Monday’s Navy Yard shooting ended with twelve innocent people murdered. One of them was Marty Bodrog.
Marty, along with his wife Melanie, was a faithful part of Immanuel Bible Church. He was the kind of guy who causes people to conclude that God gives certain men the grace to father daughters; Marty was gregarious yet gentle, towering yet kind. Indeed he had three daughters, Izzy, Sophie, and Rita—two of whom are still in high school, and all three have their father’s wit and gentleness.
He was imposing—over six feet tall—and had the combination of charisma and giant smile that made him seem even taller than he actually was.
Marty was a Navy man, and had retired earlier this year. He had risen through the ranks, and yet was also fully devoted to life at church. As news of his murder broke, the most common comment I heard was, “Marty was my girl’s Sunday school teacher.” Those at IBC knew Marty as this towering man who seemed like he was sailing through the hallways, his cargo was his crafts, and his port the 3 year-old Sunday school class, which he ran with Navy-like precision.
One Sunday, many years ago, there was an attempted hostile boarding of his class of 3-year-olds. A man came to pick up his daughter, but without the security ID bracelet. Marty did not recognize him—the mother had dropped her off—and refused to turn over the child. The father became agitated and demanded that Marty step aside. Instead he put his imposing frame in the doorway, making a naval blockade of the room. Eventually the mom came with the bracelet. Later Marty downplayed the situation: “I was only following orders!”
But don’t let his size or his military service mislead you. He was the kind of teacher that insisted on greeting the children at the door. Most of his kids had little idea how tall he was, because he was generally crawling on the floor with them. He insisted on leading the craft time because he used it as a spring board to talk about Jesus. He would talk to the parents as they picked up their kids, checking bracelets but also telling them all that their kids learned. He noted individual accomplishments too, and would tell parents what their kids prayed for and who they talked to during class.
As his own girls entered high school, the Bodrog home became the meeting place for students in the youth group. As parents came to pick up their students, they would inevitably encounter Marty at the door; he always had a few minutes to chat while the girls would make their way up from the basement or down from the bedroom, asking about other family members or how things were going in your life.
His smile was a beacon, and it was matched only by his gentle spirit. The only people he loved more than the kids he taught was the family God gave him. He was chauffer to his daughter’s ballet lessons, and there was no doubt that his priority was at home. He will be remembered as an exceptional dad.
Marty was someone that you would have wanted to know. Those that knew him wish they knew him more deeply, and those that simply passed him in the hallway must have thought to themselves, “who is this guy with the huge smile and arm full of art supplies?”
I wish I knew him better.
Yet we don’t fit in time and space. There are a hundred people and a hundred places we want to be in order to strengthen relationships. Marty’s life is compelling proof that people were designed to be known deeply, in a way that the busyness of life simply does not allow. People wish they knew him better, wish they had more time with him, wish their little kids had more than one year with him. But we are not made to do that here, in this life. That is what eternity is for.
For those that knew Marty, I pray that we will rejoice with him. He is celebrating in heaven, his smile bigger than ever.
There is a gap in the wall down here though. There is Melanie, who has lost her partner, the love of her life. There are three girls who will be missing their father at their weddings. The last class on the left will have a a new teacher with new crafts, and it won’t be the same. His absence leaves a hole in our heart and a wound in his family. When we notice that hole, may it cause us to long for heaven more—where we will have perfect fellowship with him forever.