Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Place

Yes, I loved our Synagoguge.
But it was in a word: ugly.
It had been transformed from a Christian grade school and still had the look despite the objects of worship that grace the building.
We looked at several places.
Mark didn't wish a garden wedding. He had been a best man in one and it rained that day. He was in his army blues. Wool.
Do you know what wool smells like when it is wet?
So a garden wedding was out.
Or was it?
We looked at several places. They either didn't fit who we were, or we would not be able to have pictures taken during the services. Many places do not allow pictures to be taken during the service. But our rabbi felt that the Spirit of G-d wasn't afraid of a light bulb. As long as the photograhper didn't draw attention to himself, no one had a problem.
So, it was Beth Messiah that we would get married.
But as I looked about, I begin to see that the ugly 'clemet blocks' could be viewed as a wall. A garden wall.
So, we decided on lighted evergreen trees on either sider of the room, with a Arch draped with grapes in the back. This would give the feel of a walled Isreali Garden. I would have gone for a fountion, but it was on the pricey side.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

You Look Like A Woman Loved

As we went about our wedding plans, an amazing thing happen.
It was as if Mark recieved permission to express what was truly in his arm. Always the gentleman, Mark could now be found holding my hand, playing with my hair, or holding me in his arms. He said one of the nice things about holding me; I didn't pull away, but would just allow him to hold me. His lips would often brush against my cheek or forehead.
And he allowed me to love him. He would rest his head upon my shoulder, alow me to rub his shoulder. He began open and laughed easy and often.
Between the Cancer and allowing love into his life, Mark was born anew.
I remember one day while having lunch with a friend, she said to me, "you looked like a woman who is loved."
I smiled and nodded. "I am.
We prayed together. Studied together. Worked on our wedding together and fought his cancer together.
There were times I thought this was nothing more than a dream.
But then I would look into thoses beautiful blue-green eyes and realize it was all real.
Mark loved me. And this summer, we would be married.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

So The Reel Work Begins

It is now March, 2005
We have survied our first two weeks of our engagment.
We had started talking about waht kind of wedding we wished, but also the hopes and dreams of our lives together.
This included children. Mark was still going through Chemo and then there is this called my age. So Mark had asked if I would be willing to adopt a child, even if G-d willing we had our own. We both love children, so this was not a problem.
Since we had chosen our theme, for the wedding, we began to make plans.
I had been part of a Worship team before I came to Temple, so I wanted to include dance and Banners in our wedding.

Mark, being Mililary, felt it would be cool if his best man wore his Army Blues. Since our backgound is Sephardic, we wanted to add much of that tradition to our service. And more importanty, we wanted people to see the Love that Messiah has for His Bride in our wedding. Just as one day Yeshua is coming for His bride for the Huppah He is preparing for us, so Mark and I wanted people to see G-d in our wedding.
So the first step; set a date.
August 26, 2005. I would have preferred June, but agreed to August.
Next, picked our wedding party. Mark's best friend Sam was chosen as Best Man and the little girl who prayed for "Mark to safty return to Laini," Elana would be my flower girl. We wanted the Huppah to be hand held so, we picked Tony, Josh, Paul and Buddy. They would serve as our witnesses.
Menu: MiddleEastern of course; Azar's
Sarah recommneded a florist.
I knew where to get the cake: Naa's
I had brought a beautiful, simple ivory dress I thought would be lovely, but since Mark wanted a formal wedding, Sarah and I set a date to visit David Bridal.
Rabbi Joe would of course perform the ceremony.

The only problem was the place. Mark wanted at Beth Messiah.
I didn't.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Planning a Jewish Wedding Part 2: Tradition!

A Jewish wedding in Spain....
An Moroccan Jewish wedding.....
From Yentli.....
From Fiddler on The Roof...
When we think of Jewish weddings, movies such as Yenti and Fiddler On the Roof , often come to mind.
But there is no such thing as a 'traditional Jewish Wedding."
Yes, we have wonderful, beautiful traditions that makes our wedding beautiful and spiritual. But each wedding also reflects the style, taste and spirit of each couple being married.
There are different traditions between the Ashkenazic (Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind) and Sephardic Jews , which takes on a Middle East, Mediterranean, North African flavor.
I have attended a Jewish wedding that was a military wedding and one at the beach. I also knew a couple that blended their culture of Jewish and Hindu.
Every wedding should-no must! be an expression of the couple. It reveals not only their faith, but who they are as a couple and taste of what their lives may be like.
During the time of our engagement, Rabbi Joe was teaching on the Book of Revelation. It is the Wedding of The High Priest (Yeshua) to the daughter of the High Priest (we the community of believers). This gave Mark and I the Theme of our Wedding; A Royal Wedding.

Planning A Jewish Wedding

Funny how life is:
Mark had been so scared to marry me. Then when he found he had cancer, he told me that it helped him to see what was important. That I was the woman he loved and wanted to spend the rest of his life with. No matter how long or short.
Now that he truly allowed himself to feel the love in his heart, there was no doubt that I was the woman of his heart.
And he wanted our wedding to be his love gift to me: a celebration of our love.
As we began to plan for our upcoming wedding and marriage, I was reminded of a verse from one my flavorite songs, All Night Long, By Lionel Richie.
"Life is good; it's wild and sweet."
That has my life with Mark has been like since I'd met him and that is what planning our wedding was like.
By the time Mark and I decided to wed, I had already knew what kind of wedding I wanted;

A Jewish One. One that affirm our faith in Yeshua and sweet with the traditions of our Jewish faith.
It really began with a sermon I heard in 1995 (and I still have it) called Preparing for The Wedding Feast. Based on Matthew 25, it outlined Yeshua the Jewish Messiah returning one day for His Bride. It is a most beautiful teaching and frankly, you can only understand Matthew 25 is knowing the traditions of a Jewish Wedding.
In 1999, several things happen.

One, our new Pastor began teaching on Convenat, including the Convenat of marriage.
Two, during a rehearal for a Passion Play, I slipped on a grape and broke my ankle, so I had plenty of bedrest that gave me time to catch up on prayer and study.
Three, several friends of my were getting married, two of them Messiniac Jews and I wanted to make something special for them. Since I was recovering from an broken ankle (another story) I had plenty of time to research the traditions of Jewish wedding and found a treasure chest of jewels. Taking what Pastor Nate was teaching on the Convenat and what I was learning, I made samples as wedding gifts that were Covenants.
For my Messianic friends, I made a Ketabuh, which is a Marriage Covenant. While it is often signed, I did my in cross-stitch and the Rabbi who perform the ceremony approved of it. So, it began part of the marriage ceremony.
The Ketubah is not spiritual, but legal document. It spells out the rights of the wife and the duites of the husband. In fact, that is why Shavuot is such a big deal. For this is the time we celebrate G-d "marrying Israel" the Torah is our "Ketubah. As believers in Yeshua, as His Bride, the Torah (The Bible) is our Ketubah, laying out Yeshua's love for us, that He will meet our needs. It contains all His promises to us. In a Jewish Wedding the husband gives the ket to his bride, thus confirming his promises to her. Yeshua gave us His Word. Do we accept it?
So by the time my ankle healed, I was able to dance at my friend's wedding. And I also knew if G-d did indeed mean for me to marry, I already had a pretty good idea what I wanted my wedding to look like.

