September has always been a busy month for our family. For most families it includes the hustle and bustle of sending kids back to school and transitioning back into evenings filled with homework and regularly scheduled bedtimes. In our house September was not only the start of the school year but the end of Mark's busy season at work, meaning his 80 hour work weeks would slow down, much to my relief. September for our family also meant celebrating Labor Day, Samara's birthday on the 11th, our wedding anniversary on the 19th and then Mark's birthday on the 25th.
Of course this year, 2020, our September was all together different. This September brought so much sorrow.
September 1st was the day of my Grandmother's funeral. She passed away in April. I remember the morning so well, I got a call from my dad telling me the news. It was early, I went and woke Mark up. He just held me and listened to me talk and cry. On that morning it never would have occurred to me that he wouldn't be with me on the day we put her to rest. I sat in the church that day, the church grew up in, every bit of it so familiar, and cried my way through the beautiful memories and music that described my firecracker of a grandmother so well. I tried to think of what she would tell me about the loss of my husband if she was there. All I can think is that she would have said "Well Meg, now is the time to lean on the Lord." I hugged my grandpa that day, knowing we had a shared sorrow, though I couldn't imagine losing a spouse after being together for an entire lifetime. Then I thought about how much my grandma loved Mark, a man she knew she had prayed into my life, and I thought that they must have been rejoicing together in heaven.
September 11th was the day our beautiful daughter Samara turned 2. My heart was broken that day, at the thought that she only had her dad for one birthday. How do I raise a little girl that will barely remember the sound of her father's voice or the feel of his embrace? Samara was born on September 11th, 2018. In the United States 9/11 is a day most all of us immediately associate with the deep sadness, grief and remembrance for lives lost. I found it interesting that Samara chose to enter the world on that day, after being 5 days late. Now I think that God decided I needed the reminder that He can provide abundant joy in the midst of sadness and grief. Samara Grace Thomas is a wonderful bundle of ear shattering joy. And as her daddy would always say "Grace, you turned out pretty cute."
September 15th we celebrated the life of my Uncle Ron. He had passed months before but we had to wait to lay him to rest. His service was uniquely beautiful. I was so grateful to celebrate knowing that his pain and suffering on earth was over and that he was able to dance and sing in worship to the Lord. I hope that Mark and Uncle Ron have connected in heaven, so Mark can see the side of Uncle Ron that wasn't muddied by his mental health struggles, so he can see the never-ending joy for the relationship he has with Jesus. Maybe they could even perform a few raps together.
September 19th, what would have been our 5 year wedding anniversary. The weather was beautiful, a little windy, but the sun was shining bright. It reminded me of the same day 5 years prior. In 2015 it rained a lot in September, and we had planned an outdoor wedding. It rained for the 2 days prior and the 2 days after, but on that beautiful Saturday there was not a cloud in the sky. I know we were both nervous, the decision we were making would change every aspect of our lives, and we didn't even know how much yet. This year I knew it would be hard to "celebrate" without my Marky by my side, especially because we had already talked about how we would celebrate. But I went out and tried paddleboarding for the first time, on the way out on the lake it was as still as could be, the way back was windy and difficult, I even had to get off the paddleboard and trudge through the water a bit, but I made it back to shore! I suppose that in itself is a good symbol of what marriage looks like. Being on earth without Mark is likely to feel like trudging through water more times than not, but God has promised I will make it. I remembered the promise we made on that day and I promised to keep it even through Mark's death. Ruth 1:16-17 "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me ever so severely if even death parts me from you."
September 25th is the day that Mark would have turned 38. Though I think to myself that 37 is so young to lose your life, I remind myself that 38 is 20 years more than he expected. You could look up the statistics for young black men that grow up on the South Side of Chicago, but by 18 many are dead or behind bars. Somehow Mark made it to 37, and he was grateful for every second he had. We missed him so much on his birthday, I know I would have told him "Happy Birthday" at least 100 times. In honor of Mark on his 38th birthday I got a tattoo. I want to be able to be reminded that he loves me at just a glance at my arm. The tattoo reads " I love you with all of my heart. My love for you will never leave; Love always, Mark" it came from the first birthday card he ever wrote to me and it brings me comfort every time I read it.
September 30th marked 2 months without Mark on earth, 2 months that he had been present with God. So many firsts happened in just those short 2 months. However, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."