markandlei

“…on the early morning of 11/04/2010, two CHP officers initiated a high-speed chase on I-580 in San Leandro. The chase continued for 7-8 miles because the CHP officers just HAD TO give the driver of the fleeing vehicle a speeding ticket! Then the chase continued onto the Oakland streets (AKA-OPD territory, NOT CHP territory) because the CHP officers just HAD TO give the that driver a speeding ticket! About a mile into Oakland, at the corner of MacArthur & 106th, is where the chase tragically ended and you took your last breath…but no one got a speeding ticket.”

Mark’s 1st Heavenly Birthday - 110411

It was such a beautiful day Friday! Close family, friends & I got to spend a couple hours at the cemetery where Mark’s earthly body rests. Fellowship was amazing…

Mark spent his last evening on earth at worship rehearsal, so it was fitting that we plugged in my ipod and sang our hearts out, praising and worshiping our Heavenly Father who “gives and takes away.”

We talked, laughed, cried and reminisced together.

Then, we went to LyLuck for some Chinese food and goofed-off:).

(He) was gone and he would never be back. That was the reality. She would never again run her fingers through his soft hair, never share a secret joke across the table at a dinner party, never cry to him when she got home from a hard day at work and just needed a hug; she would never share a bed with him again, never be woken up by his fits of sneezes each morning, never laugh with him so much her stomach would ache, never fight with him about whose turn it was to get up and turn the bedroom light off. All that was left was a bundle of memories and an image of his face that became more and more vague each day.

Their plan had been very simple. To stay together for the rest of their lives. A plan that anyone within their circle would agree was accomplishable. They were best friends, lovers and soul mates destined to be together, everyone thought. But as it happened, one day destiny greedily changed its mind.

— 

Ahern, Cecelia (2004-02-03). PS, I Love You (p. 1-2). Hyperion. Kindle Edition.

I’ve been KILLING myself trying to keep from reading “PS, I Love YOU” for weeks now. I’ve decided to just do it! Dive into the darkness! Get it over with!

I watched the movie once with Mark, then once again without him. Both times I cried…each time for different reasons.

Chapter ONE, page ONE already has me in tears…

I’ve been on my computer for about 3 hours now trying to register for classes I need online. The registration server is super slow due to “high volume,” so I’ve been going back and forth between it and my old blog. Reminiscing over the last year and how far the girls and I have come in terms of grief.

I came across this particular blog and realized that THIS is why I didn’t turn into some bitter, hateful, crazy widow who wanted nothing but to find someone to blame for my man’s death! DISCERNMENT! WoW! Thank you JESUS!

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387 days ago, at about this time, Mark told me that he loves me “more” and left for work. Those precious last words will never leave me. Of all the things he ever said to me during our time together, "I love you more" is the only phrase I can practically hear him say to me over and over, every day.

This is something that has changed my life. Obviously, in many ways…but mostly because I am now more careful than ever about the words I speak to others. Especially my family and friends. Sometimes I catch myself thinking “this may be the last time I see her - does she know that I love her?”

I didn’t need Mark to say he loved me in order to know and feel it. He never left without saying "bye baby" and kissing me on the forehead or a peck on the lips…even after disagreements or misunderstandings. BUT if those weren’t the last words I heard his voice speak…if, for some reason, we got into an argument and he left without saying a word…or if we were one of those couples who speak hateful, demeaning, disrespectful words to one another - I’d imagine it would be extremely difficult to find peace in the midst of grief. If our last interaction was hostile, or even emotionless - my grief would be intensified every time I’d think of those moments.

It’s just another thing I’m eternally grateful for. Thank you Jesus.

“Suppose I should be helping myself.” “Pah!” Sharon spat, waving her hand dismissively. “Whenever you’re ready. Don’t mind all those people who say that you should be back to normal in a month or two. Grieving is all part of helping yourself anyway.”

She always said the right things.

—  Ahern, Cecelia (2004-02-03). PS, I Love You (p. 15). Hyperion. Kindle Edition.
111111

Yesterday (111111) was the 1st anniversary of the day we put Mark’s body to rest at St. Mary’s cemetary in Oakland.