The Ring

Well, as you know by now, Mark did not have a change of heart. It was a big change in his life, a huge decision and of course the doubts would come. It was my own unfounded fears that was caused sleepless nights.
There had been a Man's Retreat and I felt maybe Mark would have a long talk with Rabbi, come home and say "Laini, I can't do this."
I confess, that was the fear of my heart; that Mark would feel he had been pushed into something he really didn't wish to do. I always felt that they would be some one out there trying to talk him out of marrying me. Several weeks later, I would learn a few people did try.
But Mark assured me that I had nothing to fear; it was me he loved, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
A friend of my from the Church I use to attend owns a jewelry store, so of course that is where I wanted to go get my ring. And off we went. I really don't care for the modern look, I prefer the more Victorican settings. That is sort what I had in mind. Mark had once worked in a Jewelry store, so he knew what to look out for. After a while, I spotted IT. A very simple, but eloquent, what is known as a european setting. It was one dimand (large of course) of the old gold and not the modern white gold. The funny thing is;
1. Mark spotted the ring and asked if I liked it. Turns out, this would have been the very ring he would have chosen.
2 as Mark would later say:"You would pickthe one that cost the most."
As you can see, the Chemo was beginning to take its toll on Mark.
It is'n the best shot of my ring, but trust me, it is beautiful.
Our announcement went through arrange of emotions. From; "I didn't know you were even seeing anyone" to "well it's about time!" to "I thought you guys were already married; your so perfect together!"
I did fuss Mark for not telling Paul and Sarah sooner. She was alittle upset that she wasn't called straight away, but quickly got over it.
What upset me the most was the family. One of Mark's sisters didn't even know Mark was engaged until she heard folks talking about my wedding dress. When she asked who was I marrying, she was told, "Your brother."
What a way to find out!

Who Are You And What Did You Do With My Markie?

From Feburary 14th, 2008:
After Mark dropped me off from the dinner, I called my mum to tell her Mark and i were getting married. But we waited a few days before the announcement was made.

Mark had mid-terms that week and I wanted to wait for mark to tell his parents.
Frankly, I knew he was working up the nerve; they weren't going to take this bit of news well.

So the morning of Chemo, after Mark told his Dad, I called my mum and gave her the go ahead to to tell others. And I am sure the phone lines were burning because that was news she had been dying to hear and tell. Then, we told the staff. No big shock there either. Except for those who thought we were already married.
The day after Chemo was Friday and as usual we got together to have Shabbath supper before we went to the Temple.
Mark started asking me is rapid form: what type of wedding did I wish, where did I want to go on a honeymoon, where did I want to live, how many children did I want.....
I just looked at him in shock. Who are you and what did you do with my Markie. The cold feet had totality defrost and I now had Groomzilla on my hands!
Amoung the questions was my engagement ring. Mark asked if I had any ideas or just trust him. I have always wanted to pick out my own ring, so it was decided I would go with him. But until then, I wore his class ring from West Point. But we had to put tape in the center because the ring was too big for my ring.
Friday night Mark went to tell Rabbi: "Rabbi! We did it! We are engaged!:Rabbi said "Mazol Tov! Did you tell Laini?"
For you see, Mark's announment sounded like he had told me we were getting married: it didn't sound like he had asked me.
One sister (who wasn't at the dinner) when I told we were engaged I had to catch before she fainted; she was ready to shout and start dancing in the aisles. I told her that Mark wanted to wait until the next morning to make the announcement.So, just before the end of the service, Mark made the announcement we were engaged.
Part of his statement was: "I always thought I would chose my wife; but G-d found her for me."
Now this goes against our western concept of love and marriage. In Biblical times and even now in observe homes, it was the parents that arranged their children's marriages. In our faith, just as G-d brought Adam to Adam (her name wasn't Eve then) so we trust G-d as our Abba to find and bring us our spouse. And since we both sought G-d as to who to marry, our Heavenly Abba brought us together. Yes, there were a few who thought Mark was saying; "G-d told me to marry this woman and he did."

Well, G-d did tell Mark I was the one for him. But G-d gives wonderful gifts. We ask His guidance for jobs, schools, cars. Why not the person your suppose to spend the rest of your life with? Why not pray for one of the most important descision in one's life?
I remember the look upon his face when he sat down. He was in shock. That "I set my course and I can't turn back" look.

I was beginning to wonder if I should let him off the hook and give him back his class ring......

Thursday, 20 November 2008

It Rained That Too

Picture of Mark and I, Blessing Dinner, 2006

From 13th 2008
When: A Sunday.
The place: Beth Messiah Synagogue.
The Event: The Blessing Dinner.
For several years, the men of our Synagogue got together and made dinner for their wives, daughters, mums as well as the single, divorced or widowed women of the congregation. The Sunday chosest to Valentine's Day was picked. It was called Blessing Dinner to bless the women in the men's lives. It was a potluck meal where the men did the cooking. Roses and other flowers were brought for the evening. For woman who were Bat Mitzvah (over the age of 13) she would recieve a rose. Girls under 13 recieve another type of flower.
The men setup, serve the meal and clean up. After dinner, first the husbands, one by one would stand up and play tribute to their beloved and afterwards, represent her with a rose. The men would also pay tribute to their mums and daughters. Rabbi would give roses to the women who, for whatever reason, was without a mate. This way everyone recieved atleast one flower on Lovers Day.
Mark and I were courting at the time. For several weeks we had talked about marriage. And Mark by his own admission suffered from a serve case of cold feet.
We were suppose to meet earlier in the day, do a little shopping and then I woud dress at his apartment.
But he forgot and was several hours late. We exchanged words and almost did not go to the dinner.
But we went to his apartment so I could change. I wore a studding midnight black dress that had ripples at the hem and moved every time I did. I took my braids out and let my wavey hair fall down my back and laced in it little hairpins with pearls and dimands. I was looking good.
Mark looked up when I walked out and then looked back into his book! My heart sank. He then stood up, placed his hands on my shoulders and asked; "excuse me, who are you and what have you done with my Laini?" That made me smile. He really did notice. According to Mark; "she looked gooooood!"
Like tonight, it was pouring down rain and since I was wearing heeds I wasn't use to, I had to hold onto Mark's arm.
Heads turned when I walked in. While most were used to seeing me dress for the services, no one had seem me dressed to the nines.
Until tonight.
After the meal, Mark wondered out loud: "I wonder what I am going to say about you."I said: "Just ask the Holy Spirit. And the words will then come."
He did and they did.
At one point I notice Mark had left the table we were sharing with friends. I thought he had gone to the bathroom. And then I heard his voice. Up front. Now you have to understand, Mark didn't wait until all of the husband had spoken, but picked up and rose and began to tell everyone how I had prayed for him, cared for him, how I supported him while he was in Iraq and now during his cancer treatment. That G-d had truly blessed him when He brought me into his life. He spoke of his love for me and said everything but; "will you marry me?" He then came over and handed me the rose. He asked if I liked what he said. I told him; "I love every word, and you have no idea what you just did.""What did I just do?""You just asked me to marry you in front of almost 130 people."
It took a few moments, but when Rabbi asked: "you didn't see that coming did you?" Mark realized what he had done. To say the room was abuzz was an understatement.
On the way home we talked about what he had done. And when he came to a red light, Mark turned to me and said; "well, you want to set a date?"And that is how is all began.

Three years ago tonight. Around 7:00pm.

The Moment Of Truth

I would learn later that others had been pressing Mark about his relationship with me. He would say "we're friends."
I remember one day Rabbi quoting something I had to Mark. "Mark talks a lot about you." He stated.
It was clear to most who knew us that Mark loved me, but that he was also afraid of marrying me.
Or anyone esle for that matter.
One Shabbath I remember a story the Rabbi told. There was a man who loved a woman, but had cold feet. He could not bring himself to marry her. It was also feared that when he finally decided to wed, he would leave town before the wedding.
So, the Rabbi and the elders of the commuity decicded that the couple should marry on Shabbath. We don't do weddings on Shabbath (no work) since he would not be able to travel, he would have to go through the wedding. So the wedding went off and they lived to have a long, happy life.
I was sitting there thinking as I listening to this story: Mark would be the second groom married on Shabbath.
Funny; Rabbi thought the same thing.
One afternoon we went out to lunch. Mark told me: "I love you very much, but I must tell you Laini; I have cold feet!" Laater that evening, we went to a concert and a friend stopped to tell me: "Laini! G-d really has me praying for your husband!" Knowing Mark was close, I told her to keep praying.
I said: "I know you have cold, you have cold feet. All G-d's Children know you have cold feet. We are praying for those cold feet."
A few days later, we threw a small birthday party for my mum. She had a great time.
I had set the date; if Mark didn't ask me to marry him by the 14th , I was gone. I would continue being his caregiver, but when the cancer treatment was over, so was the relationship. It was a hard decicion and I would need G-d's strenght to see it through.But then, Feburany 13th, it all changed.....

Mark Gets Honest

He did.
It was that night that Mark got honest, with himself and with me. I could hear the pain in his voice as he remembered.
A memory he had to let go.
I say; "but I'm not...."
"I know," Mark answered.
What shocked was his next statement; he never thought anyone would ever love him, that he wasn't worth of being loved. And that knowing that I truly card for him both delighted him and frighten him. For he didn't know how to handle it.
I told Mark you don't handle love; you just accept it.
I saw a new light come into Mark' s eyes that night.

I smiled. Mark knew i loved him and he was willing to accept it. And that moment, Mark took me in his arms and held me for a long time.
I could feel his heart opening up to me, receiving my love. And loving me back.
AmberJade (a reader) asked why didn't I kick Mark to the curb sooner.

Simple. What stood before me was a tall, big man with a sweet face and gentle spirit. A strong person. But I could also see his soul: G-d showed me his soul and it would take some time and love-my love to heal it.
And in doing so, Mark's faith and encouragement gave me the courage try things I never would, to step from out of the shadows and even risk loving another person.
This is how G-d loves us. He doesn't 'kick us to the curb' when we don't respond to His love the first 50 times He reaches out to us. Yes, there comes a moment where we need to face the fact we might have to cut our loses.

But knowing the things Mark had gone through, dealing with coming home from Iraq only to find he had cancer and had to fight to get his health benefits, wanting to marry me and yet not sure if he could not only support me, but live long enough to even marry me.
Plus, let's be real; ours isn't your normal relationship. His family was still having a hard time understanding this Messianic Jewish stuff and being in love with a Jewish lady of colour who is older than he wasn't helping.
Whatever normal is.
While Mark worked all of this out in his soul, I prayed, asking G-d to give me the patience to wait.
Unbeknown to me, others were beginning to speak to Mark as well.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Purity Ring and Remaining Tidy Part 2

I have a funny feeling that my Poodle ring got lost in the move to the new apartment. Maybe it is for the best; letting go fully of the past.
I received a few e-mails about the Purity Ring.
Mostly good.
Can we be sure if our teens remain tidy? I think it boils down to with one: how you raised them.
two: do you trust them.
three: do you practice what you preach.
I know friends who have wore the Purity Ring and remain virgins until their wedding nights. I trust them enough to believe this to be true. And then there are those like myself who chose after being sexuality for moral and biblical reasons to remain celibate until we are married.
It is not an easy choice, not one everyone would chose or understand. One some would even call this way of thinking insane or extreme. That as a Modern woman, I need to "get busy." But it is the choice we made.
And I have never regretted it.
This evening, my husband and I were asked to share about our courtship with a group of teenagers. We did not have to say "do as we say, and not as we do," because we chose to wait. Later, I would recieve a call from one of the teen's mums.
She asked her parents for a Purity ring.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


If we were to walk in the woods and a spring appeared just when we became thirsty, we would call it a miracle. And if on a second walk, if we became thirsty at just that point again, and again the spring appeared, we would remark on the coincidence. But if that spring were there always, we would take it for granted and cease to notice it. Yet is that not more miraculous still?-

Baal Shem Tov

How often we go about looking for miracles, when they are right in front of us.

It was one of the lessions both Mark and I had to learn during this growing time.

I often spoke of this being a dark time in our lives.

But that is when growth takes place. Babies grow in the darkness of the womb. Fruit trees grow during the winter, the winds banging againt the trees cause the sap to thicken and the fruit is larger and sweeter.

And that is what happen began to happen in our beings, our lives and in our relationship.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Fear of My Heart

The Fear in My Heart
People tell me all the time that I am a strong woman. But the fear of rejection ran deep. I loved Mark and knew he loved me, but fear ruled my heart. I would however, learn one December evening, just before our families met that Mark too had that same fear.
It seem that there was another woman, one he loved. In 1998, Mark had a car accident that not only almost took his left leg, but his life. It was while h was in hosptial, that he learned why she hadn't come to see him or atleast call. She was seeing someone else. And when he needed her most, she wasn't there. And Mark had guraded his heart ever since.
I told him I was paying for someone else's sins. I wasn't the one who left. I have been here all of the time. I have been here during his deployment to Iraq and now as he battles Cancer. My name isn't....
I remember one evening we had a fight and I was about to leave when he said: "what makes you think I would let you just walk out that door."
"Then give me a reason to stay!"
I added the video above because that is how I felt the whole time. How I long to say I Love You. But the fear of rejection was just too strong.
So I had to let my actions speak for me.

Purity Ring and Remaining Tidy

Purity Ring and Remaining Tidy
purity ring
Purity Rings. Given to teen girls around their 14-to 16 birthdays. A reminder that their bodies are precious and holy, not to be given away lightly and just to anyone for the asking.

A Pastor I know gave plain gold bands to his sons as well. This summer, his eldest daughter and son were married, each having waited until they were wed.
There are even Purity Balls. Where parnets give their daughters (and some cases, sons) rings to remind them of the fact their body is precious and not to be treated like a plaything.
Yes, the media tends to tell us the stories of those who did not keep the vow.
But you don't hear the stories of those who do wait for the One G-d has for them.
I am a firm believer in the Torah; sex is for the man and woman who has stood before G-d and Man, entering into the Holy Covnenat of marriage. Yes, I am aware that this is an old fashion notion, but the 'new morality' is still the 'old immorality' that G-d condenms.
After my divorce and I had returned to G-d, I vowed to remain pure until G-d send me the husband of His choicing. I also had a son who watching me closely. And I was mindful that this little person was what I both say and do. My son didn't see me with "boyfriends" men coming in and out of my bedroom. In order to show how holy the Marriage bed is, I had to treat sex and marriage as holy. We as parnets are our children's first teachers.
And that includes family issuses.
About this time I heard of the Purity Ring. I even knew many young women who's parnets gave them one on their 16th birthday. One of them was my Matron of Honour and her now husband.
The Purity Ring is the result of a vow one has made to remain a virgin until marriage.
In 1999, I dreamt of a beautiful, tall ice-blue poodle, being held on a lead by the L-rd Himself. The love that proved out of His eyes for this do. I awoke, realizing I was the poodle.
But Blue?
I told a friend about the dream and he laughed. He told that his mother owned a Standard size Ice Blue Poodle. Jerry said: "Do you know how rare those Poodles are? G-d is telling you how precious you are to Him."
A few days later, while at the mall, I passed by a Jewel Cart. And there it was! An ice-blue poodle ring!
The lady told me that this ring has sat on the tray for weeks. I was the only person who showed any interest in the ring, so she sold it to me for half price!
This became my Purity Ring. I would wear this ring as a reminder to remain tidy until if and when I married. Then and only then would I remove the Poodle Ring for an engagement ring.
To many this sounds strange, unrealistic. But when I chose to become a believer and follower of the Messiah, that meant obeying ALL of His Commandments. And sex outside the Convenat of marriage is a sin. Not my idea, G-d's.
And while I cannot speak for anyone else, this is the path I chose to walk.
Yes, it was hard; after all sex does feel good. But until G-d brought me my spouse, I forcus on my relationship to G-d, growing as a person and took a lot of showers.
But oh how wonderful G-d is! For during our courtship, I would learn Mark made the same vow, to wait for G-d's choice of a wife.
Ain't G-d good!
Sadly, I no longer have that ring. After Mark gave me my engagement ring, I lost it somewhere in my old townhouse and never found it.
Even after all these years, I still hope that Poodle ring will show up. I would love to give it to a daughter, if G-d blesses us with one.

Shavuot Celebrating the Marriage between God and the Jewish People,

From 7th, June 2008
G-d is a Romanctic. Love and Marriage is His idea.

Mark and I love this Holy Day. Part of the customs is the enjoying of dairy products.
Mark and I share a slice of New York Cheese Cake and a glass of wine. Our hope one day is when we have our own home, we shall raise our Huppah as part of our Shavuot celebration.
Shavuot is 9th June. I hope that in Iraq, there is some Cheese Cake for Mark to enjoy the day with. Me? I know Mark would wish me to have a slice of New York Cheese Cake and think of him.

The Hair Cutting Party

This was a hoot!
Several year ago our buddy, Sarah's mum had and survived breast cancer. Kathy and Chuck were one of the leaders of the single's group Mark and I had been part of (at different times) And on one New Year's Eve, the family made shaving Kathy's hair a party.
So, remembering that, I ran with it. We ordered Cokes and Pizza and invited several people over. Sadly Paul and Sarah were out of town, so they couldn't make it.

So it was Mark's parnets, his sister and her two girls.
And we had a blast.
Mark had come up with a bright I idea for pictures...
We got a rope and I ran about the kitchen, chasing Mark with the rope...I would lasso him....drag him to a waiting chair, tie him up and and then with a glee in my eyes go for the hair!
But we let Dad had the first shave. Mum next, I did and one of his nieces. His sister couldn't do it and we didn't push.
After it was over, and Mark went to see what he looked like with a clean head, I said to Dad; "Well, he took that well..." Right clue and there was no way he could have heard me, we heard "AHHH MY HAIR!!!!"
Before he said good night, Mark took me in his arms and kissed my forehead, thanking me once again how to laugh and not to take Cancer so seriously.
I reminded him, we always have fun together.
A New Year
One of the sad things that happen Christmas Day was that one of our niece's wanted a Bunny.
Sadly the Bunny died the night before and thankfully Mark and I weren't around for the scence that followed.
But because of my mum's alleries, (the Bunny fur) we had to find a drugstore that would be open and get medication for mummie.
New Year's End, Paul and Sarah invited us to come and pray the New Year in at their house with friends.
It was a wnderful time. Much of it was praying for Mark's healing. But my slience prayer; that our relationship would result in marriage. Or that G-d would just allow me to move on with my life. I loved Mark with all my heart and made a promise to take care of him during his cancer treatment. But when it is all over; what then? I needed to know where I stood.
A few days later, went to get a new Bunny for Isabel. The store glady replaced the dead Bunny. While there, Mark found this cute little white Polar Bear named Budhha. Press his tummy and he has this deep belly laugh This little guy gave me a giggle.
Now the story; part of the side affects to Chemo can be the removed of the wanting to eat. Or one comes down with a bad case of the munchies.

Mark had the munchie and deveopled alittle tummy. He was getting upset because of the weigh gain, but I reminded him that means his treatment is going well. I would rub his tummy and call it "Budhha!" So his tummy became little Budhha and it also helps the injection of his medication easier.
So, that is why the Polar Bear has so much meaning and a special gift from Mark.
There was also a showdown with Mark's roommates. Since Mark and I were not married and while they liked me alot, by Islamic law , I shouldn't be over so much, even though I am the one taking care of Mark.
That matter had to be worked out and in the end, because I was taking care of Mark kept visiting.
My care of Mark was a few nights of sleeping on the sofa when Mark was very sick and could not be alone. Teaching him how to eat better so to help his body heal and of course the injections. We had decided to keep the medication in my fridge.
Becauase his white blood count was low, we had to go over his diet. I washed all raw fruit and veggies with a vinger-water wash. This removes all bugs and other yucky stuff. Lots of salmon and beef to rebuild his red blood cells. Peppermint tea and candy for his tummy. He also had to wear a mask for that he would not catch cold.

One day we had to go to the bank and he was wearing his surgeral mask. I had to quickly explain it was for medical reasons.
Dr. Hopkins was so pleased with the care Mark was recieving, he wanted me to come and apply with the Navel Hosptial to work with his department.
It was this time Mark and I began to talk about marriage. His sister thought it was the idea of a big wedding that might be scaring him off and if I was willing to settle for a small wedding, Mark would be ok. That was fine with me.
Well, that wasn't it. Mark said if we were going to get married, we were going to have a celebration.

OMG; GroomZilla!
No, it wasn't the size. Mark just had cold feet.
I began to pray: G-d this isn't right! This isn't fair! Mark loves me and I love Mark! But I can't stand anymore of this! Either he marrys me or I am out of here! I know he is scared, but as G-d's
I felt G-d speak to my heart: that Mark and I would indeed be married; H was working on Mark. Just Trust Him.
I chose to trust Him.

The Next Day

Mummie had told me the evening before, that she didn't wish to go Mark's Parents for Christmas Dinner.
But the next day, she changed her mind, so Mark and I to drive from Norfolk to Virginia Beach (a 45 minute drive) and pick her up before we went to his parents, who live in Porthmouth.
Again, everyone waited for Mark to say something about the nature of our relationship.
He didn't.
At this point we were fighting more.

I was feeling used; all I was is his nurse and once he was finish with treatment, bye-bye Laini.
But Mark had a fight on his hands. Not just the cancer, but the army itself to get his benefits. Mark had to prove that he became sick while in Iraq. This way, he could get his health benefits and his salary. Mark had made it clear he wanted to make sure he would be able to take care of me. At the moment, he didn't have a income and didn't think it fair to ask me to marry him and have nothing to offer me.

Now I can look back and understand and appreciate his feelings.
Later in the evening, Mark told me he would be leaving to spend a few days with his family at his older sister's. I could only hope that he would use that time to not only rest, but to really consider what and who wanted in his life.

I showed his mum how to give Mark his injections.

A few days later, Mark called unexpectly to let me know he was back in town. I was surprised: expected him to be gone at least a week.
Mark told me he had to give himself the injections and was very happy to have me do them from now on.
As Mark took off his cap, some of his hair came falling down like autumn leaves down. I was looking up at patches of hair.

The affects of Chemo. He told me he awoke to find hair on his pillow.
I couldn't hold back the tears. This was MY moment of truth; the man I loved has Cancer and I could lose him.
Mark took me in his arms and allowed me cry.

He said it's ok. He had cried too.
Later, we made plans to have a hair shaving party later in the week. It was a reminder to Mark that he still had control of this disease and he must not allow it to run his life.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

That Evening

Hair freshly washed and braided, showered and dressed in the lovely red dress my mum brought me years ago, I stepped out into the living room, surrrounded by Mark's family.
It was clear that my mum was not comfort with Mark's family. This is not a quiet brunch of folks and this is not something we are use to. I come from a small family and not givven to being loud. I was thankful Mark's mum was willing to speak to mummie
The tension was clearly in the air. This was more than Mark and Laini wishing for the families to meet. There was a feel of "is there an annoucement coming?"
And the only one unaware of the tension was Mark.
So, for the first time, we shared Shabbath with our family.

First, Mark shared the evening blessing.

