Two Worlds Have Been Bridged
After many months of trying to figure a way to get in touch with your Mom, I finally thought I found the means by which to do so, instead, I was completely crushed when I found she had died in August of 2016. I know several years have passed but I wanted to tell you how sorry I am and if by some chance I would have had the privilege to stand and reflect on your Mom’s life, it would have been much like the following.
First, I suspect you have no idea who I am, and considering the fact that we have never met, when it was suggested that I write to you, I was apprehensive about doing so. However, because the suggestion came from an individual who knew how much I loved her and although it was many years ago, she undoubtedly remains in my emotional and spiritual DNA, I began writing.
Joan and I met in high school and dated for 4 years. We were both born on May 19th, 1952, and we were sure our destiny was to be married. Fortunately, for you and my children that didn’t come to pass. As with most plans in life they somehow rarely seem to mature into the results we’ve envisioned. In our case, your mom went to Bridgewater, I went to the University of Maryland and the physical distance between us eventually caused us to drift apart as we became immersed in our separate worlds.
Over the years I saw Joan on occasion before she married. I then lost touch with her and it wasn’t until I was on my way back from one of my West coast offices on a United flight that I sat next to an individual who I thought might be a flight attendant. She was, and since we were on United, I asked if she knew Joan McIntyre. Her response was, “she is my closest friend and her name is now Joan Gunther”. Coincidence perhaps but I suspect not, out of all the flights, all the seats, and all the passengers, one of your mom’s good friends sits next to me when I had no idea where Joan was or how to get in touch with her. The odds of winning the lottery are probably better. She gave me your mom’s number and I called. When we talked, the years that had passed since we saw each other melted away and one thing I vividly remember is she was incredibly proud of her two sons Lance and Colby.
I heard from her several months later when she called to tell me your grandfather died and since I had been close to him after my father died when I was in college (although I don’t think her dad ever got over the fact that when I and some guys from school helped move their family, they broke the corner off of his mother’s 7-foot dining room mirror after he specifically stated that it was the one thing we had to take care of), Joan thought I might want to attend the funeral. Unfortunately, and with deep regret I was unable to go. Perhaps that was for the best as I would not have wanted my presence to possibly cause even the slightest form of distraction.
That was the last time I spoke to her.
In 2014, I was told I should have died. I contacted some form of virus, infection, or illness that the doctors couldn’t diagnose, I had to be put in the ICU. Half my systems had shut down and the other half on the way. It was so bad they thought the computer readings on my vitals were wrong because as bad as they were, I shouldn’t be alive. Five Doctors told me this, including my son-in-law who as an Air Force physician, managed the President's medical staff at the White House. It was soon after this that thoughts of your mom began to randomly enter my mind, and I started to sense that maybe something wasn’t right in her life. The smallest things would trigger memories, and I wasn’t sure what to think of these occurrences, I tried to minimize their relevance. This didn’t work so, I began to try and figure out a way to contact her or find out what was going on. The problem, once again, contact-wise, there was nothing to be found where I thought I could reach her without possibly upsetting others in your family.
A little over 2 ½ years ago the intensity and strength of my emotions regarding your mom reached a level where I not only felt something was wrong with her emotionally, physically, or both, I knew something was very wrong. For no logical reason, my concern for her radically escalated both in frequency and strength, some bringing a feeling of deep emptiness.
Time didn’t diminish these concerns and my struggles continued to intensify on how or if I should act on my uneasiness. It was during this time I randomly decided to drive to your home in Northern Virginia. I knew where it was since I had been told, somewhere along life’s path, that it was designed by an individual who was from our high school. At the time…I had no idea as to why I chose to do so in the third week of Aug 2016 especially after knowing where she lived for over 30 years, why that day? When I arrived, I found that the house and property to be gated and fenced, so knocking on the door wasn’t going to happen. I was also somewhat confused as to why there seemed to be more cars than would be expected parked randomly in the driveway in the early afternoon on a weekday.
