It was March, 2007 and I had been living in the Dows Lake area since the end of February with a beautiful charismatic Catholic lady named Pam Howe (for more about how I got there, read here).
One day, March 11th, Pam insisted I come with her to church for the first service… she had been thinking for a while of introducing me to a friend who was a professional musician. I had a stereotyped view of pro musicians and so there was no real interest there for me. However, in talking with her later, I found out that Pam wanted us to meet because she knew Hugh had a website that could answer a lot of the questions I had about the Catholic Church.
We met at the end of the service…. I explained a little about the journey I was on and he told me a little of his story. The conversation continued until he said we should leave the sanctuary since others were arriving for the second service. So the conversation continued in the stairwell. Pam had left for home by this time.
Others came and joined us in the conversation… and went… until it was just the two of us again…
…and the conversation continued with me standing on the sidewalk outside and Hugh still talking while holding the door open…
“…don’t forget my website… I don’t have any contact cards with me… why don’t you write it down…make sure you send me a note….” as he fumbled in his pockets for some shred of paper…
“That’s okay, I’ll remember….”, I said as I tried to pull myself away, aware that on some level I wanted to stay.
At this point I didn’t quite know what to make of him… he wasn’t like the stereo-typical-professional-musician-type I had pictured in my mind, and I was curious what his website would be like….
A short time later, Pam gave me a copy of one of his CD’s... wow… was I impressed… it oozed creative musicality…
During that season, I had to go to the library to check my email, as I didn’t have a computer. So in the limited time available, I was able to do a cursory once-over of Hugh’s website. Another wow…. this guy was serious about his faith! Definitely more to him than the “professional musician” label…
I was impressed.
And also a bit intrigued.
So I popped him an email like I said I would. Actually, it turned out to be a rather lengthy apologetics email (about Replacement Theology - I think I got in over my head), and his reply was a rather equally lengthy one….
But my personal journey towards the Catholic faith was driving me to ask more people more questions, and so I met with a number of others, which one day included Hugh.
(To be completely honest here, I admit I did have mixed motives in asking Hugh to meet with me…. the questions were still important to me, but I really just wanted to connect with him. For someone who has rarely - if ever – initiated something like this, it was a bold move on my part).
We met Sunday, April 22nd at Dows Lake. The Friday preceding, I had recorded this in my journal: “Father, I’m meeting with DM on Sunday. Please tell me what You think about that and what this friendship is all about, whether it’s to last long-term or not.”
He rode up on his bike – armed with laptop and thick books – and I remember thinking that he must live a pretty simple life…. like me….
We walked over to two park benches placed perpendicular in relational to the other… he on one and me on the other… he felt kind of far away and I noticed that I didn’t really like that…
However, I was truly seeking some answers to some deep heart questions pertaining to the journey I was on; I couldn’t help but be impressed by Hugh’s knowledge and passion for the issue at hand…
… his eyes were striking… he also had a great sense of humor….
I also thought it was interesting, as we walked back, that he asked me openly, “So… I take it you don’t have any children?”
The question kind of took me by surprise… but I liked that he was going in that direction…
I replied something about circumstances in my relational life not allowing for that.
So we continued an email exchange.
A few weeks later I met with a beautiful couple, Dennis and Angelina, and “interviewed” them about the Catholic faith as well. It was such an encouraging talk. At one point, the subject of Hugh came up, and Dennis made the comment, “Hugh is single”.
On the way back home, I was thinking about that small comment. I was realizing that language between Christian circles can mean very different things. So I asked my landlady whether being “single” in the Catholic world meant that there’s no room for marriage. She replied that no, it didn’t have to be that way.
I felt somewhat relieved, but it still left me wondering if he was open to marriage…
May 13th… my birthday. Not just any birthday….the BIG one… 40 years.
A couple of weeks earlier a trusted friend gave me a word that the Lord had a special gift prepared for me on my birthday.
As it turns out, there was a guest speaker from India who was doing a healing conference, and the last day landed on May 13th. Hugh suggested I should go to experience it (besides, he was part of the worship team). :)
Wow… a beautiful anointing in that place. And it sure was good to see Hugh again (but we didn’t talk to one another at that time).
Fast forward to the summer…. by this time I’m pretty certain what direction I’m heading in on my journey. But the other big question I had was, “how does Hugh fit into this picture?”
I told the Father that I loved Hugh’s heart, his passion, his pursuits… he’s so alive…
….but what was Hugh thinking? Perhaps a relationship wasn’t even a viable option and I was totally barking up the wrong tree, totally walking down a dead-end road.
He was doing a lot of traveling/touring so we had limited email contact.
So my prayer was that the Lord would show him what this relationship was all about…. was it to be a reason, a season or a lifetime?
“Father – I pray I know soon – I pray Hugh knows soon. I pray he tells me what he’s thinking. I pray that all of this comes into the open soon.”
That fall was a few email exchanges, two phone conversations and no personal contact….
Until November 4th.
Dennis and Angelina invited me to a Stations of the Cross event. The plan was to drive up with them, they said Hugh would be going with them as well.
So I was sitting patiently outside the church, waiting for them to drive up. I wait…and wait….
