It's been a busy two days. There have been alot of hard questions asked by my boys. Whenever Mark died, I told them, straight up, that any question that they had about any subject, they could ask me. In return, I would be as honest and knowledgeable as I could. And in the event that I didn't know the answer, I'd tell them that, as well, and that we'd find the answer together.
The first questions from Benny were immediately after Mark's death. "Do we have to get rid of all his stuff? Are we going to sell his truck? Do we have to get a new dad now?" All three of those were asked in quick, staccato-like sound bytes; to all three, I gave an emphatic "no!" There have been other questions along the way, most of which I've been able to deal with, a few I've had to utter fast prayers before answering, and we've developed a healthy, open dialogue.
There's only been one question asked (by Andrew) that I chose to ignore, and he dropped. It was the dreaded, "What's sex, Mom?" inquiry, made during the stupid World Series, during one of the too-frequent adult men's commercials. Why...why...why! do those commercials play over and over during sporting events on tv? And even though they're only 30 seconds long, it seems like an eternity. I dodged the question, but if he'd persisted, we would've talked. If Mark had been here, he would've jumped into that discussion with both feet. Since I'm on my own, I made the split-second decision to let sleeping dogs lie, at least this time. Those talks will come soon enough, I'm afraid.
The most recent set of questions I'm fielding have come up on several occasions, usually while driving, with both boys sitting in the back seat. They ask me if I think I will ever remarry. Remarry? Me? I've been a widow for less than four months, and my 9 and 8 year old are thinking way down the road. How do I answer a loaded question like that?
I tell them that I honestly have no earthly idea. They know what we had with Mark. All three of us. It was great, it was magical, and it was the real deal. I tell them honestly that I don't know. If God has it in His plans, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Andrew tells me that he doesn't want to grow up without a dad, a male figure in this house. It breaks my heart. I tell both of them if it's something they really feel so strongly about, they should pray about it. That seems to satisfy them, at least for now.
Yesterday, I went clothes shopping for the boys. Somehow, they had outgrown almost every single piece of fall/winter apparel from last year, so I headed to JC Penney & Old Navy. At Old Navy, I was browsing and saw a woman I thought I recognized from the boys' school. I spoke as I walked by, but whenever she turned to face me, it wasn't who I originally thought it was. Instead of a mom from school, it was one of the ICU caregivers from Mark's July hospital stay.
As soon as I looked into her eyes, I remembered her. Although she did not directly care for my husband, she cared for me. She was out in the main area, always ready to talk or console me, to give me encouragement to keep doing what I was doing. Because what I was doing was hard. I went from hopeful on Thursday to hopeless on Saturday, as I watched him fight to stay, but slowly slip away. She, too, had lost a husband at a relatively-young age.
We small talked for a few minutes, before she looked deep into my eyes and asked how was I really doing? I told her honestly that we were making it, that it is still hard, but we're living. That's what Mark would want from us, he would be pissed if we weren't trying to move forward and embrace life and all it has to offer us. With no hesitation, nor any prompting from me, she said, "You know, he would not want you to be alone. He was one of the most unselfish people I've been around in that situation, and he & God will help you find someone to share your life with, your boys' lives with, whenever it is time." Whew. Now that one came from left field. At this point, I cannot imagine sharing my life with anyone else! I'm just now beginning to come around to the bare sad fact that I'm living my life without him, and getting my ducks in a row, making our little family of three plus one up above function on a day-to-day basis.
She told me that she grieved the loss of her first husband greatly, he died in the car on the way home from the hospital after bypass surgery. She visited the cemetery every day for a year after he died. After a bit more conversation, she introduced me to her current husband, whom she clearly loves deeply.
I don't know why I ran into her at Old Navy. I just know that she made me feel better about my life. Better about my current choices. And as I ponder in my heart the questions my boys ask me frequently about our future, I will tuck away her advice for now. My dreams, my hopes, and my plans for Mark Howell's sons and me are not written in stone anymore. We have to trust God to write the script, and faithfully follow along.
As the old gospel song goes, "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand. But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand."