It was my second day in San Luis Obispo. After wrestling with the programs on the bike in the tiny, light filled gym of my hotel, I was finally spinning.
And then the ring came. A call of destiny.
As the Ventura number appeared on the caller ID. I almost didn’t answer but then remembered, ‘Oh hadn’t I tried to get ahold of an old roommate from my Santa Cruz days, and didn’t John (another former roommate) mention he was living in Ventura…. could it be Don?’
The bike wouldn’t stop fast enough for me to stop peddling before I answered in a slightly winded and somewhat anticipating voice, ‘Hello?’
‘Hello, is this Kimberly?’
‘Yeeessss,’ my voice drew out waiting to hear if it was Don.
‘This is Michael Loure,’ a soft and intentional voice revealed another friend from my past in Santa Cruz. This man and I had jumped quickly into a serious dating relationship, hoping we were the ones for each other.
My heart slowed as my feet came to a stop on the bike. ‘Michael,’ I lightly chuckled, or was it a giggle?
‘It is so wonderful to hear your voice,’ he said, ‘when I saw the picture you sent last night of you and John, I just had to call you. That is the Kimberly I remember,’ his voice quivered with a kind of vulnerable strength.
We launched into a conversation that spanned years. Like two birds flying slowly over lands that used to be their home, we traveled and remembered. We remembered what the land of our time together was like. We remembered what drew us into each other’s lives by the very nature and focus of our conversation which still, after all these years, revolved around care for and service of humanity.
Time and timelessness intertwined their fingers. Words that were light and meaningful, carrying the world upon the wings of the moment, spilled forth effortlessly.
‘I wasn’t a very good friend to you,’ he said at one point. There was a knowing that arose within me about his reference, but I chose not to go down that road. He paused and I interjected, ‘I only have fond memories of you, Michael.’
We turned our conversation to the present day. Talking about aspects of our work, scholastic inquiry, even the heart of what moves us to want to serve humanity today. The flowing conversation surprised me, I didn’t know that 34 years later this man and I would have anything to talk about.
We had connected once before, in 2009. Michael had initiated the meeting when he learned through my newsletter that I would be in the state where he lived. He was dean of a university and had lived there for years with his wife and children. Unknown to me he had joined my newsletter years before and when I wrote an article about him (anonymously…titled: A Power for Good,) he wrote to me to give me a reflection on the article.
But the connection was loose at best. His concern for my salvation considering the differing trajectories of our lives was explicit in his emails. Even when we met in 2009, he focused upon the overriding concern of his heart around my loss of faith (in his eyes.) Back then I surmised there was not a place for us to grow in friendship, not because my heart felt closed, but because of the incompatibility of our beliefs leaving us without common ground, even though both of us were totally given to living our faith.
This phone call, 15 years from 2009, was different. Years seemed to bear ameliorating influence. I am not sure what the influence is or was, but somehow common ground appeared, and I heard words of respect and appreciation from him to me.
Life has a way of doing that
giving us the opportunity to soften (or harden.)
There is a lead up to this conversation.
About 8 weeks before the phone call, Michael unsubscribed from my newsletter after about 15 years of being on the list. The moment deserved recognition and response, so I wrote a heartfelt thank you. He responded to my email of gratitude, which led to a response from me and mine led to another response from him.
Ultimately, we decided to meet when I was in California in September, just a week or so after this exchange. I had a curious and grateful silence as I observed the desire that arose in me to meet and talk with this old friend and lover. ‘Wow, what would that be like after all these years,’ we both bubbled a little bit at the opportunity.
We set about to decide a date, but ultimately, he ended up cancelling saying it was too much for September and October would be much better.
While I was set upon the course of surrender to what was best there was also a mild disappointment and an intuitive nudge that there was a chance a meeting was not going to happen at all.
Not long after he cancelled altogether in an email, expressing that it just wasn’t good timing. It left me wondering, so, I asked in a respectful way if he might let me know why he was cancelling altogether. No response.
During these exchanges Michael had told me that John was living down in Paso Robles. I remembered having my former roommate’s phone number stored so I gave him a call. We joyfully set up a time to meet in person, after 35 years. It was incredible to see my friend again. To see the ways he was still the same and the ways he had changed and evolved over time. Capturing the memory of this meeting in the picture set in motion the grace of receiving Michael’s call today. After 45 minutes on the phone, we ebbed into goodbye.
