Our Story | All You Need is Love

On the way in with my three kids to school this morning, I was telling my 13-year old daughter how much I love her and how much mommy loves her. After all that has happened this past week since the passing of the love of my life, Maureen, it really should have come as no surprise to me that the Beatles, All You Need is Love, would come on the radio. I said to Kyla, “mommy is still talking to us.” Kyla responded, “daddy, she is never going to stop.”

And, you know, she is right. Love simply doesn’t run out, ever. During the service this past Saturday for my sweetie, several of her friends and family spoke in remembrance. From Suzanne, one of her younger sisters, to Susie, her life-long friend and one of my daughters’ godmother, to Francis and Martine, her Belgian cousins, to Christianne, her friend from her junior year abroad in Strasbourg, France, and another of our daughters’ godmother, the love that I was privileged to share as Maureen’s husband for over 24 years was apparent in all their words. As Susie noted in a conversation this past week after she returned home, that is the great thing about love. Each of us, across distance, space and time, could feel the abundant love Maureen shared with all of us… and there is still plenty to go around!!

When you have felt love, you know it. You also know how deep the love is by how big the tears are. We’ve shed some big tears, but they aren’t tears of just sadness. They are tears of abundant joy, just like the love we shared, and all who knew Maureen, shared. I told my kids yesterday on the way in to school that “remembering” and “looking back” are not the same thing. You can not look back and look forward at the same time. However, you can look forward and remember at the same time. That is what Maureen would want from not only us, her immediate family, but all who love her. For the first time, she can now be with all of us at the same time. I miss having my Maureen by my side not just as I sleep at night but throughout every act of my day. However, yesterday, while picking up the death certificates at the funeral home, I came to understand that Maureen’s peaceful passing in her sleep was her ultimate act of love.

As I looked at one of the reasons for death, it read cario-pulmonary, not cardio-pulmonary. I thought well now that is a silly typo, dropping the D like that. With kids that are taking Latin at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, where we held Maureen’s celebration of life, I decided to do a quick search of the word “cario” on our computer, and lo and behold, the word cario means caring, dear. Maureen’s heart didn’t stop; it was actually simply beating in a new way. It was now beating with love, with care, with God. She loved us so much that she gave us, her family, the ultimate gift, her peace. In the words of John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Maureen has made us fully aware of God’s peace.

Taylor, Kyla Katelyn and I miss mommy, as I know all who know her do. However, we are looking forward and remembering. I know this is what Maureen would want from not just us but all of her family and friends. I say this for a reason. After we returned home from the Upper School chapel at St. Andrew’s on Saturday, I decided to put up all the photo boards of her life around our living room. Each morning, after I make my cup of coffee and her tumbler of tea, I sit on the couch and look around. On one of the boards is a photo of Maureen in New Orleans from our recent trip there in February of this year. It was the same post where I had taken a photo of her 25 years ago to the weekend, when she and I had visited this same city during our courtship. New Orleans being New Orleans, the words, “laissez les bon temps rouler,” came into my mind. Later that same day, on Sunday afternoon, walking out of the resort and spa where my parents were staying, my son and I suddenly heard another of my favorite songs over the resort sound system from the Cars, “let the good times roll.”

Whether it is in French or English, this is Maureen’s message to all of us… let the good times roll, look forward, not back, and ultimately, all we need is love.

The Love of My Life | My Love Letter for Maureen

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, I was privileged to share my love letter for Maureen with hundreds, upon hundreds, of the people touched by her love. There are many more words to come, however, for now, the ones I spoke at the Upper School Chapel at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School will stand alone….

Bonne Maman and Bon Papa, Ann and Henry, I love your daughter more than words can describe. Bon Papa, I can see clear as day you walking up the aisle of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Chicago, arm in arm with your beautiful daughter in her white wedding dress and being blown away. The fact that you had to walk up this aisle this morning to say goodbye to your daughter makes me so very sad.

