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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maybe Your Happiest Birthday, Mark!

First of all, thank you for fighting to stay alive!  Everyday we have is a celebration but this birthday gives cause to blow it out the top!  On your last birthday, you had the LVAD - the vital ball and chain you wore that kept you alive. Now look at you, with your new heart, better than ever, Mark 2.0!  I have to pause on this special day to reflect back to you what I learned about the depth of your character and God-given essence during this most incredible year.

Grit - 'courage of resolve, strength of character'.  You are the bravest person I will ever know.  I will never forget the girls and I arriving at Tampa General from the airport the day we got the call. You were pumped, 'let's do this' and celebratory even as you faced another open heart surgery. Is there a more extreme medical procedure than a heart transplant? No fear - bring it on.  Then our first sight of you after - all hooked up and tubes everywhere - you gave us a thumbs up through the window.  So many moments that you truly inspired us.    

Persistence: You never gave up, so rarely complained, obeyed every order from your docs and stayed the course.   Even amidst the many emotional and physical setbacks, you bounced back so quickly and renewed your resolve. I'll never forget our trip to Disney with the girls at Thanksgiving, LVAD and all the required equipment in tow.  You had to get your INR/blood levels checked on our way up to Orlando and you tried numerous sketchy, strip mall labs to get it done.  We finally just swung by Tampa General.  How many pokes, gallons of blood taken, handfuls of pills, 'vampires' visiting you at 5 am for blood have you endured - your body so invaded.  You persisted through a long, dark tunnel of suffering. You kept your eyes and heart fixed on the goal of getting a heart and the hope of living fully again.  It is a thrill to see you running again and ready for a 5k soon!

Humility:  You never lingered in 'why me' but with humility accepted 'why not me'.  You leaned in to this difficult stretch of your life's journey.  You made the most of each day, no matter how dark. You entrusted your body and health to the expertise of others with gratitude and awe of their talents and skills. The Ash Wednesdays were extremely significant - 2014 the day before you were admitted at Abbott, heart failing rapidly.  And 2015 at Sacred Heart parish downtown Tampa a month after receiving 'the beautiful heart'. You had lived in view of 'from dust to dust' and contemplated life and death, humbly trusting God with whatever you had left.  This was a powerful testimony to the girls and I and it spurred our faith.

Strengths: Your strengths sustained you as you battled, aiding you in navigating and enduring such uncertainty and fragility.  It seemed that they were operating at a basic level, pure in their form but mostly in the moment as futuristic visions and plans were not an option.  Fighting to stay alive leaves little room for much else.  The strengths I saw you operating out of most during the darkest times were Activator, Command and Self-Assurance - you did everything within your power to live, endure and persevere.  You took charge of your situation and were proactive.  You never gave up or fell into despair.  It was a thrill and relief to see your Ideation and Intellection return in the form of your sense of humor, facial expressions, funny imitations -   oh how we missed these!  And then the sheer novelty of being able to plan, dream and ponder possibilities again!

So, on this most special birthday, the girls and I send our love to you in Lincoln, on the doorstep of this amazing new adventure! I'm happy to journey with you through sickness and health any day! Whenever we need a reset, we remember 'we got a heart' and all returns to well in the next moment - you have given us this and so much more!   Happy Birthday!!!

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