IELEV8 is my tribute to Mark. It is my journey to heal, while sharing memories, stories and inspiration…bits of wisdom I learned from my beloved husband and gifts I found all around me as I was finding my new path.
When Mark died so unexpectedly, I was in complete shock. I think part of me still is…but in those first days and weeks after I found him unconscious and not breathing, I was on autopilot, simply doing what had to be done and gathering every last ounce of strength inside me that I never even knew I had. My heart felt like it had been cracked into a million pieces… but in those moments of grief I assembled every bit of fortitude that I had to be the best mom I could be and to honor Mark. I just wanted to make him proud.
Love and support and prayers started pouring into our lives from all around us…Good energy that Mark had put out into the world was coming back to us tenfold. It began to fill up the cracks of my heart and I was absolutely awestruck by it all.
A few weeks after Mark died, another photographer nominated me to participate in the Black and White 5 Day Challenge on Facebook. The challenge was, quite simply, to post a new black and white photo each day for 5 days and nominate someone else to do the same. Naturally, I turned to images of Mark and I found it therapeutic to put my memories and images into words. After the five days were up, I found myself waking up each day with so many cherished memories swirling around in my head that I couldn’t help but share them with the network of family, friends and community who were also grieving the loss of Mark. I certainly wasn’t always such a public person but this felt like a beautiful way to honor Mark and document my memories of him for our children. I felt these daily posts needed their own space beyond Facebook. A place that was dedicated to Mark, where our kids can one day come and read about Mark and about the lessons I’ve learned while grieving and healing. Thus IELEV8 was born.
IELEV8 is a simple phrase that to me describes exactly who Mark was.
The irony is that IELEV8 was Mark’s license plate in college. At the time, it was what some called an “ode to his incredible hops.” At 5’8″ tall it was an impressive feat that Mark could jump out of the gym and dunk over his towering defenders. I never saw it myself but I’ve heard the sight of it was pretty incredible. Mark always joked that he married me for my height. “With her height and my jumper, I’ll be sure to have a son in the NBA.”
Now IELEV8 has a much greater meaning. I doubt Mark ever imagined the impact he would have on so many people throughout his too short life. Mark elevated friendships through his perpetual networking and his desire to endlessly grow his and others’ circle of friends. Mark elevated minds when he debated passionately about sports, politics, religion and education. Mark elevated lives through his devotion to his career and his passion for growing the minds and hearts of his students. Most of all, Mark elevated me. He always believed in me, he loved me unconditionally and he made me want to be a better person. He still does.