Then at the end of 2018, as if my decision was being guided, a high school friend of Joan’s and mine, who I had not talked to in many years, saw a picture on Facebook of my granddaughter, and messaged me that she thought she looked just like Joan. Another coincidence? Maybe, but if you are like my son, you believe there are no such things as coincidences.
The comment served to galvanize my decision to make a determined effort to understand if there was a reason for my worry. After exhausting pretty much every channel I could think of that didn’t involve speaking with a family member, I decided my only alternative was to do just that and I contacted Joan’s brother, Gary. Although I never saw much of him as he was a bit of a maverick, I knew him well enough to be included when, your mom, grandmother and grandfather took him to Dulles and said good-bye as he left for Vietnam.
When he told me that Joan had died in the middle of August 2016, and how, I became instantly numb, more than stunned, depressed, and felt as a part of me was gone. His words played over and over in my mind like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from, I was left with an emptiness that after so many years was beyond understanding. The emotions, memories, and regrets revealed that evidently, my feelings for her were still far greater than conventional wisdom would offer.
It was during this time of emotional pain that it was suggested that I write to you. So, I started to write a relatively straight forward letter, but I soon realized it needed to be more than just a note saying, I’m sorry.
It also became very apparent that it is impossible to convey true feelings with written words. My dilemma was how was I going to express in writing how much Joan meant to me and others. As well, I wanted you know that my words are more than just words and when I say that there was no other person I have known to be as kind and giving as she, you will know it comes from the depths of my being.
Distance separated us when we were young and we followed the flow of life’s separate currents, but the energy between us remained as do the memories. Her acceptance, caring and patience is a model for all of us to follow and I am reminded of this patience and have to smile when I remember how I must have certainly pushed it to the edge when I spent hours in the ocean when I was first learning to surf, (pre leash), she not only didn’t get mad but when I got worked as I challenged the East coast break she encouraged me to keep trying.
The unbearable pain I felt when I first learned of Joan’s death has slightly lessened, but my sadness continues. Even so, I have absolute certainty that although her physical being is no longer with us, her energy, which many refer to as our spirit, continues to move in ways we will only better understand as we progress to the next level of our purpose. Joan’s physical self was ceasing to function, her spiritual self was encumbered by a failing body preventing her from reaching her ultimate and final phase of life.
You may have heard the quote, written by a young WW II pilot just months before he died on a mission and was repeated by President Regan following the tragedy of the space shuttle Columbia. "We will never forget them," "nor the last time we saw them as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and then 'slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
For your mom, the surly bonds of earth are no more, she has touched the face of God, and continues to be beyond special. I for one can only hope to be a fraction of the person your mom is as she clearly represents what God intended humans to be as we were created over thousands of millenniums.
Perhaps, all that I have written to this point really could have come down to two things.... to let you know that from the day I met Joan it was easy to see how loved she was by everyone who knew her, and most important, what message your mom wanted me to convey and for you to always remember.
"I want you to tell them,
"I am with them."
"I need them to know that there is a great deal more communication between the spiritual and human worlds than most people can accept and therefore embrace."
" Most of all, I want you to tell them, I love them with an intensity that only a mother can love "
There is a famous writer who lived over 2000 years ago that contributed to a famous book in which he wrote that in time there will be no more pain or suffering as heaven and earth become one. I believe your mom is a glimpse of that vision.
Even though I believe such concepts are in fact truths, when I got near the end of finishing this letter, I questioned whether I should send it to you. I’m thinking these guys are for sure going to wonder who is this guy? I’ve tried to understand why I was driven to search for a way to inquire about Joan and then asked to write this letter. In the end all my debating was needless, as I don’t believe it was ever in my control to make the decision. Basically, two worlds have been bridged and there is no explaining such life experiences. We can only accept them and because they’re tinged with an air of mystery and uncertainty it makes it all the more important for us to try and accept that which is beyond our touch, sight and comprehension.
What I am certain of is, Joan was and continues to be, beyond special. Steve