“Mari’s Song” 1948 – 2013

 

She captured my heart shortly after she captured my Dad’s. It was 1978 when Dad brought Mari and her delightful little freckle-faced, red-haired daughter to Louisiana to meet the family. Dad was a minister of music at a church in the Florida panhandle and Mari was the church organist, as I recall. Her demeanor was as attractive as her smile, and she had this knack of countering some of Dad’s one-liners with hilarious facial expressions in which her eyes would either cross, or go in opposite directions. The effect was a disarming humor that won me over immediately. 

The following summer, I had the privilege of being the best man at Dad and Mari’s wedding. Of the many poignant and happy memories of that day, one stands above all the rest. For his wedding gift, Dad had written a song to Mari. Summoning his education, his passion for music, his love for his beautiful bride, and his adoration of the Author of love itself, the song opened with a few simple piano notes forming a phrase that was the musical equivalent of watching a flower bloom, each chord progression repeating the same basic phrase in a different key, as if one pedal after another were opening to reveal successive intricate and gorgeous layers of beauty and warmth. The melody, though not spelled out in the accompaniment by any means, complimented the work in note and spirit, its words enduring in my mind and heart even now: 

In the presence of the Lord and all these witnesses, 

I pledge my love to you forever more.

And to you my love my life I give completely,

Your smile your thoughts I always will adore;

Keep your gentle hand of love upon me,

Stay near me for your presence lights my way;

Fill my heart with love for you dear Mari, 

This is my prayer oh Lord, today.

And I pledge to always love you oh so dearly,

More deeper than the deepest sea.

And to God we dedicate our lives together, 

For our love was always meant to be.

Hear our prayer dear Lord and grant us all thy love,

Make us one now to serve you day by day.

May we always be reminded of your love for us,

For your love will surely guide our way.

Precious Jesus keep your hand upon us,

We need your guidance each and ever day.

And our home to you we dedicate it,

This is our prayer oh Lord today.

As Dad sang the words, “Hear our prayer dear Lord…” the song transitioned to a higher key, as if to underscore the conversion from a love song to Mari, to a full dedication of our family to God Almighty. Then, as the song concludes, those simple, single piano notes that opened the work return to bring it to a soft and beautiful conclusion. As she looked at Dad, her eyes welled with tears, she was no longer Mari, as far as I was concerned. She wasn’t just my second mom, or stepmother either. She was Mom.

Long before that day, however, Mari was a young girl herself and, eventually, a mother and mom to that red-haired, freckle-faced girl that would become my sister. “My room had a double window on the front & a single one on the side,” Mari would write years later. “From the single side window, I could see the pond Daddy had someone dig & small trees & small azaleas planted in an angled row.” Of course, young Mari would notice that the row was angled. With a sense of organization and an eye for detail that would leave the most demanding drill sergeant begging for mercy, nothing escaped those eyes. “When I hear crickets chirping, birds singing, or Whipperwills (sic) calling, ‘Chip the widow’s white oak,’ I think of summer nights….sleeping with the windows open.” As the years went by, my sister would sleep in that room and, later still, Sis’ young son.

By the way, have you ever seen anyone that learned to play Frisbee by catching and throwing it on one finger? I hadn’t either. But Mari could do it, for she evidently knew no other way. I had moved from Louisiana to Florida to attend college and live with Dad and Mari. Still 18 years old, I had excess energy that was best spent in the back yard with a plastic disc, as opposed to alternative methods of blowing off steam that are somewhat more destructive for a young man. Dad, Mari and I would adjourn to the back yard and, I swear, the first time I threw the Frisbee to her, she instinctively caught it on her middle finger! She wasn’t trying to flash an obscene gesture to anyone … it just, happened!! Then she twirled the thing around on the same finger and threw it right back to me! I tried to teach her more traditional methods lest she offend a neighbor,..but it was no use. She could play Frisbee and flip off the universe with more genuine happiness than anyone I’ve ever seen.