Suzanne and Nique, I know Todd and Paul would agree with me completely when I say, it is a privilege to be married to a Diercxsens girl. I love your sister, and I know the love she shares with me, our kids, and all of us is because of the love you share as a family. Thank you for that tremendous gift.

Sweetie, I am not going to be able to share all of the stories I want to in the time I have, so I will be sharing those stories as I write about our love story the next several weeks, months and years. I will say, however, the day you said yes to our first date, yes to my proposal of marriage, and we both said I do at the altar of God were the greatest days of my life. I know the greatest days in our lives together were when our children were born. Taylor, Kyla and Katelyn. Mommy and Daddy love you.

Maureen loved nothing more than being a mother of 3. She also loved being an architect. When we were dating, I asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said an architect. For the past 17 years, since graduating UT, she has been an architect at O’Connell Robertson, a firm, that like St. Andrew’s is about 60 years old. I want to thank the firm not just for the privilege of amazing work but for the safe place they created this past year as the cancer was getting harder. When Maureen walked into the door on the 9th floor, she was Maureen. She was an architect. Nothing less. Nothing more. Thank you for creating that sanctuary for her.

I also want to thank Dr. Kampe and everyone at Texas Oncology, because they granted Maureen the gift of doing these things she loved for an extra 11 years. She told some friends recently over dinner just how much these extra years meant to her. However, in the last few months, I think Maureen came to realize that the genetics of love would win out over the genetics of cancer.

Unfortunately, there has been too much cancer in the All Saint’s Episcopal Church community, as well as St. Andrew’s. This past Friday, Heather Kohout passed away from cancer, which is important to our story and why it is such an honor to have the flowers from her funeral Thursday here on this altar today. As the resurrection story tells us, it took Christ three days after his crucifixion to rise again on Sunday. Heather wasn’t firmly in heaven until Monday. Her story and Maureen’s are connected, and I know Heather, along with Maureen’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and our Malibu were at the front of the line of the communion of saints welcoming Maureen into heaven Tuesday morning.

Things had gotten very tough the last several days, so when we had a routine checkup at Texas Oncology Monday morning, we had to rush to Seton Hospital, because Maureen’s sodium was dropping, a problem. Over the course of the day, we got things stabilized, and the sodium was slowly coming back up. When we both went to sleep, we were peaceful. It wouldn’t be until 7am the next morning, though, that I would understand Maureen’s words that night, finish the day, finish the day, finish the day. At 4am, we both awoke. Nurses checked vitals, which were good, and blood tests had sodium coming back up. We squeezed each other’s hand to say I love you and went back to sleep. The nurses told me they checked in again at 5:30am and we were still sleeping comfortably. At 7am, when I awoke, I found Maureen in eternal slumber. Maureen had figured out the most obvious way to beat cancer. She had won.

IMG_2179Maureen and I both know there is a God, and the birth of our three children made that even clearer. However, the events of this past week, since Maureen’s passing make me 100% certain there is also a heaven. On our way home Tuesday, we stopped at Maudie’s where we always go for fajitas on Saturday night. When we had settled at our table, we looked out the window and saw a small rainbow in the clouds. Maureen was saying hi. Then, we heard the song Every Little Thing She Does is Magic from the Police over the restaurant’s sound system. We started to talk about how Maureen loved Bruce Springsteen. Nique pointed out that Maureen was a Jersey girl, her family growing up in Jersey, even though Maureen was born in Belgium. Yeah, you guessed it the next song was Born To Run. Mommy was with us.