I remember it so clearly…the last time I touched his handsome face and spoke to him before the casket closed, the weeping I couldn’t control no matter how much I tried as I got into the car at the chapel, my sister saying “turn around” in the church to see the sea of loved ones mourning my precious husband, the beautiful words spoken by Pastor Ron (total understatement…no words can express how grateful I am to him), meeting the hurting friend/coworker who Mark was on his way to pick up that early morning for work…hugging him and trying to assure him that Mark’s death is NOT his fault, the odd November heat at the burial site, the indescribable beauty that helpped me remember that God was with me in the middle of my grief, Mark’s friends who sang so beautifully…”One Sweet Day” & “Still”, My bro-in-law, Pastor Nick reminding us all that Mark is in Heaven with his Heavenly Father, wanting so badly to break down as they lowered the casket…but repeated “quiet strength” in my head over and over until I got myself together, leaving the cemetary and feeling the numbness begin to fade away as I realized I really would never see my man again until the Lord calls me home.

I miss my honey-bunches-of-oats so much. His face, his touch, his beauty, his voice. The smile that made me melt, and the caring eyes that I loved to stare into. His strong arms that kept me safe and warm. Everything he was to the girls and I…the way he proudly wore the role of “Papa” on his chest. sigh

I miss my man.

Gone but not forgotten: Mark Matthew Aragon…

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Mark’s 1st Heavenly Birthday - 110411 - Part 2

After lunch some of us headed to the Berkeley Pier to walk off our food coma.

I’ve always been scared of heights and great, big bodies of water. Our entire relationship, Mark plotted and planned on ways to get me on a boat or a roller coaster. We’ve done ferry rides around the Bay a couple of times, but that’s about it. As for the roller coaster, well…I’d say he succeeded considering the emotional one I’ve been on thanks to him! ;)

One day when we first moved back to the Bay from SoCal, Mark brought me here. At first, I thought nothing of it. The second we stepped on the pier and I noticed the water below through the cracks of the wood. I THOUGHT I WAS GONNA PASS OUT!!! 

We walked side-by-side. My left side GLUED to his right. He held my right hand with his left hand and held me tight with his right arm. It probably took us an hour to walk all the way. At times I wanted to turn around but he said he wouldn’t come with me, and I didn’t wanna walk it alone… (booger!)

By the time we got to the end he explained the break in the Pier and how far it used to go. That, of course, freaked me out more because it happened during the big ‘89 earthquake. So I was thinking about how if an earthquake were to happen while we were standing there at the very furthest point we could walk, we’d be a shark’s dinner!!!

We hung out there for a long time before I was able to go beyond the fear and take notice of God’s creation. It was a beautiful night. Clear, starry sky and the moon’s reflection on the water took my breath away. From where we stood, I could see the Bay Bridge, the city lights of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Rafael Bridge. It wasn’t foggy at all. In fact, we could see crazy people in kayak’s just paddling around like it was a sunny day at the beach!

After I grew more comfortable, Mark asked me if I was happy he brought me out there. I said “yes,” and he said I owe him one thing. I’m thinking he was gonna ask for a kiss, a song, or a massage (his usual 3 requests:)). He asked me if I trusted him. I said “of course I do.” I started to get a little nervous thinking he was gonna run to the car and leave me to walk back by myself or something!

My crazy husband walked to the side of the pier (see picture) and said “have a seat.” I laughed out loud  because he just had to be joking! He just stood there staring at me like I was the crazy one! He didn’t say a word and kept staring at me with a “but you said you trust me" look on his face. Without saying a word, I walked over and he helped me get my butt up on the wooden rail. I was facing the pier with my back to the water, holding on to him for dear life! I don’t know how to explain how he did it, but the man got me turned around while kicking and screaming (but giggling at the same time) and next thing I knew, I was facing the gorgeous moonlit water and leaning back in his arms.

This all sounds like a scene from some fiction romance novel, I’m sure…but so does the rest of our love story. I’m so blessed to still have more memories with the love of my life to write about. When I’m old and gray, I’ll have these written memories to lean on…as will my beautiful daughters, and their children, and on and on. 

***

After walking the pier, we went back to Oakland for some dessert at a place both Mark and I spent a lot of time at growing up - FENTON’S! :) Followed by more food because my mama insisted on cooking us all dinner and more people over who had work or school and couldn’t spend the earlier hours with us.

