As I glean from the past years, I believe God had a purpose for putting Barry into my life for a season, while I was in his for a reason. Unfortunately, we might not ever understand why other things happened, such as why his first wife Malinda died at the young age of 42. For more on this story, read The Life and Times of Barry Corbran Part One.
A few months after Malinda died, a friend mentioned that Barry was now a ‘bachelor’ and might need help raising his three daughters. At this time, I had been divorced for seven years and was only in one other relationship; and this one was with a woman (though at the time, it was a very secretive). Being married again seemed to be a foreign concept, unless same-sex marriage was permitted in the United States. Therefore, it would have been a God-ordained experience to have a second husband.
My friend didn’t lie though, Barry was good-looking. At least I could give him pointers on how to be a single parent. So I asked the church secretary (thanks Pauline H.) for his email, and the correspondence began.
Being a writer, I tend to forget that not everyone is long winded when it comes to writing. Some are that way in speaking. Barry was the latter. His emails consisted of one paragraph, and usually a few words. But it was fun. After a few months, we were racing to the computer in the mornings to see who would send out the first email.
Developing a friendship
At the close of the church service, everyone would hold hands of the person next to us or in front or behind us. So I began sitting behind him. I started looking forward to holding his hand. At first, his hands felt rough, calloused from working hard with his hands. But the longer I held on, the warmth and tenderness was evident. I remembered seeing Malinda hold his hand during the service. Surely she felt loved by him. My thoughts started leaning toward the word “us.” Could we be more than just best friends? Would there be an opportunity for me to have his hand to hold when I was scared, anxious, tired, or even full of joy?
Barry loved to tell the story of when he first ‘really saw me.’ He said as he was leaving the sanctuary he turned around and saw my smile. It caught him out of the blue and became something he looked forward to each week, as I looked forward to holding his hand.
By November, his family took that trip to Disney (that Malinda wasn’t able to go on). And one day, Barry did something for the first time. He called while he was sitting out a ride. I was touched, I thought, “this guy really likes me.” (Isn’t it funny how no matter what your age, when love hits you, you feel like a teenager all over again.)
The first call initiated more times that we would meet – with and without our kids.
The first kiss was worth waiting for.
Barry said he was trying to be a gentleman, I just wanted the kiss. One day he arrived at my home and stood in my entry way. He said he had to talk to his inlaws (Malinda’s parents) first to make sure it was okay with them that he was in love with another woman. Then he knew it was okay to tell me.
So on that day, as soon as he said, “I came here to tell you that I am in love with you.” I grabbed him into a big bear hug and kissed him and it lasted for some time. I was more than ready! Then I took him into the living room and told him about the relationship I had with the woman. I wanted our relationship to be built on trust and honesty. He listened and said, it didn’t matter, it was in the past and that he loved me no matter what. I was so happy. I couldn’t believe it. Yet, I have always known God to do great things.
Our church friends didn’t even know we were dating because they never saw us together. I started teaching the kids during church, so I wasn’t there to hold his hand. They were surprised when we arrived together for the Christmas Eve service. The only seats left were the ones in the second row. I often wondered if the sudden whispers we heard were about us.
In the midst of this relationship, I was also working as a consultant for Creative Memories. I had done so well in recruiting, that I won an all-expenses paid trip to Scottsdale, AZ for April 2005. My friend Kelly was thinking about going, but when my relationship with Barry grew, she encouraged me to ask him. So I did. He was hesitant because of the church guidelines for leaders. He said it would not look good if we were to share a room.
Making it all work out for the best.
On December 30, Barry invited me out to a fancy restaurant, which meant dressing up – a skirt with pantyhose and sandals. So this is what love looked like – doing or wearing things that made you feel a little awkward. The thought of a proposal was in the back of my head.
We had a wonderful dinner. The server was coming to refill our water glasses when Barry stepped out in front (startling her), bent down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. I said yes. The ring was beautiful.
His youngest daughter Jenny helped pick it out, which made the engagement extra special. Then the fireworks went off (the not so fun ones) when we told our kids we were planning an April wedding. The kids felt it was too soon, for not even a year had passed since Malinda died. We heard their reasoning but went forward with our plans.
We were looking at the big picture – our age, our experiences, and of course, the church. Barry was a deacon and a member of the church board. He knew the church wouldn’t approve of him sharing a room without being married. Plus, Barry had never been west of Ohio.
We planned a simple wedding.
We had fun planning a wedding with family and a few friends (around 60). Our kids sang (with instruments) at the beginning; my son Mike walked me down the aisle, and Jenny was our flower girl.
The feature photo is one of my favorites from our wedding. God’s presence has always been in our decision to be married. Our love and the strength it provided, carried me through many tough days as a stepmom, helped me through the house fire, and stayed with me during Barry’s last days on earth, eight years later.
I was able to share parts of my journey with Barry in a chapter in an anthology titled, Emerge: Real Stories of Courage and Truth.
I believe God wanted me in Barry’s life to give his girls another adult to love them – through the hard times, including Barry’s death.
God brought Barry into my life to show unconditional love.
So although Barry and I only had eight years together, it will be an adventure I will never forget (and still have many stories to share.)
Yes, Barry stole my heart right out from under me – and that was good.
Share an experience of your first love.