Last summer I went to "the site" and it was so surreal. Right next to where I was told Mark collapsed there was a pole with a yellow sign on it with a big black "9" and the word "yellow". When we were there, I turned to Sarah and said "Wow, it's like he is here saying hello!" The number 9 was Mark's trademark through all his athletic events - he even marked his golf balls with a red or black 9.
At the time I was blown away with that I saw, but it brought so much comfort. It is signs like this that kept me going all year - and they have not stopped. There have been WAY too many to list here...some people refer to them as "God's winks,"...I like that.
Even though you see those signs, sometimes you think that those things happen to get you through that moment, but the more they happen to me the more I see God's reassurance and I hear Him say - "Don't doubt that I am here." So I obey.
Back to the marathon - I asked around to see if I could speak with a paramedic that was there last year. When I told them who I was they looked at me like I was crazy for being there. Finally, one of the paramedics (actually the second one to get to him) spoke to me. She was very nice and tried to remember as many details as she could. She showed me exactly where he fell, what his symptoms were, and answered the most important thing to me - Did he have a chance to know what was happening? She said that he probably did not know what was happening, but that he was conscious enough to hear them tell him that he did finish the race and I know that in those few seconds he thought of my girls and me and God.
I was also able to get the images I have been living with for the past year (ones that I had created) out of my mind and saw what he actually lived, breathed, heard, smelled and saw for the last hours of his life up to the last seconds.
So as all of this is happening, Brett Michael (yes, from Poison), is playing in the background and screaming in his typical manner. Of course, this kind of ruined the mood a little and broke up the seriousness of what I was experiencing. This is something that has happened to me throughout this whole year - when I want to get really down Mark won't let me (most of the time).
We stood there for about an hour and a half or so and before the last couple of runners crossed the finish line the police officer let Sarah, Miles, and me cross the finish line. We stood where they told us it all went down. We said a prayer and right then "Every Rose has a Thorn" started playing. Mark played this on the guitar ALL the time. It was perfect. I was actually thankful for Brett Michaels at that moment. Miles got a medal for me and told me I deserved it after the year I have had and what I have accomplished.
We then saw the last person cross the finish line and the very peppy cheerleader finish off the race and ride off on the hood of the pace car. We joked about how she might have been Mark's last thought - she had a lot of energy! The mood was good and I felt so released from the past year. I don't know how to describe it, and please know I hope this does not offend anyone, but I felt like I could start my life again.
I have felt Mark with me at ALL times. This time, as I was leaving the fairgrounds, I felt him say to me that he would be with me, but in a different way now. To live my life, to close the book on the suffering and loss and instead remember the great life he led and we shared together. To take care of the girls and myself, to look forward to my life. And the greatest thing - that he was okay with that.
As we walked out of there, I felt renewed. I never thought that going to the marathon would give me this much peace, but it did. God works in such mysterious ways. You just have to be open to receiving His grace. It is abundant!!!
I waited a couple of weeks to share this experience because I wanted to make sure it was true. That the grief I have felt has been lifted up. So far, even though I have missed him, I feel like Mariana again, as opposed to the grieving young widow and mom of 2. Don't get me wrong, this is very difficult but I felt re-energized and capable to live my life. I feel we have adjusted.
It feels good to breathe again and most of all, continue to feel the hope, faith and trust I have learned to live with this past year. Regardless of what happens, I know He will provide.
I do want to mention that I could not have gotten to this stage of my life without the help and support of all of my friends, family and people I do not even know. The power of prayer is amazing and it has carried me through this experience. As always, I want to thank all of you for every prayer and support given to us. When I have my down and challenging days, I offer it up for all of you who have prayed for us, that you may see God's grace as clearly as I have.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we enter this next year of our lives...