Then, I explained what I was about to do, then lit the candles and said the blessings for the lights and a special blessing since this was a special time ( Mark said the blessing over the Challah (which everyone loved) and then supper.
Mummie asked if I made collard greens. Well, Mark's dad sat straight, "collards?"
It seem that my mum isn't the only one who loves collards.
It was a nice evening, and no there was no annoucement of an engagment.
Mark went to lay down, leaving me to entian for the rest of the evening. My buddie David got Mummie home and it was clear she was not impress with Mark's family. This, I did not expect.
Later, after everyone went home and Mark got up to help me clean up, he thanked me for all that I done.
Frankly, I too was hoping for more.

A Reel Christmas

As I said in an earlier entry, the doctor found large growths in my mum's stomach in October. The same time Mark started his series of test.
The news about my mum wasn't good. The doctors were concern about the growths in my mum's tummy.
I had told Mark about how lousy my mum's Thankgsgiving was and how I wanted to give her an old fashion Christmas.
Mark not only loved the idea, but wanted to make it a family affair, bringing both family together. This way we could bless both our families.
So I call my mum back and told her our plans. She loved it. I told her we were planning a 'real Christmas.
Mark asked me did I hear what I just said.
No, I didn't
"A Real Christmas." I are staring at Mark when it dawned on me; A Reel Christmas.
I know, I know; I growl too.

I knew Mark wanted to do this dinner for our families. But I was also concern about Mark's health. It hadn't as yet occur to Mark (even after the first bout of major pain) that he wasn't the same; that the Chemo was robbing him of his energy.
But his wanting to bless our family and his roommates was a driving force and all I do is remind him to slow down or nap.
And most of the time he would.
I already knew Mark's parnets and had met his three sisters. In fact, one just came out and asked him when was he going to marry me. It was the brothers I hand't met.
The dinner has gone from just our parents to Mark's recent married sister and her two girls, his older sister, his older brother and his wife. Along with the two roommates.

And with devoted two Muslims in the mix, it made for an interesting night.
Out of respect of the family, I put up a small manger scence, one I choice during the Feast of Booths.
Well, Islam doesn't allow for figures of humans.
So we strike a compromise. Since we honoured them during their Holiday, (The Feast Of Eide, to break the fast) they would do the same for our families. We would covered the figures until the night of the dinner and then uncover them when the family was here.
So, Laini being the planner she is, pulled out her trusty pad and pen and we set out to plan the meal and who would do what. This way the work was divivded.
The day of the dinner did not go well. One of the parties did not pull their end of the dinner and things took longer than they should. This meant, I had to make Mark lay down and even with the meal, he still looked tired.
I went into Mark's bathroom to change and realize for the first time that this was the meeting of our two families. It all hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was Ere Shabbath, Christmas Eve and Mark niece's birthday.
And I was a nervious wreak.

Interesting Times

Seeing Bali off back to Nigeria. Bali, Mark, me, Hassim and Muhammad.

Ah! wonderful thing about Chemo; it is finally kicking in.
One of the interesting things that happen during this time was when Mark found his new apartment, he soon had two new roommates.
Two observe Muslims.
Oh! to be the fly on the wall during this time.
At this time didn't know what was wrong with him and working through some very angry emotions. A strong, mature Torah observe Jew with two Muslim; one from Nigeria and the other Egypt, just as firm in their faith. This was going to be interesting. And I wanted a ring side seat. Often times, I could be found sitting in a corner with a big tub of popcorn and a cold Coke.
Yes, there were 'intense momnets.' but for the most part the three men did get along. Mark said his his secret weaspon; me. Hassim and I were the same colour and I had several friends from Nigeria. Because I have spend much time in Muslim countries, I was able to help Mark avoid mine fields. As Sepherdic Jews, our culture is very much like theirs, so there was some commen ground.
They also watched our rlationship very carefully. I watched my dress, knowing their moral stance. And because they could see the respect for thier culture and feelings, I was always treated with the upmost respect. In fact, I became known as 'the lady of the house.' Not that anyone worried that Mark would treat me with anything but respect, But Bali and Hassim watced our relationship like a hawk. To these two men, I was a'holy woman' because of the way I carried myself. They knew me to be moral and upright and it went a long way to when Mark shared his faith, his Muslim friends would listen, for they could see that it was real.
Bali was only with us nine months, then had to return home to his wife and family. Otherwise he would have stayed for the wedding. But our Muslim and Hindu friends, those who would never come to another House of Worship, came out of respect for Mark and me.
We have since lost contact with our friends. Hassim has since married and has a little girl. Please keep our friends in prayers.
These men helped make us better disciples of Yeshua.

You Must Laugh

You Must Laugh
As a former LPN Hospsic nurse, I knew the importance of laugher. Thr Torah tells us that laugh "does the heart good like a medication."
I told Mark once I brought a Cancer patient of my a stuffed crab and told her to call it Cancer. It changed her outlook. You must not allow the disease to define or control you. You must learn to say "I have Cancer; it doesn't have me!"
And it is true. All my patients had I Love Lucy as part of their treatment program. And if they didn't know about Lucy before they met me, they soon came to love her too.
Early in Mark's treatment, Mark found that he was hungry all of the time. He thought Chemo takes away the need to eat. But I told him sometimes, Chemo makes you hunger.
And don't be afraid to eat! It will help the drugs to work and help your body fight the cancer.
"So," I told him, "if you find youself at Burger King @ 2 am ordering everything on the menu and if the clerk ask you, 'what! are you expecting?' Say yes! a five pound, two ounce crab."
Mark looked at me like I was from Mark. He started laughing, thinking I had said something else. Mark thought he heard me say "crab" with a 'p' and not a 'b'.
We had a good laugh over his mishearing what I said.
This was the beginning of Mark's healing. Not only of his body, but of his heart.

A Renew Respect: The Turning Point

I had a renewed respect for Mark.
He never blamed G-d or his time in Iraq for his disease.

It was just another battle to fight and he would do so.
In G-d's strenght.

Yes. We spoke a lot during this time. But he also had faith in the Love and healing power of G-d, in his doctors and in the fact that I would be there for him.
We had a little fuss in the Hosptial parking lot one day. I told him: "You are my best friend and what kind of friend would I be if I allowed you to deal with this alone!" He was quite touched and hugged me and I could feel the tenison leave his body.

He finally realize he wasn't going to be alone.
Then came the turning point.
We were having a Thankgiving supper for the older members, singles and others who might not have somewhere to go for Thankgiving. Mark wasn't sure what his plans would be and insisted I go to Temple. I invitved my mum, but the place she was living at the time would have a Dinner, so she didn't come.
At the last minute, Mark learned his family was indeed having Thanksgiving Dinner, but when he called to invite me, it was too late; I had already left.
Turns out, there was no dinner at my mum's home. The home felt it would cost too much.

Having heard this, I promise my mum I would give her a "real Christmas Dinner" to makeup for what happen.
Now, as a Messinic Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas, but this would be a gift for my mum.
The next evening was Shabbath. And it was one of those services where one's mail is read. Meaning: the message was aimed at you.
I remember Rabbi saying: "Often we ask G-d for something, like G-d send me a wife. He sends us a wife and this isn't the person you had in mind." And for a log time, that is how I felt.
There were several times that went wrong in the Social Room and my mood was growing worse and worse. Everyone was pulling at me for something and not giving in return.
And then the final straw, Mark....
I remember someone speaking to Mark and she said something about me as his wife. No, he said, we are just friends.
Those words broke my heart. After all of this time, I was still just a friend.
Having no idea I heard what was said, I came up to him and told him I was leaving.

