The Love of My Life | An Early Valentine’s

In-Memory-of-MaureenIt all started a couple of Sundays ago. Well, actually, it started a little earlier than that. Let’s go back to the beginning. July 14, 1990. Maureen and my wedding. The love of my life. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois. In addition to saying our vows and exchanging rings, we had picked some cherished passages from scripture to be read at the ceremony. Amongst them was 1 Corinthians 1: 1-13, which closes with this passage, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is indeed the greatest, and for those that have read my writing both before and after Maureen’s passing, I experienced the greatest of these for over half my life. I experience it now, more than 15 months since Maureen passed from this world to the next. If you have been watching the news, we have now actually seen the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein 100 years ago. For over 15 months, I have experienced a different kind of gravitational wave. I have experienced the power of love and its ability to connect Maureen and I in a deeply spiritual way across the boundary of heaven and earth.

IMG_2278Over the past 10 days, as we approach Valentine’s, I have been brought to my knees as I come to understand the full power of love, the pull power of this gravitational force. It keeps coming back to love. It keeps coming back to 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13, which we not only read at our wedding, but we read at Maureen’s celebration of life, a few days after her passing on October 21, 2014. The kids and I experienced just how great the power of love is when we made our trip to Chicago one month before Maureen’s passing. I wrote about that journey in “Our Story | New Chicago Memories and the ‘Meme of Love.’” In addition to a Cubs game, Northwestern football game and Chicago-style pizza, all five of us also returned to the altar where Maureen and I were married and renewed our vows together. The power of love 24 years later. I see the power of love in each of our children to this day, just like I did at the altar that Sunday in September. Taylor, Kyla and Katelyn are the ultimate expression of the love Maureen and I shared.

A couple of Sundays ago, January 31, we blessed Taylor’s birthday at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, our church home in Austin, Texas. He had celebrated his 17th birthday the previous Friday. He was acolyting and wouldn’t you know it… 1 Corinthians 1: 1-13 is one of the readings that day! Love. Love. Love. Little did I know what God and Maureen had in store, though. This was just the beginning of a stunning series of events over the next few days… the gravitational waves of love connecting heaven and earth. The intensity of the gravitational waves of love started to crescendo on Friday afternoon. I was in my home office on a 90 minute conference call. For what happens next to make sense, I diverge for context…

In a tribute to his mom, Taylor raised over $80,000 last fall to fund a build with Austin Habitat for Humanity in her memory (you can read his words about this effort here). 20 years earlier, Maureen had participated in a similar Habitat build while a student at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, UTSOA. KXAN, Fox7Austin, Texas Standard, and Austin TWC News have all done pieces on this story, and you can experience the full arc of the journey by watching the links in the order I have put them. That is the Habitat part of the story. Now, I need to tell the Westwood High School part of the story.

After graduating from UTSOA, Maureen started her career at O’Connell Robertson in 1997. With diligence and persistence, she worked as an intern, passed her licensing exams and became an architect. She worked on a bunch of projects, hospitals and schools, O’Connell Roberton’s expertise. One of Maureen’s favorites was Westwood High School in Round Rock ISD. This is more than just a high school, though, it is a spiritual connection, a nexus. Unfortunately, this cancer thing touches too many people. Andrea Sloan passed after a life abundantly lived about 10 months before Maureen. Andi was battling ovarian cancer and did so with the same style and grace as Maureen, living each day fully, even the hard ones. Full of love. I was privileged to connect with her family during the fight, attempting to get compassionate use of a new drug that might have helped her in her battle. The CURE Act was introduced in Congress in her name, her own fight becoming a fight for love and a fight for compassionate use for others (KXAN story here).

Andi’s mom and her sister are precious people. Andi’s nephew is an accomplished high school student in Round Rock ISD, and I had the privilege of meeting he and his mom, Ashley, at a cross-country meet at St. Andrew’s last September. One of those special moments when two people that already feel like they know each other actually meet. I know she misses her sister like I miss my Maureen. Then, this past October, my sister sends me a photo of a rainbow over the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. My niece, Hannah, is playing her clarinet there with her band from Charlotte. Being Facebook friends with Ashley, Andi’s sister, I discover that the Westwood High School band from Round Rock ISD is also there, a band that performed in the Rose Bowl parade this past January. Maureen never met Andi here on earth, but it was becoming increasingly clear that these two are conspiring with each other in heaven, sending out their waves of love. Which brings me back to last Friday and my conference call.

Photo802I took the call in my home office where all of my books and Maureen’s surround me on bookshelves. I walk when I talk, so as I pace during the call, I catch a glimpse of a bit of newspaper sticking out of one of her books. Being a bit of a neat freak, I walk over to it. To tidy it up. I pull out the book, and it starts to dawn on me. I pull out the article. It is from 1996. From the Austin American-Statesman. It is an article about Westwood High School students working on a gardening project next to the Habitat house Maureen had helped complete just months earlier. The book. It is a page by page, week by week, photo journal and diary of the build Maureen had done for Habitat. Pictures of my beautiful bride, Taylor’s mom, in action, just months after we had moved from Chicago to Austin. 4 years before Taylor arrived in this world. I am shaken to my core, quivering, but somehow stay focused on the call. The call was as great as this moment with Maureen. I looked across the room at her pictures, thinking, “damn, you’re good!”

The full power of love, though, shines through fully the next day. Saturday. Build day. We are walking from Taylor’s Habitat build to Maureen’s about 2 blocks away on Kemp Street. It is the first time he has seen it. It is the first time I have been back in 20 years. This story from Reshma Kirplani, a video journalist from Statesman Media captures the moment (James Barragán of the Statesman will capture the rest of the story in an article to be published Sunday, Valentine’s Day). Not only do we meet the homeowner, the same homeowner as when it was built, but the house has been repainted. Orange and brown. The colors of Westwood High School. Gravity. Love. Waves. Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 8.48.47 AMThe greatest of these is indeed love, because that night, after being out at the build site, Katelyn, our youngest, and I are watching an adorable movie, Finding Normal, and another story of love. As the movie comes to a close, Doc Shelby, town doctor, town judge, and facing cancer himself, walks down to his fishing pond and reflects. The final words of the movie are these spoken in the beautiful voice of Lou Beatty, Jr… 1 Corinthians 13:13

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It is indeed all about love. Thank you Maureen and Happy Valentine’s. I love you and don’t stop sending out your waves of love. We’re listening.