Two weeks ago, I went to Long Island to spend some much-deserved time away with my other half.
Since we were approaching Holy Week, he brought me out to a nearby parish that was hosting a Lenten retreat experience called "Journey to the Cross."
The parish hall had been turned into a space of prayer, full of candles and music. The room was divided into 12 stations, each one depicting a particular event from the last week of Jesus' life. We blessed ourselves with holy water on the way in, and were greeted by a volunteer who told us to take as much time at each station as we liked. The room was open all day long, so we also had plenty of privacy and space.
The first wasn't actually about Jesus, but about us. Signs on the wall asked us to think about how we would spend our last week in life. There were postcards and pens on the table, and we silently sat down to write.
I exhaled hard. Even contemplating death sends me into a tailspin.
Still, I quieted my mind and pushed back the lump in my throat. What did I want?
I wanted a week full of family, faith, joy. I wanted to travel. I wanted to thank my parents for everything, especially the seeds of faith they planted in my childhood. I wanted to be with Jesus in Adoration.
I will fear nothing, because I know that I belong to the God who loves me. He has always cared for me, and He will never let me go.
I stared at the little card and blinked back tears before writing the last line:
I want to leave this world in Brian's arms, and walk into His.
Later, the stations found us contemplating the Passion. We wrote a note to God on palms, tossed coins as the moneychangers in the Temple in repentance for our sins, washed our hands as a reminder of our redemption, ate bread as the Apostles did at the Last Supper.
The second half was darker: drinking straight vinegar from the "cup of suffering," writing our names on a kiss of betrayal, nailing our sins to a wooden cross.
But at the end we planted seeds, a sign of the Resurrection. Jesus waited for us in Adoration there, the floor covered with carpet, pillows and blankets.
I sat on the floor wrapped in a blanket inscribed with the words of the Serenity Prayer. Brian laid prostrate beside me. I counted my blessings and thanked God for each one. He has always given me exactly what I need. And He always would.
We sat at an Irish pub later that night, watching one of our friends play a classic rock gig. I sipped a White Russian and tried to savor every moment of these days as a "normal" couple ... I would go back home the next day. Back to distance, back to waiting, back to life without him by my side.
I startled at hearing his voice on the microphone. Our friend sat beside him and started to play the guitar. What was this about?
Internally I groaned. I hate attention, but bless his heart, the man is not shy about showing his love for me. I did my best to focus on the words as he sang, glad for the gesture but wondering why he would do such a thing.
Baby, can you answer this question for me?
When did God seem to find the time to make you so perfectly?
And baby, I think we're much more than maybe,
So what's the point in wasting all this time?
We've got all our lives to see.
I listened closely, the musician in me racking my brain to figure out what song this was, but I'd never heard it before. It was hard to focus. Unbridled, reckless joy rolled off of him in waves, and I couldn't help but feel emotional knowing it was over me.
The song was almost over. I kicked my feet, still trying to shake off my bashfulness at the public display of affection.
Baby, can you answer one last question for me?
'Cause I've had this on my mind
And I think it's time to see.
"Oh, my God," I said aloud, at once flushed and freezing. I couldn't be. It couldn't be. But as he watched my face and grinned from ear to ear, I couldn't help but beam back at him. I knew. And he knew I knew.
So will you...
I will forever remember him walking back to our table as he sang, microphone in one hand, the other in his pocket.
He stood in front of me, then knelt before me, offering a delicate ring. Sparkling but simple, not glitzy. Elegant. Just my style. Perfect.
He was perfect for me.
I didn't hesitate.
"Yes I will."
Now, we plan "we." I look at the diamond on my left hand and wonder if this is all real. You couldn't have told me two years ago when I met him that I would marry Brian.
But God has mapped our steps. Over and over again He has pointed us toward each other, crossed our paths, even given me a second chance when I turned him down once before.
"All things work for the good of those who love Him..."
Our life together will be a living witness of His love.
We can't wait. Please pray for us.