Right now!
And I ran out the building in tears.
He caught up with me, talked me into his jeep and I told him I had had enough. I felt used by everyone. And I had had it! I took off my Star of David and gave it to him. I told him I wasn't coming back to Temple; I just wanted to be left alone! I didn't even want to see him again.
In short; I had a meltdown.
But Mark would not leave me alone "I feel like I am to blame for all of this!"
I couldn't answer him; all I could down was cry.
He took me home. And stayed with me until I calmed down. Then, told me out of his concern for me, he wasn't leaving me, but would sleep on my sofa.
Ok. So I went downstairs, while Marl kept watched downstairs.
But an hour later, I heard, "Laini! I Have to go. I will call you."
Later, he did.
"I could not stay, because I would have come upstairs...."
Later that night, he told me he loved me and one day, he would marry me.
It was just the words I had been wanting and waiting to hear.

The Next; Chemo

Things moved quickly.
The following week, Mark had his port put in.

The Port is the site where the Chemo meds would be injected into his body, thus saving his veins.
But that was a hard day for Mark. That morning he recieved the Port, then a few hours after recovering from having the Port placed (it is an operation) he recieved his first treatment of Chemo.
He looked so weak and it was hard to see the man I so leaned on, always so strong and there for me, the man who was always taking care of me, was suddenly, weak and sick.

How my heart broke. All I could do was hold his hand and wipe his forehead. How I wanted to take this disease away from him and into myself.
Funny, when the nurse removed the tape from his chest, it pulled his chest hair. Mark kept telling me; "Laini, he pulled my chest hair." Finally, I offered to beat the nurse up.
"O, would you?" was his answer.
He was so weak, we had to get a wheelchair for him to wheel Mark to the car. I was invited to his parnets home for supper. I thought Mark would fall asleep in his food.
But the next day!

In the afternoon I got a call from Mark. He was bright eye ans brushy tail, wanting to go to Ere Shabbath service.
When he arrived later at my home, I am trying to figure out who this person was. What did they mix in his Chemo. The man was higher than a kite. As we rode to Temple, I felt like I was riding with Speed Racer and was hanging on for dear life.
As I entered the temple, several asked how was Mark, knowing this was his first day. I said, "ask him!" The man did not look like he had just recieved Chemo, but was boucing off the walls. I wouldn't even allow him to drink a Coke!
We went for a walk after the service to help walk off his enegery. The next day, he had just as much engery, but he said he did sleep well.
This is going to be interesting. But then, my relationship with Mark has has been anything but dull.

My Confession
I have confession to make;
I was angry.
I was angry because Mark had survived a war, only to come home and enter into the fight of his life; Cancer.
Mark never asked why. I did.
I will never say G-d gave Mark Cancer, but He allowed it. For His purposes. But it force me to be honest about my feelings for Mark. I had to be honest with me. Yes, I loved him and I told G-d that which He already knew. And I prayed for Mark. Whether He chose a mircale or work through the doctors, nurses and meds, then do so. But I prayed for my bestfriend, for the man I loved. And there was no doublt, though I didn't say the words that I loved him.
Both Iraq and Cancer brought us closer together.
But was I just his bestfriend and now nurse? Or did this finally force Mark to face his love for me?
For Mark, he never asked why, but it did bother him that he would come home from Iraq sick.
He was more frighten of what the future held. He said he also realize that he loved me.
And he didn't wish to leave me.

Monday, 13 October 2008

He Took It Better Than I Thought

As I look back on things, I do remember how many people thought Mark and I were already married.
Or would soon to be.
When G-d brings a couple together, it shows.

I had gone to see Mark the next day for a bit.

Paul and Sarah, showed up also and we had a wonderful time teasing Mark about his hosptial attire.
It turns out that Mark, Paul and Sarah had something up their collected sleeves. I was told I would be "shanghi" the following Friday and I would like it!
Since I was outnumbered, I figured it was best not to fight.
That Thrusday, Mark, his dad and I went to the hosptial for the report. Since I already knew, I had planned to just hang out in the waiting room. But Mark asked me to come into the office with them.
Praise G-d! Mark was downgraded to stage 2. This was awesome news, since this meant his changes of recovery was very good.

Dr. Hopkin's now Mark's doctor, told Mark while Chemo would be hard to go through, once he made it through, the chances of the Cancer returning was 10%. While it was a quick growing cancer, it was caught just in time. Dr. Hopkin told Mark: "this lady saved your life!"
Later, I told Mark I already knew the outcome, but felt it was the doctor's place to tell him. Mark took it well; just like a man, he shrugged his shoulders and ok.
I could have kicked him! Here I was worrying how he would take my knowing before him, thinking he would be angery with me and his only reponsd was OK????

Later he confessed would have rather heard it from the doctor than from me, but it didn't bother him in the least that I knew before he did. It made dealing with the news easier.
After Dr.Hopkins gave him the news, my buddy Mark disappeared and popped out Captian Reel; "OK. What is the next course of action?"
Later, after having lunch with his parents (I still remember the look on his mum's face when he hugged her and said, "it's cancer, mum") Mark and I went out for coffee. This is when he asked me to help take care of him during his Cancer treatment.
I just smiled and told him; "as your friend, I already plan to do so."
I couldn't share what was truly in my heart; that I loved him and I wanted whatever time G-d would give us. I wasn't going anywhere.
Mark told me a year later, I didn't need to say a word; it was written all over my face.

And that he felt the same way.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Testing of Our Faith

I got to see Mark a few minutes that evening.
It was so funny.

Doctor Overman, (the doctor on Mark's case) told me that while the surgery was going on, Mark started to get the hiccups! And when I saw him, Mark still had them.
One of the blessings in all of this was we learned that the Team that would be working on Mark were the top surgeons in the hosptial, top in their field. So Mark was in the hands of the best.
The doctors came in while I was there with his parnets. Still, nothing was said about their findings. Since I don't drive, Mark asked his dad to bring me to see him the next day.
So, the next day, I spend the afternoon with Mark.

And he still had the hiccups. No one knew what was causing them. I did have to ask the nurse for another gown; the one they gave Mark was rather short and he was flashing me!
And we didn't have that kind of an relationship....
Personally, I think the nurse who gave him that gown thought he had a cute tush and she wanted to see it from time to time.
Later, during supper, which we shared together, one of the surgeons came in to speak to Mark. I offered to leave the room, but was asked to stay.
It became clear, no one had told Mark or his family their findings.
It had been taken for granted that I was Mark's wife, until I told people we weren't. It was clear how close we were (are) and that is why I was told so much. And frankly I found it both an honour and a burden.
I called Rabbi when I got home and told him what was going on. What bothered me the most was:

I knew Mark had cancer. Mark did not.
And I would have to carry that knowlege for another six days.
Rabbi said it was clear that the doctors felt I could handle this better than Mark right now. And that since Dr. Overman felt I was the stronger one, it would be my strenght he would lean on.
After speaaking to Rabbi and knowing what he said was true, I prayed, needing G-d's strenght and wisdom as to how to handle this situration. I needed His Grace and Wisdom.
Mark and I had always been able to talk about any and everything. He has always trusted me.
I could only hope he continue to feel that way when he learns I knew he had cancer before he did.

About Starbucks

If you have read from the beginning of this story, you would know that both Mark and I are coffee lovers.
We use to slip away between Sunday School class and service to 7-11 for coffee. (Sorry Pastor Nate).
One day, I knew our relationship was getting serious when Mark started taking me to Starbucks. The one we use to go to has since been closed, moving to a larger building. Funny, that building is now a five minute walk from our apartment.
I remember when Mark went to Iraq the first time. I use to get a pound of coffee from Starbucks to send him and sometimes, it was just given to me outright in thanks for his service. Even now, I from time to time get a pound of coffee to send him and even recieve my latte on the house.
I know many people knock Starbucks, the price mostly, but it has many sweet memories for me. How often Mark and I would just sit and talk over coffee without feeling rushed or hurried. Starbucks is just a wonderful place to meet folk, read, study or just comfort a friend.
Even now, when Mark calls from Iraq, he is drinking a cup of the Starbucks coffee I had send him. And I am enjoying a cup along with him.
Think I will make some right now...

