Mary is Steve’s stepmom. She and Steve’s father were married in the early 1980’s; they were quite happy until his sudden death in 1996. When she remarried in 2002 – much to her surprise, as she had claimed she would never marry again – we were beyond delighted. Tom was the perfect partner. His relatively sudden death from cancer in late 2014 rocked all our boats hard. To lose another grandchild (Mark is actually the second, following our nephew, John, who died at 7 years of age in 2001 due to complications from leukemia) on the heels of that profound loss was and is devastating.
Mary has a deep and abiding faith, incredible generosity, a servant’s heart, a natural, lovely, determined optimism that has seen her through numerous significant challenges. Like us, she is wounded and deeply thirsty, looking for God’s presence, evidence of His care and concern. She is trying not to be bitter as well, as she walks through what seems an endless spiritual desert; however, there have been oases.
After Mark’s memorial service last October, Mary decided to use a car service to take her back to Roanoke. The driver was a Pakistani man named Amir. In spending 4 hours together in the car, Mary and Amir shared stories and his heart broke over the loss of our Mark. When they arrived at her home, he gently asked if he could pray for her and her family. In the high-ceilinged foyer of her house, he spread out his small prayer rug and knelt, forehead to the ground, and lifted her and us to God.
He still calls her, periodically, to check on her.
Just this past July, while we were at SPY, Mary joined us for one of the communal dinners. She had a little sparkle back, and she shared this dream with us.
Her church is – in conjunction with other area churches, including the one pastored by our friend Bryan – offering Vacation Bible School to local children. The church newsletter had listed many items needed as donations to the program. In the dream, Mary had read the list and gone shopping for a wide variety of school supplies. She arrived at her church, loaded down with bags, and walked into the office of the woman who runs VBS. As she entered, Mary observed the office was overrun with donations – stacked to the ceiling. She set her bags down and looked at the woman behind the desk, only to find Mark was standing there too, next to the desk.
“Mark! What are you doing here!”
He replied, “Mary, they don’t need your stuff. They need YOU! I’ve signed you up!”
And so Mary, who never had any children of her own, decided to do just that: in fact, she was the group leader for a gaggle of 4th grade boys and enjoyed herself thoroughly, earning accolades from the regular VBS volunteers. And her interactions with the folks from Bryan’s church particularly warmed her spirit.
She has continued to struggle on, just as we do. It will take many sips, like this, to refill our wells. Give us the knowledge of your presence