Glancing at the calendar, I see that Mark’s birthday is a little over a week away. I’m dreading it. He, “Mr. Fun,” would always say that it was tradition, the birthday boy could get anything he wanted on that day. And boy, did he ever try! I’d prepare his favorite breakfast–homemade french toast, sausage, and grape juice–even if it meant getting up extra early. There was usually a cake involved, too, and we’d let him choose a special place to eat dinner. I have photographic evidence of more than one birthday celebrated at Texas Roadhouse, where he would never decline straddling the saddle while the staff whooped & hollered, wishing him a happy birthday. Where I would never have climbed on that saddle, he looked forward to and relished the option. He lived life to the fullest, each and every day. He didn’t let an opportunity, saddle or otherwise, go to waste. “Living like Daddy”…..he’s a tough act to follow.
I also see that I’ve been blogging a full month now. As I take a bit of time to re-read my posts, I can see that I’m still on that roller coaster, although some days seem less bumpy than they did a few weeks back. Immersing myself in God’s word, calling on Him whenever the loneliness gets almost too much to bear, and dedicating myself to being the best parent I can be for Andrew and Ben has kept me going.
Mark’s Aunt Elsie, sent a book to me last week, “Big Shoes,” which is a young widow’s story of loss, pain, and renewal. Her husband died at age 35, after a year-long struggle with a lung disease and subsequent transplant. Their son was only 4. I hungrily read that book from cover to cover in less than two days. There are so many differences in our stories…they had a year to prepare for his possible death. We had less than one day! I woke up after 3 hours’ sleep to a phone call from Mark’s ICU nurse, telling me that he was worse. From 7am that morning to almost midnight that night, I had to come to grips with the fact that he would not be going home with me, but would be going home to the Father.
Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. Those hours seemed to drag in some respects, but passed like the twinkling of an eye in others. He couldn’t communicate with words, but his eyes and his touch spoke volumes. And what he couldn’t say in words, I said. I don’t think I stopped talking, singing, or praying that entire time. I left nothing unsaid. I have no regrets, other than not having him with us for another 40 years.
Church had its tough moments for me today. I made it through “Blessed Assurance” almost the whole way without crying, losing it only at the very end. The boys went to children’s church, leaving me alone in the pew. That was Mark’s and my time together, just the two of us, during sermon time. But whenever I saw the final hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I knew I was in trouble. That hymn was one of his favorites. And if you’ve never been around Mark whenever he would sing, you don’t know what you’ve missed. He approached singing like everything else, giving it his all. His robust, engaging tenor voice was fun to listen to. I loved to watch whenever he sang in the choir, because you could see by the expression on his face that he was truly worshipping God in that instance.
Made it through the first verse/chorus….started breaking up in the second….but during the third, I just lost it. If you don’t know the words, the third verse concludes with ‘strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.‘ And as the final chorus was sung, I just stood and cried. Big old tears dripping down my face. ‘Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning, new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!’ I’ve heard him sing it many times, heard him humming it at home even more.
As we readied for the benediction, I opened my hands, just as I’ve watched him do for years. And I silently asked God to keep providing me and my boys with what we need. God’s faithfulness to us will see us through.