A little over a year ago, Cindy's niece Ashley moved in with us to go to college. She loaned me a book called the Faith Club for a trip we were about to take to Hawaii. The book was by three women who lived in New York City, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew. Their initial intention was to write a book for children to help them understand the differences among the faiths in the aftermath of 9/11. However, once they began working on the project, they discovered that they had much to learn from one another and much to learn about themselves and their own particular religions.
Ashley was a deeply committed Christian, and we had many discussions about the differences in our faiths, for I've been a practicing Buddhist for about 20 years. Still, I was very surprised and impressed that an eighteen year old would loan me such a book--one that discussed so directly topics that have so many folks in the world at odds with one another. I knew this was a very important book.
Before we came home from Hawaii and before I finished the book, Ashely died in a car accident. Her death was one of those enormous wake up calls about the fragility of life and how it can end all too suddenly. One of the most significant outcomes of her death was a clear understanding of the importance of infusing love into every interaction with others for you never know which encounter might be the last. During the days immediately after Ashley died, I finished The Faith Club which deepened my commitment to appreciate and respect the various beliefs and practices of others. Those were powerful days of reckoning with the book and Ashley's passing tightly linked in my mind.
Several weeks ago a dear friend learned that a man she had been partnered with for 10 years had died of aortic anyuerism. They had parted ways 10 years ago and had not seen each other since, nor had they resolved their differences. My friend's sorrow shot through me. It was another reminder to not miss a single chance to set things right, to follow through on a commitment, to respond fully from a heartfelt place.
It's almost impossible to explain exactly how that event led Cindy and I to decide to take advantage of the newly passed California law that allowed us to marry . . . but therein lies the impetus for our momentous decision. The ceremony took place with Cindy's parents as our witnesses--a sweet, joyful quiet event that made us OH SO HAPPY!
Several days later, Andrea decided to invite a small group of people to a reception in our honor. The group that gathered filled me with awe, for the mix was unbelievably eclectic and a tribute to the power of good will. There were conservatives and liberals, gay and straight, Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, ages 3 to 95 toasting our marriage. Cindy and I stood among these people feeling the shaky ground upon which we all stood, our differences set aside though floating close at hand.
I thank Ashley, and the Faith Club, and my friend's ex-partner for keeping me dialed into loving. I thank Cindy's parents for always being there. I thank Andrea for her amazing capacity to love and for knowing what to do and when. And I thank Cindy, whose boundless love fills me with faith every day!