Friday, October 22, 2010

I would like to announce...

...that I am going to be an AUNT!!!

I got a picture mail today while at work this evening, and after looking at it for a while wondering what the heck it was, I realized it was a positive pregnancy test.

It was from my sister. :)

I called her immediately. Being at work, and there being a recital going on upstairs and all, I couldn't squeal and scream like I normally would. Don't worry, I did it later on as I was driving away from work.

I think I am going to start shopping for Emily/Ison Jr. tomorrow. :) This baby is being SPOILED.

Super super super excited!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

He Lived Great, and He Died Great

Now that I finally have my laptop back, I wanted to post about a friend of mine. I am admittedly not a great writer, and I will jump around a bit, but I feel like I should say something. I am not sure that I can add much to the many wonderful tributes that have already been written about my friend Mark, but I would like to take some time to add a little light about what a great person Mark Forester was during his time on this Earth for the years that I knew him.

He and I were not especially close friends, but with us both being YSA in Tuscaloosa, Alabama we were thrown together quite often. Between FHE, Institute, Flag Football, Ultimate Frisbee, temple trips, and of course Church itself, we saw a lot of each other, let alone the get togethers that the YSA hosted every once in a while. After being in Alabama for 2 years, I decided to get a part time job and started working at Tuscaloosa Lung and Sleep, a wonderful doctor’s office where Chase (another YSA) and Mark were also working as additional part time staff. Through that, I got to see him nearly every day.

My first impression of Mark was that he was extremely good looking, quite tall and he was obviously a good member of the LDS Church. After a short time, I learned how much he loved three things: God, Alabama Football, and his Mom. Those were the main topics he would talk about when I was privy on the conversation. He loved the Gospel, he raved about Alabama Football, and he never had enough to say about his Mom and her cooking. I had the opportunity once to try out a bit of her cooking, and from that little bit of heaven I would say his compliments were right on target. 

At the office, Jason (the office manager) has a snow globe beside his desk, but instead of snow it has a golf ball and a tee. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to get that darn ball onto that tee. All of us at the office tried at some point. Only two people I knew could actually do it, and do it on the first try at that, and one of them was Mark. One time, after he had been away training for the Air Force, he stopped by the office, picked up that globe, (mind you, this is probably at least a year after he last picked the thing up) and first try he got that golf ball back on that tee.

He was extremely athletic, and was truly put out when he was injured. I remember when he had shoulder surgery to take care of a problem how much he looked forward to being well again. At that time he was talking about joining the Air Force and about whether this would keep him from being able to join by a certain deadline. Many have already mentioned how much he felt that fighting terrorists was what he was meant to do. I remember him having a conversation with me one day at the office about how he felt it was something he was supposed to do on this Earth. His conviction was so strong, I didn’t doubt that that was exactly what he was supposed to do. 

His love for Alabama football seemingly had no end, as far as I could tell. Even while in Afghanistan, he found a way to let his love for the Crimson Tide so many pictures, you see him in his gear, wearing one of his Alabama hats. He had plans to attend the upcoming Iron Bowl, after his original return date. Saturday, at the game where Alabama played Florida at home, the Air Force did a flyover in the missing man formation in honor of Mark. The amount of honor and respect he has been afforded returning his body to his hometown is wonderful to see. If any soldier ever deserved it, he did. After reading many accounts of how he acted as a soldier, he was absolutely willing to give his life if necessary.

My brother-in-law, who is in the Air Force, asked me what was up with my profile picture on Facebook. After telling him briefly who he was and what happened, he told me this (I hope you don't mind me sharing this):

Those Combat Controllers are some hard core guys, and they have a very difficult job. But you can bet that because of his actions over there that there are a lot of people alive right now that wouldn't be alive otherwise. Your friend is one of our fallen heroes.

I have no doubt that he did save a lot of people. He truly is a hero in every sense of the word.

It’s amazing how something like a birth or a death can totally change your perspective on things seemingly insignificant. I find it a mark of a singularly special person when someone is willing to stand up for what they believe, whatever it is. Mark was one of those people. In any Church setting, you expect all members, whether YSA or not, to act like good Mormon kids. Once outside of that world, however, you really get to see where someone’s standards lie. I cannot tell you the countless times I saw Mark stand up for the Church, stand up for his moral convictions, and stand up for what he knew to be true. His testimony was as thick as they come. And he did so when it would have been so easy for him to let certain things go. He took advantage of good opportunities to let people know in an easy manner where his convictions stood. I heard him advocate fidelity in marriage, abstinence before marriage, keeping one’s body clean from harmful substances such as alcohol, drugs, and other such things. He stood up for good men and women. There was even a time where he stood up for me. He probably never thought twice about it afterwards, but I did, and I appreciate it now more than ever.

The ladies at the office loved Mark, and he loved all of them right back. The office is very much like one big extended family, where we were all brothers and sisters (emphasis on the sisters side, since most of us were female), sometimes getting on each other’s nerves, but we all really do care for each other very deeply. We all keep very close tabs on one another and are involved in each other’s lives. I think it’s quite significant that I first heard of Mark’s death from the ladies at the office. They wanted to make sure I knew what had happened. 

The shock of it didn’t really hit me until after I got off the phone with them. I was driving, called my roommate and informed her she had to drive that night because I just wouldn’t be physically able to, somehow got myself home, got down the stairs and let it all out. I have been amazed at my reaction to the news. I think Debbie put it exactly right though…while in Alabama, (with the exception of two cousins who moved out to the South a year after I moved, one of whom was especially close to Mark, and my friend who moved to Atlanta at the same time I did,) I didn’t have any real family or friends out there. And yet the YSA and many of the people I am still lucky enough to know there truly became my family away from my own family. They are all my brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, etc., and Mark was one of them. I have lived in many places, and never have I experienced anything like that except with my own real family on such a global basis.

On Facebook I made an error stating that he was a Marine. I knew he was Air Force, but I think Marine came out of my fingers because I have another friend who is a Marine who is serving in Afghanistan right now. My thoughts turned to him as I was writing that tribute to Mark, and I prayed that he would be watched over and protected as he finishes his time there in that ghastly, war-torn country and that he would be able to return home to his wife and children. I apologize for not correcting that mistake immediately on Facebook. I have many ties to the Air Force, including my Brother-in Law, my Grandfather who was in the Army Air Corps, the precursor to the Air Force, and a few other connections. I feel grateful that I have had the opportunity on this Earth to know these good, honest, faithful, noble and courageous men, and that I was brought up to have a deep respect for those who serve our country. I really count myself blessed to have them as an example to me, and that they are the ones protecting us, our family, our friends, our country, our liberty, our ability to worship how we see fit, and our way of life…

Mark, in my mind, is very much like Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon. As I have read the tributes, seen the pictures, and read the quotes friends have posted concerning his passing, I kept being drawn to the Title of Liberty that Moroni lifted up, reminding his people what it was that they were fighting for: 

“And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it   -In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children- and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”
Mark lived, fought and died for these things. We too should strive to have the strength of mind and body to live, fight and die for these noble and sacred causes.

This tribute is nothing compared to the others that have already been written, nor is what he really deserves as I am not great with words…but I do know this, that Mark was a man of real integrity, courage and strength. Like another great man, 'He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people' and I am grateful that I had the chance to know him on this Earth as a friend, and I know without a doubt he is still fighting a good fight on the other side. I look forward to the day when we will all see him and each other again. I am grateful for the knowledge of the Gospel that I have…that through the Atonement we will all rise again. That through the sealing power, Mark and his family will be joined again and know each other as they did here as a family unit. And we too can see him there.

Thank you, Mark. You won’t be forgotten.