayers. I don’t care; me asking Jesus to take the wheel is still funny as hell. That was a solid joke.

I didn’t keep a complete record of all the responses I got, but this shit went on for a WHILE. So long, in fact that Mark was afraid the nurses would confiscate his phone because of the noise. It turns out that if you ask for prayers you don’t get a lot of big ones. But you get tons of small ones. I guess Heaven operates on the Dollar Tree business model. In any case, Mark was eventually overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people that didn’t want him to die. He was convinced the hospital was going to take his phone away, and instead of just turning it off, he asked me to make the messages end. Normally this would only have spurred me on to greater and more sinister machinations, but he was hospitalized and tired. I didn’t want to add stress to an already stressful experience. Plus, he made the request in the most pathetic tone I had ever heard. It was impossible to refuse, and equally impossible not to laugh at. I am STILL laughing at it. In the weakest, most helpless, hopeless, pleading Dickensian orphan voice you can imagine, he simply said, “Please, just stop.” Alright, fine. Big baby.

“UPDATE – Your prayers are working! Mark is feeling much better and his heart has not exploded… yet. But your job is not done. Mark needs prayer, but Mark also needs his rest. So, please, people, if you care about him, direct your questions, concerns and well wishes to either myself or The Lord God Jesus Christ (in whichever order you wish). One or both of us will get back to you at our earliest convenience.”

“You know as well as I do that he only DIDN’T have a heart attack because it wasn’t God’s will that he do so.” – Steve. I had to diagram that sentence to follow your amazing verb structure. Impressive, sir.

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