Instead of Sheep

(Diana’s remarks at the Celebration of  Mark’s Life, January 22, 2017)

Thank you all for being here today to honor Mark Hendricks, the greatest man I have ever known.   If you have known Mark, seen the tribute website, or heard the words and songs here today, you are going to know a lot about him.  Please allow me to tell you a little you might not know.

Before we began dating, Mark was diagnosed with health problems that had gone undetected for too long and had already caused other complications.  He  warned me that his doctors had told him that he might not live eight to ten more years. Even if the doctors were right, we had found each other and we knew what we were in for – and we vowed to celebrate every day loving one another.

On January 24, 2004, 13 years ago this week, he asked me to marry him. Today, I can honestly tell you that I would have wished for forty more years with the great love of my life. But we got thirteen so I guess we “beat the house” on that one.

As you know, Mark and Becky had DeLynn and Patrick, and Kent and I had Jenni, Sterling and HalleyAnna.  Blending a family can be a challenge, but ours came together, even if often in a chaotic way.  Patrick and HalleyAnna grew into kindred spirits as they grew into adulthood. .DeLynn asked Jenni and HalleyAnna  to be bridesmaids in her wedding, and Sterling quickly considered Patrick the little brother he always  wanted. Through chaos and fender benders, boyfriends and grandchildren, we have watched the family grow.

When Kent died in 2015, I was there. When Mark died, Becky was here.

Remember when they used to call those “broken homes?”   We are thankful for this blended family gathered here today.  We are family. And I am so proud of each of you. And we are so blessed to have Mark’s 92-year old mother Mary living within walking distance.  Not only do we get to celebrate all of our holidays together,  but she has led by example and offered me sound  advice for getting through this time of heartbreak and sadness, in the true manner of a  Marine Colonel’s widow.

In 2014, when we adopted Barkley from PAWS animal shelter – Mark was convinced that it was Barkley who rescued us, rather than vice versa. Barkley is pretty much the best dog in the world, and I don’t make such boasts lightly.(Note that we have never made such claims about  any of our five children!)

We have filled the past thirteen years with the stuff that sappy love song are written about.  We have had fun and traveled, had parties and good friends. Kim and Winton Porterfield are about as close to next of kin as we can get. And the outpouring of true friendship in the past two weeks has been overwhelming. I will never be able to thank each of you enough for all you have done to help us get through this time.

We were so lucky.  Who knew love could be so easy? We have chronicled those precious years in notes and journals, cards and letters.  On our first anniversary – the traditional paper gift year –  he wrote a note to me on a standard sheet of paper. It began with: “Paper is an interesting substance. It can be torn but also has remarkable strength. Take a typical piece of paper. Yes, if you start at one edge, you can tear it apart. But if you hold it by two edges at the same time and try to pull it apart, you can’t do it.  There’s something meaningful about the kind of strength in paper. One of us could be torn, but together we cannot be pulled apart…”

He was right.  We have stumbled,  and hit a few walls, but we were never pulled apart.  Father Ben reminded me this week that Mark and I are still together, and it’s okay to still talk to him – and hear him –  – and be “us.” Even if It is in a different way.

Mark brought three important lessons to our marriage that have served us well.

  1. We are on the same side. We never argued. We debated sometimes but we were on the same side – we both wanted the best for US – and we knew that working together, things would work out.
  2. Do one thing at a time.. Do your best, and move on to the next thing. (That has certainly come in handy in the last couple of weeks.)

3.. “It will be seamless. Trust me.”  Stop worrying . When I would fret about the what if’s and consider all of the bad things that MIGHT happen, Mark would remind me what his father told him. Generally if you are in the right place doing the right thing, for the right reason, it will work out. But Worrying is not going to change the outcome one way or another.

 

While I am talking about platitudes – I have one more to share.   We had a wonderful – if uneventful new years eve three weeks ago – at home alone – watching  the new year roll in across the time zones, listening to one after another of our favorite songs on our playlists.

As we were toddling off to bed well after midnight,  Mark said , “You know,  we should get a giant rock  – big enough to sit on – and set it out back by the pool.  I want to put a plaque on it that says “Instead of Sheep.”

I said, “Instead of sheep? What the heck does that mean?”

Quoting the Irving Berlin song from our favorite holiday movie, White Christmas,

Mark said,

“You  know:

If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,

 just count your blessings instead of sheep

And you’ll fall asleep,

counting your blessings.”

 

So that is my next project.

Instead of sheep.

Thank you.

______________________________

Listening to: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep  by Bing Crosby

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