As the years went by, Dad and Mari eventually moved to the Atlanta area, where Dad worked at several churches until his retirement, and Mari not only continued playing piano and organ at church, but took on the duties of managing the financial operations of the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, a non-profit organization that takes in and cares for children and families in the most desperate of circumstances. Last April, after 22 years of service at the Children’s Home, Mari decided it was time to retire and her and Dad made plans to move back to the Florida panhandle.

It should be a simple ending to the story, yes? Yet things don’t always go according to plan. Less than two months ago, Mari was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The family rallied immediately, my sister never leaving Mom’s side, while I have taken an inordinate amount of time off from the road (and from Ricochet) to help Mom and Dad and Sis in any way I can. The tumor, called Glioblastoma, is especially aggressive and Mom’s condition deteriorated, seemingly by the hour sometimes.

Some of you may recall that my Dad is waging his own battle with Alzheimer’s, which resulted in the most beautiful exchange one morning over breakfast. With Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s declining cognitive abilities, they were on an even par that morning, with Mom asking Dad if he had slept well. “Yes I did,” he answered, prompting emphatic satisfaction from Mom as she said, “Good,…that’s so good to hear.” Then, a little while later she would ask, “How did you sleep last night?” and the happy exchange repeated itself over and over, as fresh each time as it had been the first. It was the most loving, heartwarming, and beautifully sad thing I think I’ve ever seen.

“Children have an awesome sense of wonder,” Mom wrote, “and are so trusting and forgiving. We as adults should always remember our child-like faith.” Her faith, her child-like trust in her Savior, tempered and matured by years of good times and bad, served as a guide for our family even as it illuminated her path with Christ. Early yesterday morning, September 23, 2013, the Savior reached all the way to Mom’s bedside, embraced her beautiful soul and brought her home. Heaven is a brighter place, and doubtless better organized as well, while back here we are simultaneously devastated, yet grateful that despite our terrible loss her suffering has ended.

Her favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Her watchword is ours, and Heaven’s gain is our loss. Rest in peace, Mom.

There are 41 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Inactive

    Oh, Dave. I sit here weeping in my coffee for you and you family. I’m so sorry for your loss of Mari-she sounds like an extraordinary woman. Thank you for sharing her story with us. Your words describing Mari and your Dad are achingly beautiful. 

    It was the most loving, heartwarming, and beautifully sad thing I think I’ve ever seen.

    Prayers for you and your family.

    • #1
    • September 25, 2013 at 2:58 am
    • Like
  2. Member

    I wish your family peace, Dave. That your memories are fond ones is a beautiful thing and sounds like a great comfort.

    • #2
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:10 am
    • Like
  3. Member

    Such a beautiful remembrance. I am so sorry for your–and your family’s–loss.

    • #3
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:12 am
    • Like
  4. Member

    Dave,

    Sometimes it is hard not to smile when you remember the love of those around us. What a beautiful song that your father wrote!!! Sorry Dave but I see Mari’s faith taking the sting out of death. You will have to catch me on another day to get tears. Would God bless other families as He has blessed yours.

    • #4
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:20 am
    • Like
  5. Moderator

    Dave, my heartfealt condolences to you and your family.

    • #5
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:22 am
    • Like
  6. Inactive
    skipsul: Dave, my heartfealt condolences to you and your family.

    Likewise. You have my prayers and deepest sympathies.

    • #6
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:39 am
    • Like
  7. Inactive

    A beautifully written tribute to a wonderful woman. How blessed you were to have her in your life. 

    • #7
    • September 25, 2013 at 3:43 am
    • Like
  8. Member

    Agreed, a wonderful tribute. God be praised for your family.

    • #8
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:10 am
    • Like
  9. Member

    A heartwarming, heartrending tribute, Dave…Peace for Mari and healing love for you and yours! Prayers…

    • #9
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:16 am
    • Like
  10. Inactive
    Wannabe Texan: A beautifully written tribute to a wonderful woman. How blessed you were to have her in your life. · 35 minutes ago

    And how blessed she was to have you in hers. A warm and loving tribute from a warm and loving son. Words to comfort the family and friends who knew her and loved her.