It was quite a week.
Mark realizing that there was something indeed wrong and the worse part; it was cancer.
As I think back, Mark was in the beginning stages of the cancer when he came home for R&R in April.

His being over tired was more than just coming home from Iraq. He first notice the lump on his neck in June and reported it.
Same report was given when he came home, but no one thought it serious.
The fight just to get him back on activty duty so he could get paid while being treated is a story in itself and since it isn't a pretty one, I shall not share it. Let's just say I did a lot of praying.
I remember talking to Mark one morning. At the time the doctor thought he was stage 3 or 4. Since I use to take care of Cancer patients, he had lots of questions. I was sick; for I knew with stage 3 or 4 he would have a major fight on his hands. He asked if it was stage 5.

I didn't want to anwer.
Stage 5 is when I show up at the door; as the hospic nurse. I assured him I didn't think he was that far for he would be a lot sicker.
But inside, my heart was breaking.
That Friday, Mark had his surgery. Traffic was awful, but I made it to the hosptial just before he went down. I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

He needed to know.
Mark told me he loved me too.
Hours later, I ran into the doctor we had seem earlier in the week. The operation was over and Mark was in recovery, The tissue send down and rushed tested. It was indeed non-hopkin lymoha and thankfully it did not spread for the liver was clean. So the stage will be downstaged.
When I went uspstairs, I learned that two of the doctors had spoken to Mark's parnets. But none of the doctors had not told them any of what they told me. They were not told their son had cancer.

And it wasn't my place to tell them.

You Must Have Starbucks

After much time on the phone, the doctor's nurse with the clinic and then the hosptial and Laini on the bathroom floor praying (more about that later) and the hosptial finally realizing that this is a serious matter, we were on our way to the clinic to pick the first reports.
Mark was angry.
He knew he was sick; finally faced the fact he was sick and now he felt no one cared. He tried to explain about Military red Tape. But I explain that we serve a G-d that can cut through Red tape; mililitary or otherwise.
But, first we need Starbucks.
Mark looked at me like I had lost my mind.
"No! you need to calm down and get Starbucks. That will give the clinic enough time to gather your records and for you to calm down."
So, on our way to the clinic, we stopped at Starbucks. There was a new drink, Pumkin Spice Latte and I recommended it. But Mark wanted something cold, so he ordered a Camel Coffee on ice. Finally, he began to calm down.
On our way to the clinic, Mark's cell phone went off (I came to love cell phones) it was the Navel Hosptial. The doctor was given Mark's report and told to come straight to the Hosptial. Mark was then asked if he had anything to eat or drink.
Just ice coffee...
Well, he had to have it to me because he was facing a bunch of test.
So we spend the day at Portsmith Naval Hosptial and it was clear to the doctor that was seeing Mark that this was indeed Non-Hopkin's Lympha. He was facing surgery that Friday morning (four days time) for a biopsy of his neck and liver, since there was a spot found there too. We stopped at his parnets to let them know what was happening.
Up until this point, even Mark was thinking I was worrying over something that would prove to be minor.
I kept hoping, praying I was wrong, knowing in my heart I wasn't.
G-d, I wish I had been.
Now, about the bathroom.
Years ago, I remember my mum worked the Governor's office up North. And of course full of drama.

As the only believer in the office, she would often go to the bathroom to pray. She called it the holiest place to pray.
Why? Because, from the bathroom, the only place you have to go is UP.

And So It Begins

I remember when Mark got the letter from the clinic with the name of the doctor he was being referred to. He looked at me and asked;"Oncology. Isn't that cancer?"
All I could do was nod my head. For the second time I cried out to G-d; "Both of them?"
First Mark and my son being send to war at the same time.
Now, Mark and my mum going to the same Cancer Center.
This was going to be a long night.

As a farmer Hospices LPN, I knew how serious things were. Mark asked many questions, questions I hated answering.
For he wanted to know how bad bad could get.
And I didn't want to go there.
Now you have to understand, I am not a pushy person. But having been an Hospics LPN for many years and my bestfriend could well have cancer, I got pushy. For I now realize I loved this man. And whatever time G-d would give us, I wanted.
So I went to every test, every doctor's appointment. Frankly, no one should ever have to go to the doctor's alone. It is always best to have another person for moral support and to make sure you truly understand what was happening.
The night before his visit we had gotten together for supper, he was filling out an questionaire send to him that he had to bring for his appointment.
Are You Moody? Mark's answer; once in a while...
Once in a While! I took that questionaire and answered it myself!
The next day, we arrived at the doctor's, only to be told he could not be seem by the doctor, but at the Navel Hosptial. There haven't been room before and now was. But the Navel hosptial didn't have all of Mark's recent medical changes and the doctor had to get on the phone and make it clear: "This man is walking death. If you don't take him the next few days, I will. He doesn't have time to wait."
I am in no way putting down the Navel Hosptial. But there is there is this thing called Red Tape. And the doctors at the Hosptial-allthey knew was Mark's neck was swollen and what's the big deal. The doctor from the clinic did not imform the Hosptial that Mark's condition was worse than it was.
As Mark began more angry (he felt he was being jerked about) I went into the bathroom and started praying, knowing G-d had to move on Mark's behalf. I would not, could not believe that G-d would keep Mark safe in Iraq, only for me to lose him to a Cancer cell!

Sometimes We Forget

Sometimes, we women forget that men have feelings too.
That they do get hurt, rejection can crush their soul. We we expect them to just 'man up!'
During this time I was dealing with the fact that not only were there black massives in my best buddies lungs, but my mum was found that she had a huge tumor in her stomach and we needed to find out what was happening to her.
Getting over my own bruised feelings, I remembered that this man has just come home from war. His parnets opinions mattered greatly and the added factor is that his family wasn't Messinaic. Like my, his family rejected their jewish roots two generations ago and I as a Messinaic Jew was encourging him in his search of his Jewish roots.

He had learned about his faith from an uncle and decided this was the path he wished to walk. Unlike my family, there were memebers of his family struggled with this change.
My family understood I wasn't rejecting Yeshua (Jesus), but embracing my Jewish roots. And the accepting of the Jewish Messiah is the most Jewish thing one can do.
So here was a woman who shared not only most of his interest, but even in his faith. To be with me, he had to go against everthing he had ever grown up with.

Plus, there had been another woman he once loved that crushed his heart and he had a problem with trust.
This was a ten foot wall only G-d could knock door.
And now, he was dealing with being ill.
Things moved quickly. He got the CT Scan, it was read then was gvien the name of a doctor.
When I saw the name of the doctor he was being send to, my heart dropped to my feet, driving me to my knees in prayer.
It was the same Cancer Center my mum was going to.

High Holy Day and Restoration

Once Mark realize was he who gave everyone the idea there was more to our relationship than friendship and he had to become clear in his mind what he wanted, from me, from life, things between us became to calmed down.
It took several hours, but that evening we did go to supper and continue to talk. It was clear Mark was doing a lot of soul searching and my giving him the deep chill went a long way in doing so.
Within a week's time we started hanging out together. I helped him setup his new apartment, met his new roommates and went to Temple together.

We both knew that this relationship was important to us, but I had been deeply hurt by his actions.
Mark, realizing how much he had hurt me, worked hard to repair our relationship. He began more honest with his feelings, even the fears that was holding him at bay. It was this move that made me realize he really was sorry and wanted to begin again.
It was the Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. The time of new beginnings, to forgive and be forgiven.