I found myself musing through the day about our long conversation until his comment came back to me, ‘I am sorry I was not a very good friend to you when we dated.’
I let the statement hang there in the air like it was a balloon held aloft in the mist of a foggy day.
Days later I thought, ‘You know it would be really nice to know if my sense of what he means is correct, and if there is anything we need to clear the air about.’ The desire to know was innocent.
‘What do I have to lose? I’ll just ask.’
A week or so later I sent a text asking if he had time for a short call. He called within the hour, and I launched forward.
With raw vulnerability Michael recounted his own brokenness and how much he realized I shared so much of myself with him, and how much he failed to keep his word.
His recollection evoked a resurgence of memory for me, still held lightly in my cells. I could feel the frustration that existed for me towards him back then, and how it had become a slow whittling away of trust and respect. We had mutually discerned to hold a few commitments to each other in relation to aspects of our relationship. It was exciting back then to navigate with my potential long-term partner, so I gave it my all. However, our capacity to live out those commitments was not equal. Over and again, he failed to hold our agreement. Constantly I was pushed to be the one holding the torch for our choice, leaving me not only feeling very alone, but also feeling divided. Sometimes I felt guilty, sometimes I felt conflicted, and sometimes I felt trapped.
As all of this grew inside, my confidence in ‘us’ and him waned. Over and again we would remake the same commitment and I would stay faithful and he would not.
‘He is such a lover of God,’ I thought as I berated myself from a place of insecurity.
Day to day I grew in discontent and wondered, ‘If we can’t even make decisions together and both be able to stick with them, how do I know this will not affect other areas of our partnership as we grow a life together? Could we really be partners?’
All of this came back to me, without muddying the reality that my gratitude for him was untouchable.
Michael took the conversation in hand, and with incredible strength and vulnerability he poured out his own process while I cried at what my ears heard unexpectedly.
‘You were so amazing; you always took the high road and you have always taken the high road. You are an amazing woman, Kimberly, and you have influenced me more than what you will ever realize,’ his words unraveled me.
He continued, ‘Your breaking up with me let me face how broken I was. I realized that I was going about my life so passively, and losing you let me see that I am an agent and I have impact. I realized I needed to learn how to be a better man and take responsibility for my actions and my life.’
‘But you,’ he continued, ‘you were always so good. You know, I was pretty terrified of you. You were such a shining light and felt so powerful and I was intimidated.’
At this point I was crying to hear words that showed me I was seen and appreciated in ways I had absolutely NO IDEA ever existed.
We had been together for less than a year when we broke up back in 1989.
Everything in my life was illuminating me in the love of God, I was literally on fire and would find myself taken up in the loving embrace of the Beloved for hours at a time every day. Messages would come to me through others as well. I can remember one day, when my friend Sister Regina Pacis and I were taking a walk. We were communing in conversation about this love we were both experiencing it. Upon parting I returned to my dorm room only to hear an excited and vigorous knock upon my door, ‘Kimberly I was turning the corner and Spirit spoke to me, ‘go tell her that I want her.’ Her face was flushed.
I knew it. I knew it because this hot pursuit was happening within me unrelentingly. And I knew what needed to be done.
Loving someone is different than being in love and the former was true for me with Michael, while I knew the latter was true for him.
Gentle guidance of Spirit came to me as the words, ‘The truth will set you free,’ were whispered. The clarity and courage to do what needed to be done was there. The truth was that I was being called to be a Carmelite nun.
Michael was overseas studying at the Angelicum in Rome and I was studying at a university in northern Ohio. Once alone I sat in the silence for a few moments longer, then I called him. ‘Michael, I am so sorry, your love is so precious to me but while you are in love with me, I love you but am not in love with you,’ my voice was quivering. ‘I am called to be a Carmelite nun.’
He wept. I wept. The tears that streamed down my face were quite different, they were the tears of feeling free and brought into alignment.
After all these years, I had always felt we were complete, and all was in right order.
Little did I know that our phone conversation this year, as I sat just hours away from him in California, would unearth more that Spirit wanted for the two of us.
It was a gift of unexpected healing.
Not many words were exchanged after that, we were truly complete.
And I was reminded,
The truth, like an ever-unfolding flight, is always setting us free.