It wasn’t until 5:52 on Wednesday morning, though, that I felt heaven. At 5:52, I felt an intense, warm and beautiful hug from Maureen, unlike any we could share on earth. This was the time she would usually go downstairs to wake the kids with Goodmorning Sunshine. She lifted me up to our bed. I was sleeping on the floor. My three kids were in our bed. Then, Maureen had me tell each of our kids a message. She told me to tell Katelyn that when she missed mommy, she could put her head on Daddy’s heart, and mommy would be with her. Then, she told me to tell Kyla to get her new volleyball from the garage, and then I told Kyla that mommy would always be with her on the court or on the field. Finally, I told Taylor that in his private moment with mommy at the hospital, after her passing, that she heard and felt his love, and she loved him. At 6:09, it had passed, the same time we usually were up and about, scurrying to get off to school. The kids and I have decided that 5:52 to 6:09 will be sacred time, mommy time, during the school year.

Later that morning, we experienced the same amazing sunrise all of us did in Austin, along with the next one on Thursday morning. Mommy was with us. Then, yesterday morning, Maureen spoke to me. Throughout our marriage, and especially during the fight with cancer, I always worried that Maureen knew just how much I love her, how deeply I cherished her. On the way to Baguette et Chocolat, our favorite French patisserie.. by the way, I don’t know what heaven looks like, but I do know what it smells like … anyway, I asked Siri to play Once in a Lifetime, our favorite song from the Talking Heads. Instead of the one I expected, the one from Chicago, where we had visited a month ago, so Maureen and I could tell the kids about where we met, played instead.

Just as I was about to switch it back to Talking Heads, I started to hear the words, and I knew my sweetie was talking to me… I’ll share them with you now:

When I saw your face

I could feel my heartbeat begin to race

In the still of the night

It was love at first sight

Not too long ago

I was on my own

Never would have known

You’d come into my life

Now, you’re the love of my life

Chorus:

Once in a lifetime

Maybe the last time

Just the right time to fall in love

Once in a lifetime

For such a long time

I’ve been waiting for you

You were there for me

It was there for you

We were meant to be

Now we’re fallin’ in love

Finally fallin’ in love

Sweetie, you are indeed once in a lifetime, and over the next several months and years, the kids and I are going to travel to places that were important to you and me, as well as to places that were important to you before you and I met, to sprinkle your ashes, and your love, everywhere.

IMG_2534I want everybody here to share in this sprinkling of love. So, let me tell you how. This past weekend, before we checked in to Seton, Dr. Kampe had prescribed donuts to Maureen. We dutifully complied, and Maureen asked for a powdered donut, interestingly the store in which I bought it named their donuts, and this one was called winning, just like her victory over cancer. The tough thing the last several days was Maureen’s breathing, so she liked cold air to blow. With powdered sugar donut in hand, she leaned forward to the vents of the car, and the sugar blew everywhere! So, this weekend, go buy a powdered sugar donut, find a fan, and let the sugar blow over you, just like Maureen’s love blew over all of us.

Amen.

Our Story | Marriage & The Greatest of All Positives

At the start of the order of service for “The Blessing and Celebration of a Marriage” in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, these words are spoken by the priest as the ceremony begins:

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

For those that have read the first two posts in this sequence of Our Story on the “Triple-Positive,” you know that Maureen and I did not enter into marriage unadvisedly or lightly. You also know that I was most deliberate about the privilege of spending the rest of my life with this truly beautiful women, having met at Apple and knowing that I would marry Maureen even before we started dating. I had planned to make this particular post over the weekend but got a little delayed, however as I started to type, I just noticed what day it is… the 14th… 24 years and 3 months to the day that we were married. We were married on Saturday, July 14, 1990. So, this is the right day to talk about the greatest of all positives. I can think of no other way to tell our story of marriage, the greatest of all positives, than to walk through the above passage section by section.

“The union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy.” Joy. 8,853 days of joy to be exact. I just did the math and threw in a couple of extra days to account for the leap years over the last 24 years and 3 months. Needless to say, the one day back in late 2003 when we first heard the words, “you have cancer,” was not one of joy, nor the ones where it came back or metastasized. However, that is not what this passage in the order of service is about. We define joy, not disease, and so, the very simple act of dropping Maureen off at her office this morning was one of joy. My heart leapt, my body tingled, and my mind smiled just watching my beautiful bride walk into her building.

