Written 4 Feb:
On February 3rd, I was sitting next to Lori’s hospital bed at MVH Hospital working on a laptop and listening to a song called Difference Maker by NEEDTOBREATHE. At this time, Lori was still responsive when we asked direct questions. It was common however for her to fade out of a conversation and simply fall asleep. If we asked her about her pain, she described the location and she rated the pain. If she had to go to the bathroom, she was shaky walking there, but she could go on her own strength fairly reliably. Her motor skills were diminished but not yet to an extreme amount. She slept most of the time, and her movements were slow and stiff.
While I listened to the song, I had my back turned about 45 degrees away from the bed, so I wasn’t facing her directly. Near the middle of the song, she sprang up and moved into the seat with me (nearly knocked me off). I thought she was falling out of bed, and I started to move to catch her before I realized that she was intentionally moving fast because she wanted to sit with me. I gladly relinquished half of my seat, and she wrapped her arms around my torso and put her head on my shoulder.
She repeated the words “You’re so strong” over and over. She wasn’t crying but she had that elevated pitch in her voice which happens just short of crying. She had listened to the song and watched me work next to her. She wanted me to know she loved me and was appreciative of me being there to support her. It was exactly how a man likes to be praised. What man doesn’t love to hear his woman tell him how strong he is while resting her head on his shoulder? Honestly, that is all a man wants in life. We men show off for girls starting at a very young age, and we never stop. It’s always on our minds. For crying out loud, when I play church softball, there is a vastly different feeling for me when she’s at the game as compared to when she’s absent. No kidding, I care more and play harder when she’s watching even though she wouldn’t care either way about my actual performance. I remember a pickup basketball game at Ft Bragg (I was over 30 years old) where she walked into the gym mid-play, and I upped my game immediately. She rarely came to the gym when I play basketball, so this was my moment. I’m kinda awesome at basketball, so I blew it up as you can imagine. Those poor high schoolers received an epic old-man beat down that day. It is pitiful how much men want their women to notice them and to acknowledge our strength and ability to take care of them. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. Heck, my boys are already doing it when they are around girls. And they have no filter so you get to see it raw. They’ll literally flex in front of a mirror and ask me if they look bigger after eating their vegetables. So you can understand that when she repeatedly exclaimed “you’re so strong”, she was hitting the sweet spot. I knew she wasn’t talking about my muscles, but I allowed myself to believe it was both in admiration of my emotional support as well as my biceps.
So we sat together in the chair in her hospital room, and she continued to pour out love and praise. The coolest thing about it was that this wasn’t anything new. She always supported me from the very beginning. When we were dating, she started following Cincinnati Reds baseball and UK basketball because I was into it. In pilot training, I struggled for a while early on. I flew a lot with the flight commander for a week or two, and we debriefed after each flight. One day, the squadron sponsored a spouse orientation day where they gave the ladies a tour of the building, simulators, and planes on the flightline. Apparently, she asked question after question after question. My flight commander loved her, and he was raving about how great it was to host her that day. During my debrief of the next day’s flight, my flight commander spent 10 minutes telling me to tap into Lori as a resource to help me improve. He encouraged me to go home and try to answer every question that she had about what I was learning. If I could teach it to Lori, then I would truly know the material. By the end of that year, Lori knew all of the traffic pattern radio position reports, the BOLDFACE emergency procedures, and answers to all of the questions in the master question files. When I met her, she was already passionate about plastic pipe molds and the city’s water sanitation system. Why? Because her dad was once a sanitation engineer and he also designed molds for a Plastics Co. during most of her growing up years. Her brothers got into NASCAR, and she became a huge fan too. I don’t think she cared one bit about the sport. She was just interested in everything that everyone she loved did. Lori loved to love people and her genuine desire to know them better led her to like NASCAR of all things.
She never assumed that she would fail. The assumption was that she was always good enough for whatever she wanted to do. For everyone who asks “how did you get on the show?” in response to her appearance on Wheel of Fortune, the short answer is that she believed she could. That is the truest thing I’ve written so far. She never doubted, and she pursued it as if it was going to happen. That’s why she succeeded. That and her bubbly personality and steel-trap puzzle-solving mind.
Fearless and confident. That’s how she made babies too. Big belly! Big babies!
She was a visionary. We made a mission statement because of her initiative. Now I have that mission statement as an enduring gift. Think how big that is for the kids too. It was the result of two days of soul searching by both of us to define the absolute most important things that she and I valued in life.
Leadership came naturally to her. I often wondered what she could do if unleashed in public office. She flipped a POA board on it’s head through pure grit, an ironclad will, and perfect charisma. If you put Lori in a room full of leaders and gave them all a group project to complete, she always emerged as the team leader. It did not matter how headstrong the other “leaders” were. It was uncanny how they deferred to her eventually. I saw it happen so many times. Despite her default leadership setting, she humbled herself and deferred to my leadership in our marriage more often than not. When I failed, she stepped in and gently coaxed me back on course.
As a wife and mother, I don’t know how to describe it. She was just pure love. Tough but very tender.
