There is this gas station in Brooklyn Park, Bills, that I used to frequent. Now a days I am probably only in there twice a month or so. If I am going to be early for work I will go out of my way because they have the best donuts near my work. Bills is right across the street from my first property management job at Autumn Ridge. If you have read any of my Mark Memories posts you might remember that Autumn Ridge is where I met Mark. Mark lived right down the road from Bills when I met him, he managed Serenity Village House 7. I am willing to bet he went into Bills at least once a day. Most likely he would have bought a pack or two of Newport shorts, a coffee, and a Pepsi and Little Debbie snack cake for later. Oh and a mini Bic lighter, the kind I would find in the washing machine long after Mark "quit" smoking.
After Mark and I started dating we would occasionally go into Bills at the same time, and let me tell you, everyone in Bills knew him by name. As he left they would yell out "Have a great day Mark! See you tomorrow." I remember the last time Mark and I were in Bills together about a year ago, I can't remember why we stopped there, but I know it was just the two of us. It had been a while since his last time in, still the employees knew him by name. Mark made an impression, no matter where he went.
Yesterday morning it was only ten after eight and I had already dropped off the kiddos at daycare, so I decided it could be a donut from Bills day. Even with my mask on, the cashier recognized me. I don't know her name, I am sure Mark would have. She is excellent at her job, she is friendly, efficient, and as I said remembers all of her customers. Every time I have been to Bills since Mark died I have wondered if it would be the day that they not only recognize me but recognize me as Mark's wife and ask about him. Yesterday was that day.
The cashier was checking me out, after telling me my total of $5.38 she said, "Hey, your husband, what is his name again? He used to be in here everyday. I haven't seen him for a while." I pulled my phone out of my pocket and showed her the photo on my home screen, and asked "This is who you mean, right?" I wanted to be sure she had the right guy before I gave her the news. She enthusiastically responded with "Yes!! That's him! How is he doing? Its been so long!" First I decided to answer her initial question. "His name is Mark." Then I continued, "this isn't really the kind of news you want to give someone first thing in the morning, but Mark actually passed away at the end of July." I heard her audible gasp as I watched her smile leave her face. "He had a major heart attack." She responded in the most appropriate way with "I am so sorry." I thanked her and I left the store. As I walked out all I could think is that I had just broken this girl's heart. This is not the first time I had to tell someone of my husband's passing when they asked me the joyful question of "How is he doing!?" Every time I have had to answer I could see the despair on the person's face. The feeling I get when I have to tell someone that knew him is all together different than when I am only sharing what happened to me. The people who knew him visibly break, they are genuinely sad. I know that is because Mark lived his life so fully.
My husband had this incredible gift of making everyone in his life feel special. It didn't matter if he knew them well, or just a little bit, and to be honest it didn't even matter if he liked them. He had a gift for connecting. Mark had a very good memory, and never forgot an inside joke. He often touched people when he spoke to them, a shoulder squeeze, or sometimes a hug. Mark looked people in the eye and he was always kind. He never treated people like they were less than him, and he always shared his contagious smile. I can picture him so well, smiling and laughing with the Bills employees before he heads back out to his van and off to paint for the day. Mark is so missed from this world because he left such a huge space when he left.
This encounter left me thinking about two things. The first was just what I described, what an incredible impact Mark had on the people he met. I want to learn that from him, I want to do a better job of being a light in someone's day. I realize how easily I was drawn to him because of the light emanating from him. Do you bring light to other people's lives? Are you too caught up in what you have going on that you forget to smile and greet the cashier? I want to share the gospel with my attitude and actions more than with my words. The other thought was a bit more self centered. I thought of how much this woman's heart broke at the news of Mark's death. If her heart could be that sad, how is it even possible that I am still walking around with this broken heart of mine? Losing a spouse is the literal equivalent of your heart being torn in half. Mark 10:7-9 says "‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark and I became one, and although I will see him again, his absence from earth means half of my heart is absent with him. How is it possible that I wake up in the morning? How do I maintain my composure at work, especially when the petty complaints roll in? How do I smile and laugh with my children? I do not do it on my own. I serve the God of Restoration, He is the Almighty God who has a plan for my life. God promises me in 1 Peter 5:10 that he will restore me, make me strong, firm and steadfast. I can do nothing more than decide each day to trust Him, the God who has hasn't failed me yet. I must lean on Him and ask Him to fill in the gaps that Mark would have filled in our lives.
1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.