Today is Mark’s birthday. He would be 36 years old. The boys would have called him to wish him a happy birthday and he would have told them what they would be doing this weekend to celebrate. I don’t know where he would take them but I assure you it would involve cheesecake and a steak. Those were his favorites. And boy, oh boy if we didn’t call early enough we’d start getting some messages like, “did you lose your calendar?” and “do I have to sing to myself?” You didn’t forget his birthday. He wouldn’t allow it. In fact, each year he declared the week of his birthday his “birthday week”. That’s right, he thought he should have an entire week to celebrate and he took it.
He’s been gone for 1o months now. I can hardly believe that. My body went tense as I typed it. This journey has been hard. There are days when we are numb. There are days when I have to remind the boys not to try to forget. I know how kids naturally attempt to cope. I always want them to keep Mark alive in their hearts. I don’t want them to forget in an attempt to escape the pain they feel. Ryan and I make it a point to talk about him regularly. I want to be sad. I want to be angry. Every time I hold one of my babies as they sob I want to ask why. Just, why? There was so much left unsaid, undone. I just wish there would have been a chance to say goodbye. Even still, I know we did. God allowed and provided opportunity for much closure prior to Mark’s death. He had made peace and voiced his love to all of us. We were able to express things to him too. I just wish I’d known because I would have said more and listened to him with greater intent. I would have hugged him one last time.
The crying and the bad days come randomly: a TV show the boys remembered he watched, a place he wanted to take them, and a couple of weeks ago we found his hand prints in the cement patio at my mom and dad’s house. Years ago Mark helped lay the foundation and before it dried we all left our hand prints there and etched our name into it. I had forgotten all about it and the boys had never seen it. There has been a piece of furniture over it for years but recently my dad moved it. I’m glad he did. That was a present from God. The tears welled up as I sat their and watched my babies put their little hands in the concrete mold of their daddy’s. Monkey looked up and said, “Ma! Look. I can touch, my Daddy!”
Somehow my dad is going to reverse the mold so we can duplicate it and put it here, at our house, in a memorial garden. Then the boys will have somewhere to visit when they feel the need. In the end I think it will be better than visiting a cemetery anyway. The boys each have an idea of what they would like to incorporate into it. I know it will be beautiful when we finish it. My brother is going to help too. At 14 he moved in with us so Mark partly raised him. They were very close. I want him to be a part of this too.
As much pain as we have felt and continue to feel I can’t help but be happy today. Without this day 36 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to have the time we had with him. On August 25th, 1975 God granted Mark passage into this world so I celebrate today because it was a gift to us. I just wish it would have lasted longer. The boys have been asking what we’ll do for his birthday. I didn’t know what to tell them. Then as I was writing this it occurred to me. Perhaps we’ll have steak and cheesecake and then we’ll plan to go somewhere this weekend. That’s what he would have done.
Happy Birthday, Mark. I didn’t lose my calendar this year and along with us I know there are thousands of angels rejoicing and singing Happy Birthday.You’ve been on our mind all week too so I guess you win. You get a birthday week even in heaven.
We love you. We miss you. We really wish you were still here but we know we’ll see you again in heaven.
If you would I ask that you’d say a prayer for my boys and my brother today. Also, for Mark’s parents and his siblings. I know today will be as rough for them as it is for us.