I am in California. I came out here for the primary reason of spending today, September 17th, with my big brother. We will be commemorating this day as his second wedding anniversary without his wife. Last year we decided to spend this day each year together. As many of you know, his wife is (death didn’t change it) my best friend who happened to marry my brother. We will drink a bottle of Dom together and toast love and life and loss and tell stories, and laugh a lot and probably cry plenty.
The trip is a week long one, and I am trying to fit in family and friends as well as I can. The first part of Friday was spent hanging out with my little brother, Low, and the second half with the Goulds. The Goulds are Koni, Dan, and their three kids. I met Koni and Dan before they met each other. We all used to attend the same church in Orange County, Mission Hills Christian Center (now called Mission Hills Community Church), when we were in our early to mid-twenties. I stopped attending there shortly after moving from OC to LA. Life (marriages, colleges, jobs) took many of our group and flung them over the US and the world. Though this group was pivotal in helping me to define myself in Christian community and in teaching me about life and love and acceptance, I stayed in contact with very few of the other “members”. Koni was one with whom I had (remained in contact).
So, there I sat, on the beach in San Clemente gettin’ all caught up with my old friend Koni. And I see a very familiar form walk past us not fifteen feet away. “Is that MW?” I ask Koni? She wasn’t certain, but I was sure that’s who it was. “M..W…!!!” I called out, and he turned around. It had been nearly twenty years since I last saw him, but he really hadn’t changed all that much. Even at that first moment I wonder why it was that God had him walk past Koni and I. She who lives in Arizona and just happened to be in town for a wedding at the same time that I was in town visiting from Colorado both sitting on the same beach at the very time that he wandered down to the exact spot we were.
We chatted for about twenty minutes before we had to go and before he had to run down the beach to retrieve his son. Though we didn’t ask, he offered up that he was no longer involved with the church or with evangelicalism or really all that much with Jesus or even with God. “I’m pretty much a deist” he said. He had been one of the unofficial leaders of our group. He was a couple of years older, a lot wiser, smart and funny, and pretty much most of us looked up to him. Oh, he was also the lead singer of “the band” (called The Claim) so that position gave him some cachet as well. I guess I wasn’t too surprised to learn that he’d abandoned his faith. I don’t know why I wasn’t surprised. But it made me really sad nonetheless. I pretty much just smiled and nodded as he spoke and told me all about his pains and his frustrations in his relationships and about his failures and his successes. It was strange. It had been nearly two decades and here was this old friend of mine who was now pretty much a complete stranger telling me all about his life’s pains and failures and about his successes and how he is keeping himself in really great shape. I dunno. I felt like he was trying to convince me of something. Or he just really needed a friend, someone to listen to his stories. So I did that and then off we went our separate ways.
And I am wondering what the point of that little meeting was. It was so incredibly random that it must have been a “God thing”. All I did was stand and listen and respond “appropriately” to him. I don’t think I told him anything except that I never married, had no children, and that I lived in Colorado.
So, MW, if you ever stumble across this blog (which I doubt, cuz you seemed pretty granola and not like you even own a computer) know that though I’m not sure what the point of that weird coincidental meeting was, that I will pray a little prayer for you when that meeting comes to my mind. And I’ll pray a little prayer for your boys, too.