Paralyzed in the car….

Today stinks. Yep, I’m just laying it out there. Went to Sunday School & church, had great messages both places, learning about leaving a legacy after you die. That’s something we should all strive for as Christians, to leave this place a little (or a lot!) better than when we first arrived.

But I find myself really angry today. As we drove home in the car following church, the boys were, well, being boys, playing with two balloons in the backseat. Their playful banter and laughing sounded so much like their dad’s. The closer we got to the house, the angrier I got. As we pulled into the driveway, I glanced at that truck that he loved to drive. I parked the car beside it, as I’ve done thousands of times. The boys scurried out, worried that one of the wayward balloons would find its way to the dog, never a good combination. I had my door open, purse in hand…but I could not move. Must’ve been 5 minutes before the boys realized that I wasn’t behind them, coming back to witness their mother with her head against the steering wheel of the car, sobbing.

I am so mad, God! Why did you take this wonderful husband and father? He had his whole future mapped out, our future, and now he’s gone. Is the future he planned for the four of us the future path I continue to follow? Or is there something else that You have in store for us? It’s hard being three when you’re used to being four. I know where he is, but I want him here with me, with our boys. God, I’m not mad at You, I’m just mad about the change in our plans. Guess they didn’t coincide with Yours. But I’m struggling. Struggling to find a routine that makes sense, that moves us in the right direction, and that keeps us looking toward You.

When does this get better? Everyone says “give it time”. Well, I don’t have alot of time. I have two boys depending on me to be both mom & dad for now. And for every good hour I have, I seem to have 4 that are not good. If my math skills don’t fail me, that’s only 20% of the time that my life doesn’t suck. Sorry about that word, ‘suck’, but it’s how Mark himself described his dilemma, only 2 days before his death. He raised that oxygen mask with just me in the room and said, clear as day, “This sucks!”. My response? “I know it does, sweetie, but all we can do is fight & try to make tomorrow suck a little less.” Those words spoke volumes about his situation. He knew he was in the fight of his life. And I thought that this strong healthy man would pull through.

Now I’m the one who has to “pull through”….the one that is determined to make “tomorrow suck a little less”. And it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life. Part of me wants to close all the drapes, go to bed, and curl up into the fetal position…for days. But I can’t do that. I don’t have the luxury. I have the two most important parts of his legacy looking to me for strength & guidance. And I couldn’t even get out of my car today.

Dear God in heaven, I know that when I am weak, You are strong. Today, at least during this hour, You must be enormously strong for all three of us.

What a day……

Well, the first day of our “dreaded weekend” went more smoothly than anticipated.  I have a suspicion that there were oodles of prayers being lifted up for us, especially as we approached the Little League field for A.J.’s game.  Brandon, A.J.’s coach, came up to me as soon as we arrived, wanted to know if I would be up for throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to AJ before the game, in memory & in celebration of Mark.  What could I say?  As long as Andrew was okay with it, I was game. 

I stood in that dugout as that coach huddled the boys together….some knew Mark, some didn’t….as he explained that AJ’s dad had passed away recently, and that the team was going to dedicate the entire fall season to Mark.  He also told them that Mark would not want them to be sad, but to live, be happy, and enjoy some baseball, ’cause that’s what he would be doing if he were here.

I headed out to the mound, Andrew to home plate.  His only instructions to me?  “Make sure you throw it over the plate!”  Brandon stood with me & explained to the crowd what we were doing.  I haven’t thrown a baseball in about a month, and I didn’t want to look like either President Obama or Bush with pitiful throws.  But I threw it hard, and it went across the plate.  The crowd cheered, and my son & I hugged.  I got to keep the ball. 

The Vernon LL team has probably been playing together since they were 3, ’cause they were good.  But my son went 2 for 2, had a couple of good plays at 1st base, and had an RBI.  Two dear friends, Amy and Randall, showed up shortly after the game began, so AJ had a good cheering section. 

A confession?  I’m 48 years old.  And I’ve never seen “The Lion King”….isn’t that sad?  So, to keep the day going on a positive note, the boys & I went to see it…. in 3D.  A great movie, although hard to watch as Simba’s dad is killed.  Think it upset me more than the boys.  They are so resilient, and seem to take things in stride a heck of alot easier than I do.  The theatre was full, with a varying audience age from babies to grandparents. 

The circle of life…it really has a deeper meaning.  I tried to explain to the boys on the way home that life is but a fleeting moment compared to eternity, even when someone lives to be 100.  But our spirituality was before we were born, and continues throughout eternity after we shed these clunky earthly bodies.  Or as my wise 9 year old put it, “Mom, death is just another part of life.” 

Mark’s mom emailed that his inscription for his mausoleum marker has been set.  I had 14 spaces for 4 separate lines.  How do you sum up a man’s life in four lines, 64 spaces? 

                     MARK H. HOWELL
                      OCT. 25, 1955
                      JULY 30, 2011
                    PHENOMENAL DAD

That fourth line?  His most important role,  the one he was most proud of (outside of being a child of God).  Amazingly, it took 14 spaces, no more, no less.

Be blessed….God is good,