In a nutshell - I fell asleep around 3am on 110411 a broken, aching, grieving MESS. Woke up at 7:30 COMPLETELY refreshed, as if I slept all night! Spent the day with people who love and care for us and miss Mark like crazy. Then the girls and I ended our evening at the Haights. Our favorite place in the whole wide world. I fell asleep around 1am on 110511 a thankful, grieving, BLeSSeD widow who had just celebrated her husbands 1st Heavenly Birthday the best way possible.

1 Year

Philippians 1:21 - For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Psalm 116:15 - Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Happy 1 year Heavenly Birthday my love. No matter how much I know you’re in a better place right now, I’ll be spending the rest of my days here on earth missing you. I’ll always be YOUR Babee, and you’ll forever have my heart. 1434

The last day of "normal"...

7:45 - Mark was on his way to drop off the kids to school. Isa was first at Carl Munck - then to Skyline for Keila, Alana & I believe Aaron too - then all the way to Claremont to drop Jin off. This morning, Jin mentioned that one thing she remembers was the view of the sunrise each morning on her way to school. I love it when the kids recognize the beauty of God’s creation! I feel like Mark and I helped them learn to appreciate that caliber of beauty -so great that many take for granted…

After all the drop off’s, I’d get a BBM telling me he missed me already. Like clockwork! I am not a morning person, so he’d message me to see if I fell back asleep after he kissed me goodbye for the day. On BlackBerry Messenger, he was able to see if I had read the message he sent, so if I didnt reply or if he saw that I hadn’t read it, he would would give me a wake-up call before heading in to work at Best Buy. That morning, he had to call me.

For some reason, majority of the conversations I remember having with him that day had to do with laundry. I desperately needed to do a couple loads and needed him to get quarters on his way home. He had so much going on that he often forgot things like that which is why I was his daily reminder of things needed. Funny thing is, he was the same for me in some things. Mainly, my wake-up calls and my reminders to take my meds throughout each day. Ahhh…we completed each other.

***

A family of five w/ one means of transportation was such a pain sometimes! I can see the blessings in the pain now…but back then it was so frustrating! And it didn’t help any that he refused to let me take public transportation or to walk around Oakland. I remember the few times I had to in order to get to school or back - he made sure to be on the phone with me the entire time. Gosh, I miss my security guard:/.

I wish I did all the drop-off’s to school and work now. It woulda been nice to have those extra moments to spend together. But, gas was ALWAYS an issue in our Suburban (aka-“Bubz”).

I miss that 2004, charcoal grey, gas-guzzler, oddly. I never really thought about it till now. Sometimes it felt like we lived in that “boat”! So many memories. Music, laughing, back-scratching, debates, hand holding, stories, mess, joking, eating, yelling, lecturing, grossing the kids out w/ our mushiness…MARK!

3:54 - Right about now, a year ago, Mark had gotten home w/ the kids. Jin told me today that she remembers the ride home from school that day. Mark had a bunch of mini-starbursts from halloween and would open some, hand some to Jin, then throw some to Isa in the far back row of the truck. He always meant to take a power nap on Wednesdays before worship practice in Lafayette, but not that day. He sat in front of his computer instead. He was browsing www.christianaudio.com for the next audiobook for us to get.

6’ish - That night, I didnt go to worship practice because I wasnt gonna sing the following Sunday since my sisters and I were scheduled to be outta town for our semi-annual sistah’s getaway. My heart breaks everytime I think of not going. I’d give anything to have been with him worshiping and praying for the last time…

While he was gone, I downloaded “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. It was the free audiobook of the month and we always enjoyed his books.

10’ish - I don’t remember what time he got home, but I do remember him asking me to copy the audiobook onto his micro-sd so he can listen to it from his blackberry. I did, while he went to sleep since he had to work later.

***

I’m not 100% sure about the times after Mark went to sleep, but here’s the gist of what went down (copied from my original post from December 2 at 10:37pm):

"I still remember waking you up for work…you downing your Strawberry Muscle Milk shake w/ frozen strawberries…sitting on the couch talking about our plans for the next few days…you tucking me in on the couch where I was catching up on all the DVR’d shows…you kissing me goodbye and telling me you love me…me saying my usual "I Love You MORE"…then for the first time ever, you said "no, I Love You MORE" then closed the door fast so I didn’t have a chance to reply. I remember thinking "oh nu-uh!" and was gonna run out to you to set you straight, but you had tucked me in so comfy… Dang, I wish I did now:(."