    • #10
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:24 am
    • Like
  11. Inactive

    What a mystery that life be so beautiful and sad and painful and joyous, sometimes all at the same. Dave, you have been well and truly blessed.

    • #11
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:26 am
    • Like
  12. Member

    Dave,may God bless you and your family.

    • #12
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:45 am
    • Like
  13. Member

    Your words, even in this great sadness, contain such love that they lift us up and remind of what is truly important. In these difficult days it feels especially good to read them. Thank you.

    • #13
    • September 25, 2013 at 4:51 am
    • Like
  14. Member

    So sorry. Sounds like a wonderful women. Now it is your turn to pass her influence down to the next generation. 

    I lost my mother last year. It still hurts, but when think about the good times, she still brings a smile to my face. 

    God bless you and your family.

    • #14
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:01 am
    • Like
  15. Inactive

    She sounds so wonderful, and you have brought her to life for all of us. I am sure that you were a great joy and comfort to her; how blessed she was to have you for a second child. We are so very sorry for your loss.

    • #15
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:03 am
    • Like
  16. Inactive

    What a wonderful story. I feel like I know her. Prayers for you and your family Dave.

    • #16
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:13 am
    • Like
  17. Member

    This was a very moving tribute to your mother. May the Holy Spirit grant you comfort in the days and months ahead.

    • #17
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:23 am
    • Like
  18. Contributor

    Irving once said that tears speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messages of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love. I’m sure you have shed many tears, and they speak of your love for your mom. Thank you for sharing Mari with us, Dave—and your unseen tears.

    • #18
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:25 am
    • Like
  19. Inactive

    Dave, that is a wonderful tribute. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • #19
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:46 am
    • Like
  20. Member

    Peace, joy, and hugs to you and your family, Dave. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful woman with all of us.

    • #20
    • September 25, 2013 at 5:48 am
    • Like
  21. Member

    You’ve touched a lot of people with this, as I’m sure she touched many people in her life. It’s a wonderful tribute. In a time of loss for us someone had written “what a joy to mourn as believers.” It sounds like an oxymoron, but I hope you are experiencing joyful mourning. Please accept my sincere condolences.

    • #21
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:03 am
    • Like
  22. Inactive

    May God bless you Dave, as you comfort your Dad. You will have to remind him sometimes that Mari has gone to heaven, and he will be freshly sad at the loss all over again.

    • #22
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:20 am
    • Like
  23. Podcaster

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

    He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

    Count the blessings, hold them dear, the pain subsides, the love does not.

    • #23
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:26 am
    • Like
  24. Member

    .

    • #24
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:35 am
    • Like
  25. Inactive

    Simply beautiful, Dave. Your family is in my prayers.

    • #25
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:39 am
    • Like
  26. Inactive

    We are so glad we could uphold you in prayer when we did not know what was happening. God can use us to touch lives when we do not know the story.

    You are blessed indeed to have such great love in your family.

    • #26
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:44 am
    • Like
  27. Member

    Dear Dave, I am very sorry to hear of your loss. Mari sounds like a true lady and is no doubt keeping watch over you and your family tonight. Rejoice in the knowledge that she is with God.

    • #27
    • September 25, 2013 at 6:50 am
    • Like
  28. Member

    You and your family are in our prayers.

    • #28
    • September 25, 2013 at 7:16 am
    • Like
  29. Member

    Condolences, my friend, to you and your family.

    • #29
    • September 25, 2013 at 7:35 am
    • Like
  30. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    There are no words to adequately and properly convey my thanks for your kind thoughts, your warm words, and your prayers. I shouldn’t be surprised at the kind of people that make up the Ricochet community, but you all contine to rally around those in need. Thank you all ever so much.

    • #30
    • September 25, 2013 at 7:48 am
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2