Words cannot express the sadness we feel at a loss of such a wonderful young man. And our loss cannot possibly be of the depth of loss by his wife, and his mom and dad. It is just too much.
Mark might have known this would be too great for us to bear alone. Mark and Nickayla had discussed the possibility of this happening and he wrote his own order of service for the funeral. The service included two ministers, one of whom was his next door neighbor and our former choir director, and the other the one who married the pair; and two officers, one of whom was a Colonel, his cousin by marriage and a "home town" "boy" and the other, a Brigadier General, his commander who flew in from Germany.
There were two songs, one solo by a young high school grad about to study voice at Westminster in New Jersey and one duet by our Russian-borne voice teacher and the man who sang in my wedding. The music was in foreign languages in tribute to Mark's love of travel and the people in other cultures. They were "Bist Du Bei Mir" (If you are with me..) in German and the other in Latin, "Pie Jesu". I was so thankful they were not in English, because the voice and melodies were so soothing and I was brimming with tears the whole service sitting in the choir loft. There was Nickayla seated in front of me in the congregation so I was trying so hard to maintain some composure. These are songs without words for me. Now that I have looked them up and read the words, agggghhh...
There were some moments to smile with the memories of Mark. I think this touches me SO much I think because the love that Mark had for Nickayla and the love she has for him are so rare. They adored each other the pastor pointed out and it is so evident. I think about all the relationships around us and how many do not have this intensity and trust. The loss of this marriage is what affects me the most.
But, the comforting hand of God was on us all. So for the postlude, our organist played my favorite piece from Widor, Toccata (from the 5th symphony) the same one I used in my wedding and I knew God was with us. It was a gift from Mark.
Here are additional facts about him I did not know until yesterday. I guess he was so young I thought of him as a youth, the son of parents I had met, another of the young people from this town. But. He was an Army Ranger, a member of the 82nd Airborne, and importantly, a company commander connected with NATO.
Posthumously, along with previous honors he received while in active service, he received yesterday the Bronze Star Medal, The Purple Heart, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the NATO Medal with International Security and Assistance Force clasp.
The Purple Heart was instigated by George Washington in the period following the Revolutionary War. Mark was a volunteer and a true patriot in the original sense.