I have been struggling, these past days, as to whether and what I might write and post as a tribute to Mark, to commemorate the second anniversary of his passing yesterday.
I have thought of many things I might say, but none of them seemed quite right. Some are too personal. Some would require a lengthy backstory about growth and grief that I don’t necessarily want to go into.
But then I ran across a line in a book I’m reading right now about healing the inner child. The author is describing characteristics of an adult who experienced some sort of stultifying effect while a child that can affect the rest of the child’s life.
The line: “Life becomes a problem to be solved rather than an adventure to be lived.”
Unfortunately, for most of my life, life was, in a manner of speaking, a problem to be solved, something to get through. Making a living. Raising children. Moving from one problem to another. Striving to live “righteously,” instead of authentically, a life of “shoulds” achieved, rather than a life of desires fulfilled. Achievement, alas, does not necessarily bring fulfillment.
As I have written before, I can’t really regret that life. I certainly can't wish it didn't happen. Regret begins a cycle that ultimately leads one back to where one started: a life that was chosen, a life that was lived, a life that brought children whom one loves. A life of growth, but alas, a life that had never bloomed.
One learns to treat life as a problem to be solved. There could be many reasons why. I don’t want to go into all of that in this post.
What I do want to say is that when I finally left the closet, my marriage and Mormonism—that life which cannot be regretted in part because of where it ultimately led—someone was there, waiting for me. He took my hand, kissed me tenderly on the lips, held my face in his gentle hands and told me that he loved me. Just as I was. Unconditionally. Mark taught me a new way of seeing myself, and I began to see life as an adventure to be lived, rather than a problem to be solved.
Cancer changed that adventure. Mostly, it told us that, one day, the adventure that we were on together would end. But it also added so much life to that adventure. Cancer was in our first breath as we awoke in the morning and in our last breath as we fell asleep at night. Nothing was taken for granted. Every moment was lived. Every kiss was special. Every “I love you” was a precious gift.
I think one of the greatest gifts Mark gave me, however, was the ability to see myself differently. Every day, he planted seeds that would bloom and grow and sustain me once he left: seeds of self-love, seeds of self-acceptance, seeds of insight. He saw me differently than anyone whom I had ever met, and through his eyes, I was able to see myself differently.
That gift endures. And as I have struggled at times, when I allow myself to ask those questions, to understand why it all had to be so short, one of the answers that comes to me—thanks to seeds he planted—is that, perhaps, the Universe decided that it was time for me to see myself through my own eyes, the way he taught me, after a lifetime of only seeing myself reflected through the eyes of others … and to continue to see life as an adventure to be lived, rather than as a problem to be solved.