Although she was passionate about many things, she was most passionate about Jesus Christ. After her diagnosis, she remained strong. She never cried about her terminal diagnosis, and I know it’s true that she was never afraid. She never became emotional about her own plight. However, she immediately cried (celebrated) and showed deep emotion when friends and family reported to her that they found a footing for their faith in God because of her example. She loved to hear about friends finding Christ or following Him more nearly. I think it dominated her thoughts particularly when she was at her lowest points physically. The day she jumped out of bed to sit with me in the hospital, she again prayed and begged for her friends to find Him! She wanted to share what she had inside with everyone she knew.
Tonight, she bolted out of her bed and ran to wrap her arms around her man so she could praise Him and admire His strength. She told Him repeatedly “You’re so strong”. She’s into what He’s into. He’s into feeding the homeless and caring for the needy. He gives water that eternally quenches thirst. He prefers to be with the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. He’s into loving His enemies. He prays and fasts and stores up treasures in places where no one can break in and steal. He never worries about tomorrow because tomorrow will take care of itself. He’s chooses the narrow paths, and He speaks absolute truth. He’s into healing and miracles and faith and commanding the weather. He is all powerful, but He also likes fishing and camping by the lake, building furniture with His hands and mending nets. He defines sacrifice. He’s into storytelling and teaching. He leaves the 99 to find the 1 that is lost. He offers unearned grace and peace and mercy. He conquered death once and for all. The true undisputed champion.
Lori’s spirit left this Earth today, and I know she’s complete now. I felt it in the moment. I was never her #1 man, and that’s how it should be. She lived for eternity, and at this exact moment she’t inheriting her full reward. We should all hope to live as rightly and to die as honorably as she.
February 7, 2016 at 9:50 AM
The short time Lori was our neighbor, we were privileged to know a very dynamic woman, with more energy than humanly possible. I found her curiosity to be her most endearing characteristic, until I was priviledged to witness her strong faith. While she was small in stature, she reached heights most of us will never achieve.. Rest in peace my friend — job of life well done!
Mark, she couldn’t have asked for a more loving and dedicated partner. You, too, have risen to great heights. Your children will call both of blessed.
Like · Reply · Just now
February 7, 2016 at 9:53 AM
Sending prayers & praises. Your faith & strength are undeniably from God. Thank you for being real, transparent & authentic in your story so others can know Him! To Him be the glory.
April 6, 2016 at 9:39 PM
Right on. Thanks!
April 6, 2016 at 9:42 PM
Oh and it was great to see Ben last month! Hope you guys are well and staying safe overseas!
February 7, 2016 at 10:15 AM
You and Lori handled this journey with amazing faith and class. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with your family as you move forward.
April 6, 2016 at 9:38 PM
I appreciate that, Scott. Thanks for the support. Love the STOL
February 7, 2016 at 10:27 AM
Mark, I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful wife and the loving Mother to your children. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute to your wife. I can just see the choir of glorious angels singing sweet Lori into paradise. You and Lori have been such a testimony of such sweet, strong faith in our Lord. Thank you for sharing with all of us. Please know I will be praying for your children along with my grandchildren daily, and for you. Praying God’s peace and comfort for you and the family, and friends that are so close to you all.
1 Corinthians 2:9. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. Love and prayers, Debbie (Randell’s Mom)
April 6, 2016 at 9:37 PM
Thanks Debbie. Well said
February 7, 2016 at 10:41 AM
I don’t know you and never met in person your amazing wife, but this tribute made us ‘family’ to me. Sisters in Christ with eternal reward. I’m so sorry for your earthly loss, but grateful of God’s promise to reunite us all for eternity……
April 6, 2016 at 9:44 PM
Thanks for following.
February 7, 2016 at 12:02 PM
Dear Mark , children and families.
We are so sorry for your loss of Lori and her fight against cancer!! She was incredible through this and so were you. We pray now for God’s hand to cover you all and give you the peace and strength you will need. Jesus just said to Lori , “Well done and faithful servant”. Our love and continued prayers- Don and Diana Corbit
April 6, 2016 at 9:52 PM
Thanks guys. Well done is right
February 7, 2016 at 1:18 PM
Oh Mark, my heart just aches…thank you for your beautiful words, for the beautiful picture of Lori to hold dear to us…Charlie and I love you and are praying for you.
April 6, 2016 at 9:53 PM
Thanks for submitting your story Tracy! She love you so much. Hope you and Charlie are doing well.
February 7, 2016 at 1:34 PM
As I pray for your family, the picture that keeps coming to mind is Lori’s radiant face as Jesus receives her into His loving arms. And the song is an upbeat version of “I’ll Fly Away” complete with a pianist that uses most of the keyboard, guitars, drum and of course trumpets heralding Lori’s life in Jesus Christ.
April 6, 2016 at 9:53 PM
That sounds perfect.
February 7, 2016 at 1:49 PM
Beautiful. So glad to have had the chance to know Lori while we were stationed at Fort Lewis several years ago. I look forward to seeing her around the throne of God someday. God bless your family, Mark, and know that you all are in our thoughts and prayers.