….and then Hugh drove up in a vehicle! What? Where are Dennis and Angelina? So I got into the car with Hugh…I liked being with him…
We drove around to the back of the church…and there they were in the back parking lot! So Hugh stopped the car, and I reached for the door handle to get out of the car to join them….
Suddenly Hugh said, “Wait!” and I felt an arm thrust quickly across me, motioning for me to stay in. I backed off the door handle.
Hmm…. interesting…. perhaps those prayers I had been praying were doing something!
So we drove out there together, about a 45 minute drive. Hugh was writing a new song (called Across, one of my all-time favorites) and asked for my input in any way.
After the function, Hugh said he had to leave early to take his nephew out for dinner and asked if I wanted to go back with him now, or with the others who would be leaving later. I told him I’d go back with him now… (justifying my reasoning by saying that I didn’t know a lot of people at the function… :)
When we arrived in town, he asked if I would like to join he and his nephew for dinner, and so I said “sure”…Hugh certainly knows how to entertain his nephews…or perhaps he was testing me to see how much I could take of his crazy antics….yes, he was a unique one…
During this time period I had a dream in which I was climbing a very steep and precipitous mountain. At some point I began to lose my footing and I was falling backwards, losing control. Hugh somehow was there behind me, strong like a pillar and helped me continue my ascent up the mountain. In the dream, I made it to the top.
In November of that year, I came into communion with the Catholic Church, a journey that began with a dream I had about the Eucharist a year earlier. Pam threw a potluck reception for me. It got a lot better when Hugh arrived on the scene. My friends noticed “something” was up between us. I initiated the hug when he left. Again, it was such a bold thing for me to do… I was never the type to do that.
December 2nd: I ‘fessed up to my two close girlfriends in Ottawa – Linda and Margarita - about my interest in Hugh. They suggested that I not initiate anything and just let the Lord lead. That was good enough for me.
A couple of emails: Hugh mentioned he was going to Israel in January (2008). I asked him to bring back some Israeli soil for me. Then suddenly, an email from Hugh arrived on February 11th, describing his time in Israel and some of the adventures he’d had.
Wow. Something’s changed. Something’s happened. The tone, the length… everything was different about this email. I was elated. A further entry from my journal for Feb. 16th: “Hugh called me tonight! From Detroit: 6:47 pm. Got his message at 11:10 pm and left a message on his cellphone.” What a feeling that was. It was like my best friend had called and left a message, and I couldn’t wait to hear from him. He was coming back to Ottawa.
He next contacted me on the phone on February 20th. He said he wanted to hear my story. I was thrilled. So we sat in Starbuck’s for three hours… and this time I did all the talking. He was such a good listener. Then he asked for my prayers…he said he’d be doing a three day discernment retreat. I had no idea what he was discerning, but I told him I’d be praying.
The next time I heard from him was a very sad day. He phoned to say the retreat was about discerning a future with me, but that he didn’t have peace about it… so there was to be no further contact… no email, no phone, nothing…. That was painful. I didn’t understand why… but I trusted the Lord was in control and knows best. So the door to Hugh was now closed. And I knew that the only way it would ever open, was if the Lord opened it.
April 12th: a prominent theological speaker was in town and I wanted to hear him so I made sure I got to the church early to get a seat near the front. The place was packed out. About 20 minutes into the talk, I started weeping for no reason… Holy Spirit is speaking… what’s going on? Then almost as suddenly, I hear Hugh’s voice in the seat behind me! My heart leapt. But I wouldn’t turn around to see him, because we weren’t to have any contact. How did he find a seat right behind me? How did he know I was there? I felt waves of love wash over me during the talk… At the intermission, he taps me on the shoulder and we chat – surface stuff… I had to leave early due to another commitment, so I motion good-bye and I’m off again.
On Sundays, Hugh attended the first service, and I would attend the second. So a couple of times we passed each other outside the church. One time he walked over to me, gave me a big hug and said, “I miss you….” It felt so good. I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t say anything, just enjoyed the moment and continued inside the church. That was a good day.
Over a year goes by… still the “no-talk” zone with Hugh.
In May 2008, I saw him a number of times in Quebec City at a large Catholic conference. One of those times we were in close proximity with one another and he greeted me and opened his arms, inviting me to embrace him. I did so readily and eagerly. Someone behind us noticed that people were wanting to buy some of Hugh’s CDs, but Hugh wasn’t at the table due to the “distraction”; however, our moment was interrupted.
During this period of the “no-talk” zone, I’d often get dreams that would tell me something completely opposite of what we were experiencing in the natural.
For example, in one dream, an angel was holding up a sign that I was to read out loud, it read: “It’s more than a miracle, hey Dave?”
I woke up with a start when I realized what I had just said in my dream. But what was the miracle? To my knowledge, the door was securely closed to Hugh. And in my mind, I was going forward with my life, without Hugh.
I spoke with my former landlady about Hugh's discernment: she made the insightful comment that “it takes two to discern marriage”.