I have felt this joy since the first day we drove into the Apple office in Chicago together. I haven’t mentioned this before, but for the 6 months we dated, no one at Apple knew we were dating… well, almost no one. It isn’t that we had anything to hide; we just wanted to be private about all of it. We were the two youngest in the office, and I had a company car, so no one was ever surprised that I would drive Maureen to various events. There is a corny scene in Sleepless in Seattle when they hold hands, and they know. It is true; I knew; the first time. We held hands in the car as we drove to the office. However, we must have held hands at some event, because one of the VPs on another floor left a message for our manager sometime around February or March, “Hey Sam, are Maureen and Gary dating?” To which Sam responded, “No. If anybody would know they are dating, it would be me. Heck, they both work in this office, right under my nose.” Jump forward to my proposal after the 4th of July. Maureen and I had returned to the office in Chicago after the holiday weekend and stopped in Sam’s office to share some news.

Gary: “Hey Sam. Guess what we did this weekend?” Sam: “What?” Gary: “We got engaged.” Sam: “To each other?” Maureen: “Yes.” After this news rippled around our floor, the floor above us and out to a couple of other Apple offices, there was a voicemail left by that same VP from a few months earlier, that said simply, “I told you so!”

This is the joy that brought Maureen and I to the altar at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois for the blessing and celebration of a marriage. We were already married, which is why I love how the Episcopal Church presents this. Our hearts, bodies and minds were already fused together through joy. The marriage service was simply a public acknowledgement of our joy, a joy that has never abated. Our joy has been made more powerful by the consequences of the next passage, “and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of God.” Taylor, Kyla and Katelyn are clear signs of God’s will. We are blessed to be their mom and dad, blessed to be stewards of God’s gift to us through their birth. I know that one of the greatest joys for Maureen is her children. When I watch what they do for their mom, I know they understand her love… you can not give something you have not received, a meme I talked about back in the “New Chicago Memories and the Meme of Love” post.

There is another little passage in this order of service, and it can’t be avoided. “for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity.” Notice it says “and” not “or.” Until I typed it out, I didn’t actually realize why that is so important. Life is complicated. Life is not meant to be a journey with only prosperity and without adversity. Like Adam, I would give my rib to my Eve, my Maureen, to take her cancer from her and into me. I believe that this is part of what the last line means, “Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.” 24 years and 3 months ago, I had to stand on my tip toes when the priest told me I could kiss the bride. Today, 8,853 days later, I love my bride as much, if not more, than the day of our marriage. I also feel privileged that God blessed our union, because as Maureen battles through this adversity, I am joyful that God has blessed me to be by her side. Maureen, my heart, body and mind is yours, always has been, and always will be.

Everyone is Everyone (And Everything is Everything)

My wife, Maureen, and I have been watching the show Continuum lately on Netflix. Continuum is a Canadian science fiction series. The series centers on the conflict between a group of rebels from the year 2077 who time-travel to Vancouver, BC, in 2012, and a police officer who accidentally accompanies them. In spite of being many years early, the rebel group decides to continue its violent campaign to stop corporations of the future from replacing governments, while the police officer endeavours to stop them without revealing to anyone that she and the rebels are from the future.

While watching a recent episode, a song at the end captured my interest, and with Shazaam, I was able to purchase it from iTunes. The music is terrific, and the words that follow blew me away. One year ago, on October 16, 2013, I spoke in Rome at TEDxTrastevere. If you watch my talk, you will see why the lyrics from Au4 to Everyone is Everyone (And Everything is Everything) touched a deep nerve within me.

