This is a story about love and loss, about faith and grace, and living and dying. This is a story that cannot be fully told in a couple hundred pages, let alone a couple of paragraphs. But time and space demand otherwise. And so, here is the briefest account of Debbie and of Mark. Debbie and Mark met in grade school and let's just say that the rest is history. It's fair to say that they've always been in love; the best of friends. The type of couple that you can't help but imagine growing very old together all while remaining in love. Perhaps one might have taken for granted that Debbie and Mark would always be that--a couple in love--and couldn't imagine it ending any other way than a classic storybook.
That's why it was particularly shocking when in January 2014, Debbie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at age 57. She went from one day feeling healthy and happy, to the next day receiving a diagnosis that would change her life and Mark's life forever. What you should also know about Debbie is that she is a fighter. When life landed upon her it's biggest punch, she swung back. But Debbie didn't swing back in anger. She swung back in the quiet, unassuming grace that she had always lived her life. She swung back with the might of her faith in God and with the love of and for her family and friends. Sure, she believed that God had a plan for her, but she just simply believed that the plan might be for her to fight. And so she did.
In January 2014 Debbie began the first of several procedures that ultimately included a craniotomy, multiple experimental infusions of polio, weeks of daily radiation, and rounds of chemotherapy. All the while, Debbie kept her faith and her sense of humor. She continued to do for others despite that she arguably was the one who needed more help. She gave of her time and her love selflessly throughout this entire ordeal. And Mark, he too, shined in this moment. Mark continued to work throughout these years when he could, of course, because he had to continue to financially support the family. But he was often away from work to bring Debbie to the Duke University hospital where she was undergoing treatment. And, as many of us have to do in life today, he had to make an unthinkable decision between being with his wife during her struggle and maintaining employment to survive and pay for increasing medical bills. But to see Mark and Debbie during this time since her diagnosis, you might never realize that they were dealing with something so difficult. You might only walk away thinking "What an incredibly nice couple they are."
Over the years, it might have been tempting for some to believe that Debbie had beaten cancer. You see, she had that effect on people because she remained so positive and determined. And yet, here we are now at the precipice. After several years of a valiant fight, Debbie has suffered two debilitating seizures in February and March 2019. Her health is failing in spite of her spirit and faith. And, as usual, she is surrounded by Mark, her family, and her friends.
People have spent thousands of years searching for the meaning of life. And yet, it just may be as simple as the example that Debbie and Mark have set. To live humbly, to love honestly, to give freely, to fight bravely, and to be graceful in love, life, and in death. Debbie believes that God had a plan. Maybe she is right and that the plan was for her to remind of us how to live even in the toughest of circumstances. And, as for Mark, there is no way to imagine the grief and loss that he is processing as the love of his life slips gently away. And here is where we can help by showing the very best of our humanity. Please consider helping to give Mark the time to grieve and to be with his beloved as long as she remains here with him. Thank you for your consideration.