Fast forward to July 26th, 2009. One of those rare Sundays when Hugh and I connect. Small chat again… then he mentions that he’s going through the worst suffering of his Christian experience and describes what is going on… When he said the word “suffering”, it reminded me of a dream I had of him the previous April:
In the dream I saw a wooden cross and I instinctively knew it was Hugh’s cross. Across the cross was written the word “suffering”. The question was asked of me in the dream (perhaps the Holy Spirit asking me), “why do you suppose Hugh is going through this suffering?”
My response was,“I don’t know…. to learn humility?”
Then, in response, the perspective of the cross changed and I saw written on the end of one of the arms, the word “obedience”.
That was the dream.
I had no idea Hugh was going through any suffering, but I told him that perhaps he was learning obedience in some area, just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering. We continued on our separate ways.
In mid-August I had another powerful dream: I was embracing a man who was built, he had really strong arms. He said to me, “Diane, I want to intentionally date you.” And another phrase I heard in the dream was that it would happen “in a couple of weeks”.
I knew that the strong man represented someone who was strong in the spirit… but what was the “intentional dating” bit?
Another weird dream. Up on the shelf it goes, along with all of those other ones.
End of August 2009, I’m feeling that I need to take all the dreams to my pastor, to bring it all “into the light”, confused that they’re continuing when the door closed over a year and a half ago…why would You allow this, Lord? If the dreams are so that I can pray for him, why would you do this to me? … can’t you get someone else to pray for him?
That night I called a girlfriend… it was late and I was tired, but I dialed what I thought was her number…and got Hugh’s answering machine! Ackk! I slammed the phone down. What just happened? I had to look up Hugh’s phone number because I couldn’t remember it the second time. It turns out that the last 4 digits of my girlfriend’s number is the first 4 digits of Hugh’s phone number! I had called Hugh perhaps twice in the first 9 months I knew him…. so how could I have remembered his number now?
Seven am the next morning, my phone rings… it’s Hugh! I blubbered some kind of apology about the phone, how it was an accident… he stopped me and said, “Diane, that’s not why I’m calling… I love you.” And a long conversation ensued (after all, we had a year and a half to catch up on), so he asked if I’d like to get together. Would I?! We spent the morning together, visited his parents, and had lunch together.
The next day I left to go on a wilderness canoeing trip for six days with a couple of girlfriends. I was weighing the whole Hugh thing… continuing to pray the Lord would speak to both of us clearly; we had such different backgrounds, would it work for both of us? One morning I felt to ask my two friends if they had any dreams. Cindy said, “This morning I had the strangest dream and I have no idea what it’s about”.
She’s got my attention. “Oh? Tell us about it….”
“A man is driving a huge U-Haul truck up to a house that he’s going to be moving into. He gets out of the truck, lifts the back section up and there’s a whole wall of boxes there. I’m thinking, there’s no way those boxes in that U-Haul are going to fit in the house! So he starts unloading, removing that first layer of boxes and…. there’s no more boxes, the truck is empty!”
I laughed at how the dream spoke directly into my situation. I said, “The message is pretty clear to me…. there’s not as much baggage as you’d think or expect!”
The following Sunday night, Hugh and I met at Church, then went to McDonald’s and talked until midnight, sharing about our week. During that talk, he made the comment, “Diane, I’m pursuing you.” A short time later I realized that that comment was very similar to the one in the dream I had three weeks earlier, about “intentionally dating” me….
The next day, Monday, we spent the day together, and Hugh asked me if I’d like to join him in Toronto where he’d be speaking at a youth conference. I said yes. On the trip there, he told me everything once again about his background (even though it’s all there for the world to see anyway)… I already knew much of it, but it was heavy to hear again….
…so the next day he sensed this in me and pulled me aside. We sat outside the church at the picnic table…and while people were busy walking back and forth behind us, preparing for the next day’s conference, we talked.
“Diane, I don’t want to waste your time… if I’m not the one you’re to be with, then I want God to show that to you very clearly very soon…. I only want His will for you…. can we pray about that?” So we both prayed into it, and what I thought would be a nice, clean, easy prayer turned me into a blubbering, messy, runny-nosed, red-eyed girl…
The Holy Spirit was with us, and confirming in my heart, “Yes! I love this man! This is the one! I want to be with him always!” while my head was saying, “Wait, you’ve hardly spent time with him, how can you say you know him, his background is completely different from yours, how do you know if you’ll even be compatible?”
But I chose to follow my heart… in fact, it felt so sure, so right, that I felt like I wanted to make some kind of verbal commitment right then and there to him…but it was an awkward moment for me… how could I tell him I was committed to him without it sounding almost like…. a proposal?
So I didn’t tell him I was committed to him; instead, as I wiped my face and attempted to clean up the puddle on the picnic table, I told him that I knew the answer (about whether or not he was the one)….
“You do?” he asked very apprehensively, as if the answer was “not you”…
I told him I loved him... and hardly batting an eyelid, with a sudden air of confidence, he asks me the question: “Diane, will you marry me?”
“Yes.” It was that easy, that simple.
Then suddenly the weight of what we had just done hit us both at the same time…. it had taken us both by surprise. We looked at each other and Hugh said, “We’re engaged, I need to get you a ring!”
Long story short… we had the perfect ring within the next 45 minutes.