Somehow I found myself here today.
Awakened to these thoughts and feelings,
Or an oceanic sense of lucid dreaming?
A strange sort of spherical sensation,
With an overwhelming sense of apprehension.
An emptiness that thunders out
From beyond the mind’s horizon.
So far beyond our reach,
Where consciousness coalesces
Like the billowing loom of thunder clouds.
The streaming runs of thought go
Round and ’round and ’round.
Till the dancing funnels of wind touch down.
And the earth bows down in reverence,
Lest it should be torn to pieces
And blown into oblivi-essence.
And all who live will run and hide
And do what we’ve done since the dawn of time.
Everyone flees from the cyclone winds of
One’s own mind.
But if one day we should stand on the canyon’s edge,
Peer out through the beating rain, the pounding wind
You’ll find that everyone is everyone
And everything is everything.
(Verse One)
Open up
Your hearts and minds.
Cause I remember
Nothing.

Our Story | The Next Positive (The Proposal)

Just over 26 years ago, I was as scared as I am now. As you’ll recall from Friday’s post in “Our Story,” I had just shared the first of my “triple positives.” It was New Year’s Eve, and I had picked up Maureen at Chicago O’Hare, after the Christmas break at Apple. It was the end of 1988, and we were about to usher in 1989 together. Little did we realize we were ushering in far more than a new year but instead a new life. There are a lot of stories I could share from the 6 months that followed New Year’s Eve, but I’m going to jump ahead a little bit.

The day is July 2, 1988. Six months earlier a dozen red roses had been sent to Maureen’s home in Ridgewood, New Jersey on Christmas Eve. This time, however, I am with Maureen in Ridgewood for the Fourth of July weekend, and as I said, I’m scared. I’m scared because I’ve carried with me a diamond engagement ring, and I’m about to pop the question while we are in New York together. As I have mentioned in previous posts on Our Story, family is tremendously important to Maureen. As a result, I knew that when it came time for me to propose, being with her family to celebrate (hopefully, she hadn’t said yes yet!) would be as important as how and when I popped the question.

The day of the proposal is forever etched in my memory. There were a lot of things that I had planned, from playing our song to another red rose to champagne. However, the way the day was playing out, I was not going to be able to pull all these things together ahead of time. You have to remember this was 1988. The iPod hadn’t been invented yet. Carrying a boom box to the Statue of Liberty to play our song would be hugely obvious! This had to be a surprise. I can still see right where I was standing on the ferry to Liberty Island on the way over to the Statue. It was a beautiful blue-sky Sunday, and I had excused myself to go to the restroom, so I could take the engagement ring out of its sleeve and place it in my pocket for easy access. My head and heart were both racing. I so loved Maureen and was so excited to tell her how much and how I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. My heart still races with the same power of love as I type these words, telling the whole world our story. I would ask her all over again, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t even wait 6 days to propose, much less 6 months.

We took a stroll around Liberty Island, and then we sat down to rest on the lawn. My head was racing… this was the moment… time had suddenly stood still. Everything was suspended. I knew if we sat too much longer, without me asking “the question”, the moment would pass. This was it. Apparently, the words racing in my head popped out in words, because as Maureen still teases me, my first words were, “I’m sitting up now.” My next words, however, were the ones that mattered. “Maureen, I’ve thought of a million ways to ask this, but it is ultimately pretty simple. Will you marry me?” Let me tell you… when time is suspended, the 2 to 3 seconds it took for Maureen to say yes felt like an eternity!!! I still see the same glow in her face from that moment every day we wake up together. Sliding the ring on her finger that day was an act of pure joy.

