Took advantage of the first All Saints' Day after losing Mark by celebrating and remembering. You know, in all my years on this earth, I never really took notice of this most holy holiday.....guess up until now, it didn't really strike a chord with me. But today was different. An email from a dear friend here in Wichita Falls with All Saints' sentiments, coupled with two facebook messages, one from a high school classmate I just re-connected with in July, the other from a local friend who has just lost her father, all spoke to me, albeit in different ways. Two of the three friends have known Mark personally; the other has never met him. All three know the impact this good man has had on both our Howell, family of three, and the greater community.
One has lost a son to tragic circumstances & can identify with my grief journey. Another has had her share of trials in life, and knows that my husband loved her and her sons mightily. The third, who just lost her daddy, tells me that from reading my blog and posts, she feels that she can go on, that the grief doesn't have to define who she is.
I feel blessed to call all three of these women friends. All three are from different phases of my life; if you stood us all side-by-side, you might not see our similarities with the naked eye. Yet, on a spiritual level, we are all sisters in Christ. We share a bond that can never be broken and will always keep us connected. Whether you've lost a best friend and spouse, a child, a daddy, or dreams & relationships, you grieve. Each path is different, just as each person is. But the God of us all never lets go of our hand, even through the valley of the shadow of death, through circumstances that we think that we can never process.
One told of a balloon release done in honor of her son, and that option had already crossed my mind today. Her suggestion reinforced my decision, and I took it as a sign from above to move forward with my original plan. Sunday, 11/6, our church will honor those members who have died this past year, and we'll place a rose at the altar in Mark's memory. What better way to prepare our boys for that ceremony than to make today a celebration of their daddy's life? Balloons are fun and festive, and the boys were all for it. We talked about what a saint was, and they both agreed that Mark was a new saint and deserved a special ceremony to initiate him into the "club." I brought home beautiful purple and white balloons, and we traipsed to our big backyard. One by one, we took turns, holding a balloon in our hands, as we talked to our daddy and husband. My mom even took a turn. I loved hearing the boys talk to their daddy, their love and faith is so pure, yet so simple. How I pray for the level of faith they have! Sure, there were a few tears...but the smiles and laughs far outnumbered them.
It's impossible to remember my husband without smiling---forget that, if you knew him at all, you'd be laughing! He lived life to the fullest, with gusto, and love, fun, and humor. He may not have lived long enough, years-wise, but he put more living into 55 years than most folks do if they live to see 100.
So we laughed through our tears as the balloons sailed away, confident that we'd done Daddy proud. Now, our sons are more prepared for the Sunday service, and for a service to be held in a couple of weeks at the chapel of the hospital where Mark died.
I know that Mark's in great company, up with the rest of the saints, keeping a good watch over loved ones. I know that he is close by, because I can feel him. I know that I will see him once again someday. And I know that he is proud of us and the decisions we are making. It makes life bearable. It keeps me honest. It keeps me praying. It keeps me smiling and looking upward. And it keeps me going.