Two days ago, a good friend of my wife’s passed away. Mari was a beautiful, vivacious God-servant, wife, and mother of one, soon to be two. Jake is seven, and Alexandria was eight months in her mother’s womb. Hers was a difficult and high-risk pregnancy, and Mari’s heart gave out sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning; unfortunately, Alex, too, didn’t make it. The circumstances behind Mari and Alex’s passing aren’t quite clear to me, and I want to be sensitive to the family in this obviously difficult time; it really is very, very hard to fathom why something like this would happen to people like the Zaragozas and the Calicas.
Death just doesn’t seem to fit certain people, and Mari was one of those people. It is unimaginable that someone like Mari – a veritable spring flower at age 37 – could be gone so soon.
When you have this kind of tragedy – I really can’t think of a better word to describe this kind of double passing – that befalls a family, one is often at a loss for words. At last night’s Eucharist – not sure if Mari was Catholic, but her mother is – the chapel was jam-packed. It was so obvious that Mari was loved, and the grief in that room was palpable.
I did take some lessons home from Mari’s wake, though:
1. When you have a mother’s heart, your influence reaches far beyond your children. Anyone who knew Mari would describe her as a mother. Her seven-year-old son Jake adored her beyond words; her husband Bodge virtually worshiped the ground she walked on. Even her friends in the Shinhwa Philippines Fan Club, where my wife first met her, called her “Mommy Mari”; last night, they came in full support. Mari was a mother to the very end.
2. Follow your passion and your passion follows you. Mari loved God, her family, and KPop, and spoke often with her friend Jenna – Caths’ best friend, actually – about KPop. Their last conversation involved a KPop telenovela titled Playful Kiss. Her passion gave her much joy and happiness, and I firmly believe that Mari, despite the difficulty of her pregnancy, enjoyed life because she knew her passion and loved it.
3. God remains in control, not you. No one can fully understand why bad things happen to good people, or why the best people leave so early. I’m not the type of person who likes saying that “God is in control” to someone whose life has just been turned upside down by the sudden passing of a loved one, not because I don’t believe it, but because, often, that’s one of the last things many bereaved people want to hear. So instead of offering platitudes that, while true, will most likely not be received well, let go of the control and just be the shoulder or ear God wants you to be. Just listen. Mari was a great listener; she knew when to draw close, and when to let go. I think that’s the biggest lesson I need to learn right now. In the midst of all this grief, she would want us to let go, and to know that God is still in control.