And, then, the day unfolded from there, with messages that the act we had just undertaken as human beings was being blessed by God. As soon as we got off the ferry, we headed to what was then still the twin towers. Showing the kids these pictures is a bit surreal with all that has happened since that day (another post on the twin towers is coming in a few weeks). On our way up to the top of the twin towers, we went by a florist, and I was able to purchase Maureen her red rose. As I told her, what started with 12 roses had now become one. With our path to marriage, we had just created something that no longer belonged to us separately. Maureen and I were part of something bigger than either of us now. After spending some time looking over NYC from the Windows on the World, we proceeded over to Southside Seaport, and enjoyed two little bottles of champagne, bottles that still set on our shelves in our bedroom to this day. The last message is one that still resonates to this day every time I hear the Talking Heads song pop up on the radio. Remember, this is before iPod, XM or anything else. We just had the radio, and I hadn’t pre-made a cassette tape. As we were driving back to Ridgewood from NYC, the song, “Once in a Lifetime,” from the Talking Heads came on. We just looked at each other. Smiled. Glowed. The rose, the champagne and the song all the triple-postive that flowed from our proposal. I may have asked the question, but our union has always belonged to both of us.

As I said at the top, I was scared that day. Maureen and I are scared now, because of all of the unknowns of metastatic breast cancer and what comes next. However, when we look back over the last 26 years, by taking a leap of faith, we catapulted ourselves into an unbelievable life together. We are taking that same leap of faith now, as the new cancer treatments unfold. We tell our stories not because we think they are unique, but because we know the ultimate gift any of us have to share with each other is love. By sharing our love, we hope to spark a revolution, where the love of all who read this will ripple out in to the lives you each touch. Together, we can change the world. On a Fourth of July weekend 26 years ago, my love for Maureen sure as heck changed my world.

Our Story | Triple-Negative & Triple-Positive

This past Friday Maureen began new treatments for the latest twist in the progression of her breast cancer. As I promised on Facebook, this latest post will actually include a few glimpses into our specific journey with cancer, however, as I have made clear since the very first post, this is our story, not cancer’s. As a friend at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School commented yesterday, this is a very intentional approach. She is right, and it is intentional on our part for two reasons.

First, it is our expectation that we are going to “win” the fight with cancer, and second, we define winning as the living of life, and living is loving, and I love Maureen. So, since cancer is getting a bit more air time than it deserves in this post, I’m going to expand on the meme of love from the latest post I made about our trip to Chicago. I’ll get the oncology stuff out of the way first and then get to the fun stuff: Maureen and my story, how we met, how we fell in love, how I was blessed for her to say yes when I proposed, and how we ended up at the altar at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois.

Just so there is no confusion. Cancer sucks. 1 in 8 women will deal with breast cancer in their lifetimes; every 4 minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and every 10 minutes someone passes away from a blood cancer; a deeply cherished young friend and angel was part of that 10 minutes and passed away at 11 years old, just over a year ago because of blood cancer, and my wife, Maureen, is one of those 8 women dealing with breast cancer. Again, so there is no confusion. Cancer sucks.

To “fight it” is not a one time thing, either. It morphs; it changes; it transforms. It finds every possible way to keep replicating, cell after cell after cell. It can start in “one” place, like breast cancer or be everywhere, like blood cancer. The very stuff that creates life gets confused. Parts of the DNA in a cancer cell figure out how to keep replicating, while other parts, “the inhibitors,” also mutate, so there is nothing to stand in the way of this replication. Our immune system doesn’t see these aberrant cells as a cold or a virus, so they don’t sweep in to attack. As a result, we need to send in special medicines to go do the work that the body can not do by itself. We’re getting better at these medicines, but in most cases, the medicines are as bad as the disease. To knock out the bad cells means knocking out a lot of other ones, too. Sometimes, you get “lucky,” and have the “right” kind of cancer, like HER2+ and can send in targeted medicines. For the past 4 years, Maureen was getting one of those. It is called Herceptin, and it worked.

