When we were introduced, neither of us was looking. Her bright blue eyes, cheerful smile and contagious laugh were captivating. My brown eyes and a beard–something not too common in Southern California in the mid 1980’s–caught her attention. Separately, we both knew our lives would never be the same.
It was several weeks before I asked her on a date. I was working the graveyard shift at a radio station for which Sundays were especially tough. Those were the days when I finished work just in time to make it to church before dashing home to catch some sleep during the afternoon before returning to the radio station a few hours later. Sundays were also the only days I could possibly see that girl again (yes, I had forgotten her name). But then came the Sunday I was off, and I quickly developed a plan.
There’s an annual art festival near Laguna Beach that was going on that day. I figured it was a safe bet to ask Lee (once I asked someone for her name) if she’d like to go see it with me. She said, “Yes,” and I honestly had no idea what was about to begin.
We stopped by my apartment to change out of church clothes and headed toward the Sawdust Festival in Laguna canyon. All along, I figured if things didn’t really click, we’d have had a good time and be back in time for the evening service at church.
But, that’s not what happened. We closed the place down.
Lee fell asleep in the car as I drove back from the festival. My mind was spinning. As we got back to my apartment for her to gather her church clothes and then head to her own apartment about 30 miles away I remember thanking her for a wonderful time. Then, as I turned to walk back as she started her car, I saw it. She had accidentally dropped one of her shoes. I grabbed it and ran to get her attention before she drove off. “Lee! You dropped your slipper!”
Yes, that really happened.
During my next shift at the radio station I spent almost the entire time telling my friend, Roger, about this girl I met and how my world was spinning. I told Roger that I had met the woman I wanted to marry. Lee visited a friend of hers and, unbeknownst to me, was telling Lois about her own heart.
We began to date. Although it would be a long time before we told each other about our respective conversations with friends we were falling in love. Time went by and our hearts grew more together. Now, you would think that since things were going so well that it would be natural and easy for me to tell Lee that I was in love with her. That was not the case. There were earlier relationships in my life where I thought I had been in love. My relationship with Lee was entirely different, but I was confused and even afraid. I had been hurt before.
I remember meeting with the pastor of our singles group at church. In rapid fire I asked him: “How do you know when you’re in love? How do you tell the person you’re in love with that you love her? How can I be sure?” In retrospect, Mike’s answer was profoundly simple. “If you’re as in love as you can be today, then you’re in love–and you should tell her.”
“How in the world was I going to do this?” I thought. I had no idea what God had in store…
A short time later, Lee and I were walking during the evening along the canals of Naples, near Long Beach in Southern California. Naples is a beautiful area. There are even gondoliers carrying patrons in their long, pole-propelled boats. My heart was bursting inside. “I want to tell her that I love her so bad, but I have no idea how to start that conversation!” Cue Divine theatrics.
Singing starts. Yes, this really happened, too.
A gondolier with a beautiful baritone voice was serenading a couple in his boat. His song? “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical South Pacific. Lee and I stopped under a light post near the bridge. The gondola passed by as the pilot was finishing his song. Do you know how that song ends?
“Once you have found her, never let her go.
Once you have found her, never let her go.
Once you have found her…Never…Let…Her…Go.”
Could I have asked for a more beautiful setting? No! It was as if God was saying to me, “Rob, I’ve set the stage for you. It’s time for you to speak.” And, I did. Right under the lamppost pictured on the right side of this old post card.
There’s much more. We did marry. God blessed us with four beautiful children. This is from Easter in 2002. The children have grown. Rob, our oldest is married and just about to finish college. Ben is studying to be a youth pastor. Maggie is a sophomore in high school. Jack is in 8th grade.
After fifteen years of marriage, Lee died from colon cancer in December 2005. Now, I’m a widower and a single parent. But, as a wise mentor and friend told me when I was lamenting that I wouldn’t have a 25th wedding anniversary–or a 50th, she said, “Rob, it’s so apparent that, in the 15 years you had with Lee, you had more than many who will have those anniversaries.”
She was right.
I am a blessed man.