I have been trying to attend a weekly centering prayer meditation group in my small community. I really didn’t want to make my way there tonight. I’d had little sleep, and had two appointments that demanded I be alert. I wanted to think of a plausible excuse, but knew that it was for my better self that I needed to go — so I shrugged off the urge to sleep and made the 10 minute walk.
The group meets at the home of Jeremy and Amanda (pseudonyms). Although they are very warm and kind, I have felt a tad awkward there. Their home is orderly, settled and sane — quite different from my taped-together life. Everything about Jeremy and Amanda is “normal,” while I am transgendered, visually impaired, and have lived a life off the beaten path. I estimate them to be about 10 years older than me, as are most of the people who attend, as I begrudgingly approach the age of 58.
The breeze was gentle and cool for August. The walk was pleasant, and i arrived early. Jeremy mentioned that his son was visiting from London. This perked up my ears, as I’m always eager to talk about England. Imagine my surprise when Jeremy told me his son was a deputy judge for the High Court of the United Kingdom!!!
As usually happens, the meditation was lovely. We are reading a book by Richard Rohr called The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. It’s not been an easy road for me, coming to terms with Christianity. The old “hellfire and damnation” sermons still leave me triggered. But I allowed myself to “be” without self-judgment, and participated in the discussion with whole heart. I am much more familiar with Buddhism, Eastern philosophy, and Advaita Vedanta. Which is a perfect parallel to Rohr’s teachings on Christianity. To my horror, I dozed off in the meditation, and am absolutely certain I was snoring, yet snapped awake at a certain point. If anyone heard, no one mentioned it or shamed me. They took me as I was, gracefully.
After the meeting, Jeremy was kind enough to walk me home. He shared with me a part of his very personal story, which left me in tears. I would like to gift it to you — and may I do so with God’s blessings. As a young man, Jeremy entered the seminary to become a Catholic priest. But he left that path because he decided he did not want a life of celibacy. He married, and lived with his wife in Hawaii. Jeremy and his wife had 5 children, one of whom died in infancy. Two of his surviving children were his biologically, and two were adopted. But after he left Hawaii, his wife died (I don’t know the circumstances), and he was left a man in his 30’s with four young children to raise.
By happenstance, Jeremy met Amanda in Chicago. He was bold enough to ask for her telephone number, but he had no pen and paper. so she told him he could find her in the telephone book under A. C________. It was a long, possibly Polish name. He created a mnemonic to remember it, and recited the mnemonic on his flight home. As Jeremy recited the mnemonic, it dawned on him, “I’m going to marry that woman.” I had a similar feeling the first time I set foot in Bethesda, Maryland. “I’m going to live here one day, and this is going to be a significant place.” That’s where I got my job as a systems engineer (see I Used to be a Systems Engineer…), and lived on the 15th floor of a highrise apartment building. That’s where I called home when Kim came to live with me, and we were partners.
So Jeremy managed to find Amanda in the telephone book, and invited her to his home. Imagine that first “date” — a widowed man with four children! Amanda looked younger than her age, and he thought she was maybe about 19, but in fact, she was 30, so he was relieved. Indeed, they married. In fact, there marriage was 2 years to the day the same priest had given burial rites for his former wife, in the same church. And during the marriage ceremony, a robin flew into the church…
Jeremy and Amanda went on to have two more children, and have been together 40+ years. Jeremy had wanted a mother for his children and a wife for himself. After they were married, Amanda told Jeremy of her prayer. She’s very progressive in her thinking now, as is the church we all attend, but in those days, and at age 30, she was a “good Catholic girl” who wanted a big family. She had begun to worry if she would ever get married, and at her age range, with her beliefs, marrying someone who was divorced was not an option. So her prayer was along the lines of, “Please, God, send me a man who is widowed with a big family.”
Jeremy’s deepest need and wish was answered, as was Amanda’s prayer. They have had trials and struggles unknown to me — their own private domain. But 40+ years together, and 6 fine children, one of whom is a Harvard graduate and sits on the High Court of the United Kingdom! And without Amanda, the children would have been motherless…. As he finished his story, we stood on the sidewalk under the glow of the streetlight near my home, and I wiped the tears from my eyes. His is the life I would have lived — devoted husband and father — had I the chance. I pray God I’ve done his story justice. It’s not my story to tell, but it is certainly the autobiography I wish I could write.
You cannot tell me that miracles don’t exist, for I’ve heard one tonight.