It was on this date, December 15th, fifteen years ago, that Mark proposed to me.
As he knelt to express his love for me and his desire for me to be his wife, I happily said yes. We had been dating for three years and I knew him well.
I knew that during Mark's first couple years of college, he was also taking care of his grandma who had Alzheimer's. He spent his weekends caring for her. In her tired, confused mind- she often called him the wrong name- and she could be awfully stubborn about things. Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night, his grandma would insist that it was "time to go to church". He would patiently explain, "No, Grandma. It isn't Sunday. No one is at church right now." But she would get herself all ready for church, and insist upon going. So Mark would carefully help her out to the car and he would drive her to church. They'd reach the dark, empty parking lot, and she would have a puzzled look on her face and realize that no one was here for church, and they'd go back home.
I remember thinking then- when I heard the stories Mark would tell me of his time with his grandma- that he was a remarkable man. What guy in college is spending his weekends taking care of his ailing grandma? My Mark was.
When we began dating, I was eighteen; had just moved out of the house- and had two little brothers still at home. Micah was seven and Seth was two. Whenever we'd go to my house, Mark would end up on the floor with my brothers, playing with them. I loved this. I knew he wasn't doing this to impress me or anyone else- he just genuinely liked them and got down on their level to play with them.
We'd file into church next to my family on a Sunday morning and Seth would reach up to Mark, wanting to be held. Mark is so tall that his arms offered the best view. Seth liked to be held in a sitting-up position, but facing outward. (Not real comfy for whoever was holding him.) Mark would steadily hold him just that way, facing out, during the whole of the worship service.
For years Mark taught the two-year-old Sunday School class, and those two-year-olds loved him. They would climb all over him and he made them laugh and they were just so taken with him. He loved each one of them.
I watched Mark with my brothers, with his nephews, and with his two-year-old classes, and knew he would be a good daddy someday.
During college I worked at a Christian bookstore. Usually I had the closing shift. We closed at nine o'clock, and I was by myself, vacuuming, closing out the tills, and locking up. Not so when Mark began dating me. He would drive out to the store about half-hour before closing and just browse the bookstore while I closed up. He wanted me to be safe: it was dark, I was alone- and he would just show up. I never asked him to nor did I expect it of him. He just showed up one night and kept coming, each night I was closing. And I felt treasured by him.
I lived with a bunch of other girls through college. We had meals together each night, and divvied up the household chores. Chores were always expected to be done on Saturdays. I worked Saturdays, so when I came home from work those nights I had my chores to do. I remember coming home from work one night (with Mark) to discover that my chores had all been done for me. I wondered aloud which of my roommates had done this? I think I even asked a few of them, and it was one of them who told me that Mark had been by earlier in the day to do my chores for me. (I think that week my chore was the living room/dining room area and the kitchen). He did it simply to bless me, knowing I would be tired when I got home that night.
He was the most romantic guy-- he courted me with near-daily cards and flowers and thoughtfulness packed into every date. When he knew I would be celebrating my birthday while on a missions trip, he tracked down a birthday card well in advance and sent it along with me. I still remember being on a sleeper-train riding through Poland, and opening my birthday card from Mark- which was a Polish card! How he found me a Polish birthday card, I'll never know- but somehow he did.
I watched the way he interacted with his siblings and the way he honored his parents. He loved them. He spoke well of them, and there was great fondness and camaraderie in his family. I loved that.
He spoke well of everyone, actually. Any time I would complain to him about anyone, he always- annoyingly- believed the best in a person; giving them the benefit of the doubt and encouraging me not to be quick to judge someone else's motives.
Mark quickly became my best friend.
I was deeply afraid to get married. I was so fearful that someday I would be left-- the way my mom had been left by my dad. It was my greatest fear. I wanted to know, for sure- that this would not happen to me. I wanted assurance that this man, Mark, would never be that man.
But that day, on top of that hill- fifteen years ago, I was unafraid. I knew Mark. I knew his character. I knew he loved and feared God above all. I knew he loved me. And I trusted him. That's why I said yes.
Fifteen years later and he's still the guy who will lay aside his own interests, his own time and comfort, for someone else. He is still selfless- always thinking of others before himself. He is still great with children: he is an amazing daddy to our five. He still courts me with cards and flowers and thoughtfulness. He still loves his family and others well. He's still my best friend. He is trustworthy. He loves and fears God more today than he did back then, and I admire him more than anyone on this earth.