2010-05-02 To Do List – Laugh with my Husband

We woke this morning to rain, lots of it. I considered the runners from the local Flying Pig Marathon. How would they cope? In my mind, I ran down a mental list of items I would want with me in the rain, should I have been one of those unfortunate flying pigs to persevere through the finish line. Luckily for myself and my family, I was not. My husband and I showered and dressed for church, ensured the teenagers were up and not snarling at our request for them to attend church this morning, gave Enzo several opportunities to go outside and perform admirably in the rain, to which each occasion, he rose then solemnly sulked away.

At mass, the congregation was celebrating First Communion, one of four classes that would celebrate that sacrament over the next two weekends. We met up with Mark’s parents, sat in our usual pew, Davis taking to his usual commitment of “going to use the restroom” as a means for distraction or procrastination towards actually sitting down for more than an hour.

Church was not overly crowded, as per typical on a sunny Sunday morning in Spring. Most had heard through the grapevine about the sacraments being celebrated. Coupled together with the torrents of water spilling out of gutters, the reasons were aplenty to stay in bed. But this morning, I had organized a sendoff for Mark, attended by our children and his parents, prior to his medical mission trip to Haiti. I had postponed this effort, mainly to postpone thinking about it, but the day had arrived when we had to all fully accept the reality of his decision to care for those who needed him more than we did for the week.

Fr. Anthony gave the homily to the second, and some third graders. He spoke about learning, and how coming to church represented the classroom of spirituality, and humility and love for God. And of course, the gospel shared was the one story that spoke volumes about any trip one might undertake to a ravaged country to which one has no ties, but only obligations, “Love One Another.”

I found myself through most of the mass holding on to Mark’s hand more so than usual. We laughed when I deduced that the music of late was not up to par for our Sunday Mass the Musical that we said we would one day bring to Broadway. The tempo had been slowed, perhaps a request by the newer pastor. The music still was uplifting, but nothing that would raise the roof or cause audiences to jump up from their seats and start singing.

When the service ended, the family headed home and Mark’s parents joined for a short order brunch. I had not really prepared any foods in advance, as I had done so for our Easter Brunch, no French Toast casserole, or Phyllo Pie. A few sausages in the oven. I could hardly ask Mark to stand in the rain, and cook over the grill, despite having done so for Thanksgiving and Christmas. A few slices of bread. Davis made the Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls, much to our delight, as we watched him struggle to open the rolled container, figure how to work the timer on the oven, and determine when the rolls were done.

During brunch, the conversation focused much on Shannon’s graduation and our disappointment that the ceremony would be held in the gym at her school, and not at the Oasis, as it had for Cheryl. There were rumors of families already securing reservations, when in fact, no word or letter had been sent to the parents with instructions to do so. A few zealous parents anxious to see their children off were nervous about not getting seats. These were probably the same that filled out their children’s college apps, helped with their homework, and made some calls to find them a summer job. Don’t get me wrong. We are as ready for Shannon to go, as she is to leave us. But I doubt one is ever really ready to admit their child has graduated into from the school of academics, into the school of life.

“Shannon, not to cut short this discussion, I said, “but since this was put together for your dad, I have a little exercise for us all today. I have a card I am sending around the table. I want to ask each of you to write down a one word prayer. One word that you want Mark to carry with you, that he can keep as a handy reference while doing his work.”

This was going to prove a problem for Mark’s Mom is who loves to chat and write in equal parts. It was agreed by all that I had the unfair advantage of knowing about the exercise in advance and therefore I knew what word I would write down. “Yep, when I thought of this exercise this morning, I knew what word I wanted to write, right away.” So, I quickly jotted that word down, and the card was passed to the others. In mere minutes, we had completed the task. Then, I asked each member to speak their word, and share a little of the sentiment behind the word.

Papa’s word was “proud.” How proud he felt that Mark had chosen this path and was following a call for help. Kaitlyn’s word was “remember”, to remember us all here, and that Mark would remember this experience for the rest of his life. Davis passed until he could clearly articulate the feelings behind his word. Shannon went next. “Changed” was the word she chose, because the Haitian people will be changed by Mark helping them, even just one person. And that Mark will be changed by this experience. Davis called for the chance to speak and used his word “hope” because Mark will be giving the Haitian people hope to believe in. Nana went next. The only word a mother could possibly write down. “Love” – because I love you and you have always shown so much love for others.”

Finally, my turn. “Openness”. Because Mark was open to making the decision to do this, because he will need to be open culturally, medically, in so many ways, when treating his patients, and because his openness will be a gift to others, to invite them into his circle of caring.

Of course, tears were shed. Then, I asked Mark, “What would your one word be?” And he barely squeaked out his prayer, “Starfish” We all looked at him quizzically, but Shannon knew right away what he meant. Since Mark was clearly choked up, Shannon went on to tell the story of a little boy who would go out after the storms, and throw the stranded starfish back into ocean. One day, a stranger stopped him on the beach and asked him, “Son, there are so many starfish out here, you will never get the job done. Do you think that’s going to make a difference?” The little boy didn’t respond, but instead, picked up another starfish, threw it into the water, and said, “Ït did to that one.”

As I write this now, I have just finished reading the orientation document for Mark so I don’t appear too ignorant when he starts speaking in acronyms. Kaitlyn is at work, Shannon with her boyfriend. Cher has yet to weigh in via text messaging with her “word” for Mark’s prayer card. Nana and Papa are probably making dinner, watching the evening news. And Mark is in the basement, playing Xbox with Davis. They are playing the FIFA soccer game and laughing hard at Davis who always loses at this game because he gets carded. A smile comes across my face when I hear Mark chuckle again. How lucky the Haitians will be to encounter Mark – smiling blue eyes and the vastness of his love.

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