From Sarah Metherell:
I am Mark’s wife, Sarah. I can’t begin to explain to you how wonderful Mark was as a man, a husband, and a father. I wouldn’t know where to begin and where to end. So, I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to read to you some of the letters and other things Mark wrote over the years (he’s a much better writer than I am) and share a few stories.
Right after we were engaged, when I was living in Argentina, and Mark was heading out for a six month deployment with the SEAL Teams, he wrote the following letters. They show his character and our love and relationship in a way that is more humorous and more meaningful than I could otherwise hope to express.
(Mark’s Letter 7.20.98)
Can infatuation last for two years? Can a man spend two years thinking of a woman, only to find out that it was simply a fleeting fascination that has disappeared? Of course not… this is true love, and it doesn’t happen everyday. Come to think of it, it only happens to a select group – a chosen few – an elite group of lovers gifted by God with each other – molded in the fiery furnace of passion! Sarah, I have fallen so deeply in love with you over these past two years that I no longer think of myself, but of you. I want to give you the world… of course, all I’ve got right now is a used snowboard, a really great surfboard, and an old BMW, but hey (!) you get ME.
Today is my last day in paradise. In fact, I’m flying out in about four hours, so I decided to send you one last Aloha from Hawaii. The powers that be have changed my schedule once again, and I am now going to Texas, as was originally planned – it would be a nice surprise if people could just stick with a plan.
Anyway, I am writing to you from a bench under a palm tree in front of an aquamarine bay. In the distance, steep mountains sit quietly, their sides are ribbed from centuries of rains and erosion, making them appear like cathedrals of vibrant green. Until a few moments ago all I could hear was the wind blowing through the palm trees, but an endless line of helicopters just showed up making low sweeping turns to land at the airfield on the base. This has abruptly ruined the illusion that I’m at a resort hotel sitting here awaiting your return from the bar with two margaritas.
This morning, we received one last kick-in-the-rear from this exercise. We received gas mask training. This wonderful evolution consists of donning a gas mask, walking in a room filled with tear gas then… that’s right (!) taking that perfectly good mask off the face and getting lungs filled with sweet, wonderful gas before redonning the mask. Afterwards, walking outside, my face covered in snot, tears, and drool, I realized that this stuff definitely wakes you up in the morning. It’s even better than a cup of coffee. If you took this mentality a bit further, we would have shark attack training where you get bitten by real sharks, or combat training where you are shot in some non-vital area – a leg perhaps.
Our separation is much more painful than getting tear gas in my face. In fact, gas me every day, just so long as I can come home to you. Still, I can see that God is at work in the lives of those around us, and that His love is reaching others through us. This is part of his plan, this separation, because it makes us stronger by both of us coming to Him. It’s a miracle that we came so far while we were so far away – A Miracle I Tell You! I love you so much Sarah. You are the most precious thing God ever made, as far as I’m concerned. What a wonderful, caring person you are. Hooray for Sarah! You’re a right lusty wench too (Big Kiss).
I love you so much,
More recently, we each had to write an autobiography as part of our adoption application. Mark wrote the following about our marriage.
Sarah and I have a weird marriage. We both feel that the honeymoon phase of our relationship has not gone away (we’ve been married for almost 8 years). And we don’t believe that it needs to go away. Perhaps it is because I travel and we therefore value time spent together, and therefore we don’t take each other for granted. We definitely have differences of opinion, but it is through compromise that these differences are settled. I learned very early in our relationship that if Sarah was sad then I was miserable, so I try to listen and to be empathetic to Sarah.
Our relationship took on a whole new dimension when Cora came along. Mark loved babies, but I was having a hard time thinking of what to say about Mark as Cora’s daddy, so my sister asked, “Well… what pops to mind?” “He wouldn’t let me have her!” I replied. Mark got so excited every time he heard Cora waking up from a nap. As soon as she peeped, he would ask (rubbing his hands together) “Can I go get her? Please. Please.”
Since I’m mean in the morning (something Mark told me soon after we were married), Mark would get Cora in the morning and I would put her to bed at night. He was trying to let me sleep in, but he and Cora would be downstairs making such a rukus laughing and gurgling, that I always ended up wanting to get up and join in the fun. He put her to the task from the time she was about two weeks old with baby push-up sessions and a few months later, moved on to crawling. I came down one morning to find her in the crawl position, and he was moving her right arm and leg forward, and then her left arm and leg forward. He didn’t realize that that’s how a horse walks, but not how a baby crawls. If he had had the chance to teach her to swim, I’m sure it would have been much more technically correct.
In the adoption application we filled out more recently for baby #2, Mark wrote this:
“We were able to adopt Cora as a newborn, and God has blessed us with a healthy, happy baby who is a real joy. And she is SO good!!! I know that it is not supposed to be so easy. Cora has a very funny personality … very precocious, and fun. We can’t wait for her to have a brother or sister.”
Later in that same application, Mark wrote:
My strongest influence is Jesus Christ. He is my touchstone and it is from Him that I gain strength. While my job is fairly dangerous, I truly believe that God wants me out there. He is the one who protects me, and challenges me to quietly show God’s love. It’s a funny thing, I tend to talk about my faith more with Muslims then with other Americans that I work with. I think that it is a parallel that we have, our faith in God that bridges a fairly substantial gap in our cultures.
To summarize (if such a thing is possible) the kind of husband and man Mark was, following is the inscription he wrote to me in his favorite book, Refiner’s Fire.
This is one of my favorite novels. It is the story of a life full of adventure and magic, of someone who takes risks. Someone like you. I pray continuously that God will be with you as you take those risks and that He will be at the center of our love. My prayer is that I will never hold you back, to let you grow, spur you on to reach any dreams you have, and to give millions of passionate kisses to you for the rest of our lives.
I love you – Mark
When Mark’s good friend from work came to tell me about Mark’s death, he gave me a coin. The coin has a cross on one side, and on the other side says “Fear Not” A few days later, I came across a return address label on a note from a friend. The label read, “Fear not, for I am with you.” In reading through some of Mark’s letters, I found the following letter that I will leave you with. At the top, the letter quotes Isaiah 41:10.
Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I read this verse tonight and thought of you in a new country alone, and I realized that you are not really alone. You have a friend and protector. “Do not fear, Mark,” He is saying, “for I am with Sarah.” That is his promise to both of us, and it makes me feel a lot better when I think of you alone… with God sitting with you.