The night before, Ere Rosh Hashananh, Mark misunderstood something I said and we exchanged heated words. We didn't even get to enjoy the Apples and Honey for a Sweet New Year.
When we got to his apartment, I packed up my share of the grociers, ready to tell Mark to drop dead and catch a cab home, when Mark, listening to a message went white.
I was still yelling when he stated; "The the clinic called. My lungs are full of black massives and they have ordered a CT for three days time."
Suddenly, all my anger was gone I was holding my bestfriend.
A few minutes later, I called a friend, a former R.N and told her all the inforation I had on hand. I had already knew in my heart what this was.
My girlfriend comfirm my worst fears; get Mark to a doctor quick; this could be Non-Hopkin Lympha.

That evening, I was laying in my bed praying, knowing Mark was doing the same in his apartment.
The words we had exchanged seen so foolish in this new light. As I prayed, I was once again reminded of the stress this man had been under; war does that. He came home changed; war does that to a person. It messes with one's head, one's soul and emotions. And what kind of friend was I being? My bestfriend needed me more than ever and I'd ready to kick him to the curb?
And now because of this war, my best friend is very ill.
As much as G-d has forgivn me, I can't forgive him?
How can I call myself a believer and withhold forgivness to anyone?
Suddnely, the High Holy Days took on new meaning.
I asked G-d to forgive my allowing my heart to become hard and that I was indeed willing to forgive my best friend.
The man I truly loved.

And during the morning services for Rosh Hashanah, I told Mark I forgave him.
I saw the tears well in his eyes as he hugged me.
During a break in the service, he took me to his jeep and handed me back the duffle bag I had returned to him two weeks ago, including his pictures and Mr.Bunnie.

It seems Mr.Bunnie was hoping Miss Laini would "Love us again." Mark said he held onto the duffle bag, hoping I would change my mind.
As my mum pointed out, my pulling away would make Mark realize what ans who he wanted. The next following days, were the Ten days (days of Awe) before Yom Kippur, we to seek forgivness, forgive, pay debts and right wrongs.
This was also a very interesting time for I finally got Mark to see a doctor. I had notice one side of his neck was swollen and he was sweating all the time. He was moody and flew off the handle at the drop of an hat. Most put it on his adjusting to being back in the States, tired, or even an infestion. I said no, there was something wrong.
And now with the clinic's report, we would learn what was truly wrong.

The Confrontation

After 18 months, Mark was coming home.
And he was being confronted by all he knew about his relationship with me.
All anyone ever heard Mark talk about other than the L-rd, the Torah, was me. For a while it was accepted we were friend.
But now friends and family wanted to to know what was the real state of our relationship. What is really happening? Were we truly just friends or more?
Even Rabbi asked Mark point blank.
One summer morning, just before Mark's trip to Europe, he called and said he wanted to spend the day with me. Service @ Beth Messiah and then lunch.
The sermon was about being stubborn. There was a statement about when your in the military, sometimes you forget to 'take off the umiform'. Well, Mark got mad over the statement and things got worsr when I agreed with the statement.\
I had to gently point out, there are those times, I see my friend Mark and then there are others, it is Captain Reel.
But there was something wrong! Mark wa so short tempered and easy to offend and that wans't like him. I put it on his return from Iraq, major stress and his month's vacation would do him a world of good.
It didn't.
One month later, I would learn Mark was back in town; through a friend. He didn't even bother to call me.
He had enrolled back in school and was looking for an apartment. And clearly cutting ties with me.
Well, I wanted answers!
I spend 18 months, praying, writing letters, making cookies, reciveing phone calls@ 2 am and making international calls, gathering support and to be kicked to the curb without even a thank you?
Oh heck No!
I even found an apartment for him, only to learn he found one and said nothing. When he realize I was upset we got into a fight and he hung up on me.
Big mistake.
I called back and chewed him out.
Later, I learned he was in class and that wasn't the time to hash this thing out
The next day, he picked me up at a friend's and in his jeep we had a huge blowup. Clearly, whatever had been there was now over.
He asked to see "mama J" (his name for my mum.)
I quickly corrected him: she was my and Mrs j to you! In fact, I am not Laini, but Elayne. This took him aback. Since there was no relationship, new lines had to be drawn. His shock was how quickly I drew them.
After our visit, he took me home and I packed up everything he ever gave me in his duffy bag and handed it back to him.
Mark said he realize that I wasn't just angry, but kicked him to the curb when I shoved Mr.Bunnie into his bag along with his pictures an tee-shirts he had given me. I told him I wanted nothing of and from him. I reminded him of something his dad had once said: "One day your going to say something to someone that will do so much damage, I'm sorry won't fit it."
This was that day.
Mark began to calmed down and realized that I was not only angry, but hurt. And he had done it. Suddenly a light had turned on; the person he needed and cared about, he managed to push away. And it wasn't what he wanted. And "I'm sorry wasn't going to fix it."
I saw the little boy, frighten by what he had done and wondering what he could do to repair the damage.
Something was wrong; this wasn't the person I knew before he went to Iraq. Yes, I was angry and I needed to let him know how I felt by his actions. But there was something else besides coming home from Iraq an d adjusting to life in the states.
It was fear.
He was afraid to love me and yet, to let me go.
I didn't know it at the time, but Mark was also sick.

That Summer

The next morning I recieved a call.
It was from Mark.
He has just arrived in Baghad and was in shock. He finally saw the reports we here in the States had been hearing the month he was home.
When Mark came home, he told us things weren't as bad as many places had reported.
But during the time of Mark's R&R, things in Bagdad fell apart. That things went from bad to worse since mid-March.
Clearly he was shaken and fully dimhearted by what he was witnessing.
And I was both honoured and humbled that he turned to me for support.
This is also when he asked me to make a wedding sample for his okder brother. Since this is my busniess, of course he paid me. But it gave me a chance to meet more of his family.
We talked alot the next several weeks. I would later learn that he was 'told' to call me.
It seems G-d provided a buddy, his best buddy Sam,
They helped to keep each other sane.
I remember speaking to Sam several over ther phone.
Once, Sam told me that after Mark spoke to me on the phone, he would be calmer and easiler to deal with. In fact, I rmember once and a while Sam himself would call me and hand Mark the phone :) It was a time of intense prayer, for I knew he was having a hard time.
Besides Sam, there were few believers for Mark to have fellowship with. And then Sam's tour was over, which added to Mark's depression. Added with the ongoing struggle of growing feelings for me.
And then came that day.
My birthday, he said he wanted to tell me he loved me, but felt the next words would be "would you marry me?"
He wasn't ready to go there. I said: "and what makes you think I would say yes?"
It was the shock he needed. I told him I love him too, but only wanted to be with the man G-d would have for me and knew he loved me. Fact is, just before he rang off with me, he said; "I know this, your in my heart." I told him, he was in my.
That is telling someone you love them.
I knew he loved me, I knew he was the one. G-d would have to be the One help Mark battle his of what others would think and heal his broken heart.
Yet, he would keep writing and calling me.
And then came the call: "Laini, I'm coming home!" His tour was coming to a close sooner than any of us expected. But, the Green Zone was being turned over to the Iraqis, so his job was done.
He had thought however, of staying in Iraq, joining a contruction company that was helping to build homes for Iraqis.
He asked me what I thought.
I swallowed. I wanted him to come home.
So, I told him while I thought this was a noble idea (that is true) I felt that he really needed to come home; that his parnets were really having a hard time with his being gone and he needed to come home at least fror a while.
After I hung up, the L-rd told me to call back and tell Mark I also missed him and needed him to come home.
Of course I turned around to see if there was anyone esle in the room. Funny, really when you consider I live alone.
Why do things happen when one is alone?
So, I called Mark back....
Mark said "Oh?"
After a few minutes of pause, Mark said, " I guess when this deployment is over, I'm coming home. "
He told me later, my saying I needed him home was what made the difference.
He really wanted to know if I needed him.
The sneak.