Minutes later (it seemed…really about 2 hours later), I heard voices and footsteps outside that came closer and closer to the front door. My first reaction was to stay completely quiet. Living in the area we did, I was afraid it was either someone about to try and rob us - or just some drunk kids taking a shortcut to the apartments/homes behind us. Then came the knock on the security gate. I remember jumping up and turning off the lights and was about to look for something I could use as a weapon when Keila came out of her room and said “mommy, it’s the police!” (The window in her room is right next to the front door.)

"I remember the knock on the door…the police officers and your parents telling me what happened…then complete disbelief! I was numb. There was no way this was happening! I kept telling the officers that what they were telling me was impossible because I just sat with you on the very couch they were sitting on a couple hours before! I said "we were just talking about getting quarters for the laundry and his nephews birthday party on Saturday." That’s the only specific thing I recall saying to them. The rest of the time I was talking out loud to the Lord, begging for this to not be happening. I didn’t even cry…I couldn’t believe it enough to cry about it! It wasn’t until Pastor Ron and Kimberly, then my parents and sisters walked in that I began to realize that I wasn’t in the middle of a nightmare…

The rest of the day was a blurr. Ate Lane said I would weep deeply, then fall asleep. Then wake up weeping, then fall asleep again. I can’t even picture it! I’m a quiet crier. I can’t remember the last time (before this) that I’ve cried out loud, let alone weeping!”

As described best by Jerry Sittser in his book, A Grace Disguised, "I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.

And that was the last day of “normal” I’ll ever know…

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Sorry for not replying to texts/messages right now. It’s comforting to know you all care…thanks for lookin out. This song pretty much sums up the way I feel right this second. Lots of “stuff” consuming my thoughts. But I’ll be fine - I’ve been told to expect a lot of what I’m feeling by fellow widows. I love you! ~lei

Happy Anniversary of your last day on earth. Memories of a year ago have already started to consume us…even Jin insisted on wearing her “Papa shirt” today, knowing we’re all wearing our shirts tomorrow when we go visit your bones. Miss you. 1434

1,111 days.

Seems like such a BIG number. Sometimes it feels that way too, but other times it feels like just 3 years.

I remember wondering how I would make it through 1 day…1 week…1 month…1 year - and here I am. 1,111 days living as a widow and single mama.

Strength that can only come from the Lord is how. There is no other possible explanation! Alone I am a weak, tired, empty mess - but by His grace and for His glory I am here writing with this in mind:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I pray that my testimony can bring comfort and hope in Jesus Christ to those who need it…

My last post was on Thursday, December 22, 2011. That was 3 weeks and 1 day ago, but it seems like it’s been much longer…

Just when I was beginning to get consumed with my own grief…missing Mark for the second “Holiday Season” without him, I got a phone call from one of my best friends (Nicole) telling me to meet her and our other best friend (Annah) at the hospital. “It’s Jeff!”

Jeff is Annah’s husband. A dear friend who made everyone feel like family. An amazing Papa to his son and daughter. A Godly man who wasn’t ashamed of sharing the Gospel. 

On December 19th, he was here on earth. New job. New home. New church family. Establishing new daily routines for his family. Then on December 20th, he joined his friend Mark and other loved ones in Heaven.

I’m so very proud of Annah and the kids and how they’re clinging to Christ in the midst of their pain. I know there are no words, and nothing I can do to take the pain away, but it’s so comforting to know that they know that God is with them in the midst of their pain and that their strength comes from HIM and Him alone.

We miss our men so much, but we know they’re up there watching over us while eating sushi bake and talking about gadgets and techy stuff:).

It’s amazing how God can use tragedy to create clarity! I thought I was all good and great - until 11/4/2010 when my faith and relationship with the Lord began to really grow!

I like to imagine the Lord coming to Mark before the collision and saying “Son, if I told you that Leila’s relationship with me would grow leaps and bounds if you come home with me right now, would you come?” Mark woulda gladly said “YES!”

This imagination of mine has helped me tremendously in my grief journey…