February 7, 2016 at 1:54 PM
I agree with Lori. You are strong. It is so hard to watch someone you love suffer. What you wrote is beautiful. My heart is breaking for you. I am sad that Lori is gone for your sake. She’s great now! I will always remember her great smile. At times like this it somehow makes us feel better if there is something we can do. If there is, please let us know.
February 7, 2016 at 2:13 PM
I met Lori years ago for a few weeks when you were at an Air Force course. I am shy and usually don’t fit in very well, but she is the one person who made me feel welcomed among the other wives. It may seem small, but I will forever remember her kindness. Even in that short time, I came to see her unconditional acceptance. What a wonderful person. <3
February 7, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Our family has known Lori since she was a young girl. It is so wonderful to read about the very strong, faith-filled young woman she had become. Her husband, Mark, is as amazing as Lori. What an inspiration both of them have been, and will continue to be, for all of us. Mark’s last post was unbelievable! What he shared in his beautiful words about his beloved wife, is a true testament of the person Lori was. One of my daughter’s, Mo, wrote to our family that she has seen a lot of people who are spiritual and have a strong faith, but she has never seen someone handle their life/death the way Lori did with such unwavering trust and faith in God and His plan. She said she is truly an inspiration, which she believes was her purpose. I do too. God bless all of Lori’s family always. . .
February 7, 2016 at 7:48 PM
I’m so sorry for the loss of this precious woman, wife, friend and mother. She truly made the world a better place, being a light for God wherever she went. If I have half the faith, perseverance, love, kindness, and generosity of Lori, I would call my life on earth a success. We are here for your family, praying, and willing to help in any way possible.
February 7, 2016 at 9:47 PM
Wow! Even when the healing doesn’t come ….. She stood in faith here on earth, and is now receiving her rewards in Heaven. Thank you for sharing her with us.
February 7, 2016 at 11:22 PM
Simply beautiful, Mark. Just like Lori.
February 8, 2016 at 1:09 AM
I served with Lori on the PWOC 2004-05 Board. Her vivacious and bold love for Christ was contagious. I have been praying for Lori, you, and your children for years. My mother was recently diagnosed with Invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma and I have shared Lori’s testimony of hope and life story with her for encouragement in the LORD’s plan in her life. Lori’s love for life abundant and the LORD will forever remain in our hearts. Last night, I tossed and turned all night as in a lucid prayer for Lori to release this life and run into the arms of her Savior. Thank you for sharing your lovely wife and family. Thank you for being a Godly man and demonstrating unconditional love to your beautiful wife and children. Our family will continue to lift you and your children in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Praising God for Lori’s sweet spirit. May she dance on the streets of gold with her Prince of Peace. Sincerely, Sue
February 8, 2016 at 1:13 AM
We will truly miss this angel that walked among us. I praise God that we will be join together with our love ones again. Lori was very special to her Uncle John and she told him how much she loved his “big” bear hugs. Rest in peace dear one we are all better persons for have known you. Mark, Lori truly was blessed to have such a husband as you, your love, honor and devotion are remarkable and we are all so grateful that God chose you to be by her side with the journey she traveled . God bless you and the children all days of your lives. We love you, Uncle John and Aunt Paulette
February 8, 2016 at 11:22 AM
Our humanity finds this loss very difficult to understand, the loss of a warrior for Christ, a wife, a mom, a daughter and friend. But this story, her story changed lives and will continue to bring hope all for the Glory of God!!! Her purpose was fulfilled and her eternal destiny reached, but the seeds will reap a harvest forever. I’m rejoicing in all she stood for, in all she is seeing and in the legacy she has left for all!!!!! I am heartbroken for you Mark, your children, family and friends. Even though she is with our Savior, there is still the pain of her loss on earth. She knew you would have a journey of healing when she left, but she knew you had the only thing that will carry you to peace, Jesus himself!!! Praying!!!
February 9, 2016 at 5:49 PM
Amazing post. Kingdom words. Peace and prayers to you and your girls. May Jesus give you a new joy as the life of Lori challenges and inspires others. Prayers to you.
February 10, 2016 at 2:45 PM
I am sorry to hear of your loss.
I did not know Lori, until reading your blog today. What an incredible woman. To be able to write such a descriptive and poignant recap of her life at such a difficult time makes it is evident that she has shared her strength and faith with you. My condolences to all.
February 11, 2016 at 3:17 PM
I know Libby wrote already but I just wanted to let you know that you are a blessing to so many people! We will continue to pray for you and your family Mark.
April 6, 2016 at 9:30 PM
Thanks Dave. Love you guys
February 12, 2016 at 10:54 AM
I didn’t know Lori, but I work with Austin & Amber leading the youth of our church.
After reading this beautiful story about your loving wife, it makes me think about how all women should love and honor their husbands. She truly was a Godly woman for she treasured and respect you the way the bibles tells us to. She seemed to always put others in front of herself and was always giving of herself. To rejoice with true tears of happiness that her life brought people to our Lord during her struggle is a strong woman of faith.
I pray for you and your family during this time and I think all women should read this amazing and loved filled tribute to your wife Lori.
May the blessing of our Lord and Savior be with all of you at this time.
April 6, 2016 at 9:29 PM
Nailed it, Mary. Thanks