However, like I mentioned earlier, cancer morphs, changes, transforms. We’ve spent the last several weeks traveling to MD Anderson to get biopsies, as well as to other cancer centers, like Northwestern and Baylor-Hardin, so that we could be absolutely sure of what kind of cancer we are dealing with. The other thing cancer does is metastasize. This is a fancy word for “move around.” In Maureen’s case, it moved from a localized breast cancer tumor that required a masectomy 11 years ago to a set of cancer cells that have been “floating” around the lining of her lungs, causing pleural effusions (liquid around the lung linings) and other side effects. In addition to tests, we’ve met with the best breast cancer specialists I can find, so that our local oncologist, Dr. Kampe, has the best knowledge possible to guide us to the next therapy. By the way, even though cancer sucks, good oncologists don’t, and Dr. Kampe is one of the good ones. We are truly blessed to have this man on our team.

So, we figured out that things are now triple-negative, and we’ve started new treatments (which will occur every 3 weeks) to get after it. Quite frankly, I think positive and negative are stupid words for this stuff, packed with too much baggage. Quite frankly, I think we could refer to the receptors as on or off. In the case of breast cancer, there are three receptors that matter, PR, ER and HER. In Maureen’s case, like Robin Roberts of ABC and 15% of women with breast cancer, these receptors are all off, thus the term triple-negative. That is what we are treating. So, that’s enough for cancer today.

I’m now going to turn to what I call the triple-positive: meeting Maureen, proposing to Maureen and being married to Maureen, three of the best things in my life, up until the birth of our three kids. Maureen and I met in 1988, working at Apple. I had just started at the downtown office of Apple in Chicago, after an 18 month new graduate management training program, and a good friend and colleague at Apple had convinced Maureen to interview at the company. As you read the story, you’ll quickly realize why that Apple friend remains a cherished friend to this day!! Maureen joined Apple and supported the same District Manager for whom I worked, and so, I walked by her desk every day. The gorgeous woman in this photo is what started my every day in the office. Walking by Maureen’s desk in the summer of 1988, something hit me. I said to myself, “I’m going to marry that beautiful woman.” The next thought that hit me was, “now I just need to figure out how to ask her out on a date!” First things first, huh?!

We started going out over the course of the fall. I lived out in the suburbs of Chicago at the time (something Maureen still hasn’t figured out. Why would a young guy live all the way out there?!). Apple got a whole lot of extra work out of me in those days, because I would always find a way to go down to the office in the Loop to work on the weekends, so that I would have an excuse to call Maureen, who lived in Linooln Park, and ask her out to dinner or a movie. Just typing these words, I get the same goosebumps now that I got then. When she would say yes, I always hopped up, literally and figuratively. My heart was happy, and it put a jump in my feet. As things progressed throughout the fall, I was a bit worried that she might not realize just how much and how deeply I adored her, so I got another idea. This one was born from the fact that I knew how important family was to her, and she was going to be with her family in Ridgewood, New Jersey over the holidays. This afforded a brilliant opportunity for me.

I figured that a dozen red roses arriving on Christmas Eve at her family’s home in Ridgewood might do the trick… it did. The funny thing, though, is that neither of her sisters even knew she was dating at the time… her youngest sister was, and so when the roses arrived, she figured that Paul had sent them and tore into them, and quickly figured out they were for Maureen and were from a guy named Gary. Since everyone was still out doing last minute Christmas shopping, it wasn’t until cocktail hour that everyone was sitting by the fire in the living room, and Maureen arrived back at her family’s home, finished with her own shopping. She was greeted by the same question from all assembled, “Who is Gary?” To which my sweetie, Maureen, responded, “he’s just a friend.” Fortunately, her youngest sister pointed out to her that her “friends” don’t send her a dozen red roses!!! Thanks Nique for pointing that one out to her!!!

Maureen and I spoke on Christmas Day… we weren’t to the point that I could propose marriage. That would come a few months later, but I did have the privilege of picking her up from Chicago O’Hare on New Year’s Eve, after Christmas break, and we celebrated the New Year with some of her college friends in Chicago. This is the first part of my triple-positive, and I will share the next two positives in a post over the weekend, both the proposal and our marriage. As I said, we are already “winning” the fight with cancer, because winning is living, and living is love, and I love Maureen, more than words can ever describe.