VIRGINIA BEACH -- Carlos and Leigh Ellen Rodriguez hold their son's journal close since they can't hold him.
Passages written by 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez are inspirational, showing the strength and depth of his faith. In one line, Mark admits that some days it is very easy to love Jesus and enjoy the happiness in a day where everyone is being good to each other. But other days, loving Jesus is a determined effort that he calls just as rewarding.
Outwardly, the Rodriguezes are peacefully accepting the pain and loss of their son, gone in a moment of violence, taken too soon by a bullet fired at random. They say they knew something was wrong when Mark was 20 minutes past curfew. Carlos left the house, retraced his steps and came across Mark's crashed vehicle. He says he immediately began to pray -- for his son, the medical personnel who were going to be treating him and the person who shot him.
"I know it is much easier to be me right now than it is to be the mother of the shooter. One cannot explain why their child would do something like that," says Leigh Ellen.
"I remember saying to my friend 'I'm going to pray that I can forgive now because I may not be able to forgive later."
She says it's a difficult time, but she knows Mark is living with the Lord and their relationship with him isn't over, it's just different.
Last summer, Mark went on his own to Nicaragua and spent a month living at an orphanage. His parents recall it was very difficult at times to let him follow the voice of God he had within, but they knew they had to let this experience happen for him.
"I prayed that we would have a brave son who would love the Lord. I just forgot to pray that I would be brave enough to be his mom."
Rodriguez attended Norfolk Christian Schools. A celebration of his life will be held Wednesday, June 4 at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church of Norfolk at 7000 Granby Sttreet.
The Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach has established the following fund for the Rodriguez family: http://www.redeemervb.com/mark-a-roderiguez-memorial-fund
Mark's parents are asking in lieu of flowers a donation can be made to the International Justice Mission Organization: http://www.ijm.org/