Are you Mark Howell’s Wife?…..

Today has been hard.  I started out crying, as I awakened to a song that reminded me of Mark.  Lying there in the darkness, on my side of our big bed, I cried for all the dreams we had as a family.  I cried because I miss him snoring beside me.  I miss his laugh, his great, strong hugs, and the way he filled a room with that gregarious, infectious personality.  His sons need him. 

But since they can’t have him here physically, it means I have to be enough…so I wake the boys as another school day awaits us.  Andrew notices that I’ve been crying and knows why.  Ben, thankfully, was a bit too sleepy to see my red eyes and drippy nose. 

Ben still insists that I park the vehicle and walk him to class. I don’t mind, and it’s funny….before Mark died, I probably wouldn’t have gone into the school sans makeup, but now, I just throw on my running clothes, slap a ballcap on my head, and I’m on my way.  I do make sure that I match, so I haven’t totally abandoned my formerly-vain self 🙂

Speaking of running, I put in another 3.4 miles.  Cried some more.  I’ve learned to tuck a few tissues into my fanny pack.  Somedays I don’t need them, but today, boy, did I ever!  My mix of music, which I’ve eased back into listening to, is about 300 songs.  They randomly play, with no apparent rhyme or reason.  During my last 5 runs, I’ve heard the same 2 songs at some point on the trail.  They are:  “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, and “I Am” by Bon Jovi.  Kansas was really Mark’s all-time favorite group, and those of you who know he’s a Kansan through and through will understand.  But the words!  Oh my goodness, those words and the haunting melody mean so much more to me now that he’s gone:

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind 

And the other, by BonJovi?  It’s been our special song for the past few years.  Mark never much cared for my cd selection whenever he would drive my car.  Imagine that, a man that doesn’t particularly enjoy listening to Pink or Katy Perry.  Thankfully, he found Bon Jovi’s cd, Have a Nice Day, and liked it.  “I Am” is beautiful.  Here are the lyrics:

How you spend your minutes are what matters
All tomorrows come from yesterday’s
When you’re feeling broke and bruised and sometimes shattered
Blew out the candles on the cake like everything’s a big mistake
It seems you always wait for life to happen
And your last buck can’t buy a lucky break
If all we’ve got is us then lifes worth living
And if you’re in, you know I’m in
I’m ready and I’m willing

I Am
When you think that no-one needs you
Sees you or believes you
No ones there to understand
I Am
I’ll be there to be that someone
When you think that no one, is there to hold your hand
I Am

We’re just who we are, there’s no pretending
It takes a while to learn to live in your own skin
Say a prayer that we might find our happy ending
And if you’re in, you know I’m in
I’m ready and I’m willing


And I aint got no halo hanging over my head
I aint gonna judge you, I’m just here to love you
I Am
I Am

There’s actually one other one that seems to keep re-playing, as well, but I will save that one and see what comes of it.  I came home from the trail all cried out, but content.

Mark and I moved to Wichita Falls in 1992.  We knew no one here at that time.  New town, new neighbors, new church, new jobs, new everything.  He jumped in, headfirst, and got involved immediately in city and community work, using his job as a foundation for life-long relationships.  And he was very good at it.  A couple of years after we moved here, he came home and sheepishly said, “Honey, folks are starting to recognize me whenever I’m out and about in town.” I laughed.  My reply?  “You’re full of you-know-what.  There’s no way people are recognizing you this soon after moving to town!” But he insisted, saying residents were, indeed, doing so.  I still didn’t believe him. 

A few weeks later, we were at a gas station.  He was outside, filling the tank, while I sat in the passenger’s seat.  As God as my witness, the guy filling up his truck next to us looked at Mark and said, “Say, aren’t you Mark Howell???”  The look on Mark’s face as he glanced at me was priceless….he beamed that magnificent smile, and replied, “Why yes I am…and you are?”  Man, did I ever take alot of teasing for not believing him.  And, of course, as the years passed, more and more people recognized him.  He was on television often, and had his weekly outdoor column with the local paper for the past 6 years. 

Fast foward to today.  I took the boys to church for choir and handbell practice, then headed to JC Penney for a little shopping therapy.  An older lady working there was straightening sweaters, and I greeted her as I was looking around.  She was so pleasant and sweet, we began discussing sales and the upcoming holidays.  Whenever she mentioned Thanksgiving, I mentioned that I was dreading the holidays since losing my husband at the end of July.  She stopped in her tracks, quizzically looked at me and said, “Are you Mark Howell’s wife?”  And I replied, “Why yes I am.”

She told me how she read his weekly columns.  Of how sad she was whenever she learned of his death.  While reading his obit she asked God why did He have to take him away from his young sons, his wife, and his community that he was doing so much for.  She told of how she’s now following my weekly musings and enjoying them.  We talked for a few more minutes, I encouraged her to join the Texas Master Naturalists group, which he began, and we exchanged goodbyes.

As I crawled into my car to head back to church, I was overcome with a mixture of amazement, sadness, and thankfulness.  Amazed that I had been recognized, only a mere two months after beginning my paper writing.  Sad that Mark wasn’t here to be proudly beaming about it.  And thankful that I had been given the opportunity to continue his work, even in some small way, in this community.  God continues to give me exactly what I need, when I need it.  I needed that moment in Penney’s today. 

I vowed in that car this afternoon that I will try to do more of what he would’ve continued in this community if he had lived.  I’ve applied for one of the vacant positions on the city’s Park Board.  He served on it for more than one term, and I hope to get the opportunity to serve, as well.  I will continue to write for the paper as long as they’ll put up with me.  I’ve been invited to go out on the water with his crew, for trap netting and electrofishing. 

There are other ideas I have, floating around in this sometimes-foggy brain, and we’ll see where God leads me.  Mark left some awfully big shoes to fill, but the path he laid out and walked is crystal clear.  I just need the faith to follow it, put my own spin on it, and continue his work.  Mark believed I could do anything, he told me that on a regular basis.  And you know what?  I’m finally beginning to believe it myself. 

Stay tuned.  This could be the start of something…..