Becoming a widower in April 2007 was the most difficult thing I'd faced in my life, but after working through my grief with the help of a terrific counselor I felt I was ready to resume a social life. I knew I wanted and was ready for new friends and companions. I found and joined CM in early December. Although I was sure I was looking forward to a new deep, lasting romantic relationship, I realized it was not going to be easy. I came here wanting to fall in love again, but I wondered if I would remember what it felt like and if I would recognize it if I found it.
In starting my search, I reflected deeply on who I was today compared to the man I was when I married Cathy in April 1975. I concluded that what I needed in a partner now and for the rest of my life was quite different than what I needed those many years ago. Therefore, I was not looking for, nor would I expect to find, a replica of Cathy. I knew I would always love Cathy, but I was confident in knowing I had enough room in my heart to love another, and I was determined to do so. Waiting passively was not an option and hope was not a strategy. I had faith that God would give me the opportunity to find that "special someone," and only asked that He would grant me the wisdom to recognize her when she came along. I prayed God would guide me well in my search, but knew it was my search, not God's. After all, God helps those who help themselves.
From the outset, I had every expectation CM would bring me in personal contact with local women. Alas, after a month that seemed not to be the case, as nearly all of the women who lived nearby whom I contacted ignored me, and the few that responded were not willing to go beyond exchanging a couple CM e-mails. I had assumed all of the women here were accessible and approachable because they were all looking for the same thing I was looking for…a serious, deeply loving relationship inspired by God. Otherwise, why else would they even be on CM? But, as I found out through experience, a lot of women here were not interested in finding, falling in love and marrying a partner for life, but were on CM for other types of social interaction. However, I was very fortunate that within a few weeks of joining CM, I met an extraordinarily kind, understanding, perceptive and inspiring lady on CM who was from the very outset of our relationship a friend on whom I could rely to exchange thoughts, ideas and feelings without her being judgmental. She encouraged me to stay focused and maintain a positive attitude. Although she lives 800 miles away, to this day we remain good friends and I'm certain we always will be.
I joined CM a year after my divorce and annulment in 2002. Most of the issues in my marriage were due in large part to our difference in religious beliefs. But I loved the give and take partnership of marriage and I knew that God had a perfect partner for me. Although I had never even dated a Catholic man before, I knew it was imperative that my future mate be Catholic.
I met and dated several men over the next few months, but I realized that I had not really healed from my divorce yet. Then I ended up in a relationship with an agnostic man and let my CM membership lapse. Over the next two years I realized once again that God was a central figure in my life and I could not compromise my relationship with Him indefinitely. I worked on really healing the pain and the underlying anger I had with God that my divorce had caused me.
In April 2008 I felt I was ready again to enter into the realm of dating. Although I am financially and emotionally independent, and have never been one of those women who needs a man in her life to feel complete, I decided to renew my membership with CM and see where it would lead me. I was perfectly content with remaining single, but believed that I made a good half of a couple. I felt sure that God had the perfect man for me out there somewhere. The real question was whether I had the patience and perseverance to wait for and find him.
Over the next four months I met other women through CM and my confidence grew that I would fall in love again…all I needed to do was find the right lady, in the right place, and, perhaps most importantly, at the right time. Then, when I sort of least expected it to happen, it did.
In early May, a new "match" I had never seen before suddenly appeared for me, which was quite surprising inasmuch as she was not a new member and she was a local lady. I browsed her profile and in it she explained that she had joined CM more than four years earlier but had let her membership expire about a year and a half previously. She had just reactivated it a week prior to me seeing her. However, as I carefully read Judith's profile, a sense of disappointment set in inasmuch as her profile read like hundreds of others I had seen…it was well-constructed but somewhat unimaginative. But then, near the end of her narrative, I found something that piqued my interest…she said she enjoyed playing golf. At least this was something about which I could start a conversation with her. So I sent her light-hearted emotes jokingly asking her about her golf game. She later told me she really enjoyed this, thought it was creative, and a fun way to get a dialogue started. After a week of more emotes, e-mails, and then phone calls, I asked her for a date.
We met for lunch May 16th and then saw each other an average of twice a week for the next several weeks. From the beginning, there was literally not even so much as one moment of tension or anxiety in our relationship. This remains true to this day. In fact, for our first month together things were scary for both of us because our relationship was so easy. I mentioned this to my mother one day and she said, "David, when you meet the right person, it's supposed to be easy." Our lifestyles appeared to be completely compatible and we were totally comfortable with each other. Then in mid-June, Judith said to me, "David, I know you're not perfect, but I know you are perfect for me." Upon reflection, I came to the same conclusion about Judith. At that point we made a commitment to date each other exclusively.
While we were at mass together in early July I came to the realization that God had given me a beautiful gift of Judith's love. I prayed as I had not done in years, not just requesting blessings, intercessions and help from God for friends, relatives, loved ones and me, but also thanking Him for the blessings he had bestowed upon me. As I knelt and prayed after Communion I realized I had so much to be thankful for, not the least of which was the beautiful favor God had given me…"the next love of my life"…who was kneeling next to me. As she and I left church, I knew I had experienced something wonderful during those few minutes after Communion…a renewed appreciation for the beautiful blessings God has bestowed upon me and all of us, through those whom we cherish and who love us in return. Any lingering scariness left me and all that remained was a belief that Judith and I were meant for each other.
By mid-August, we began talking about marriage. It became a foregone conclusion in my mind that it was not a matter of "if" but "when" I would propose to Judith. I wanted it to be special and I wanted it to be romantic, but I also wanted it to be a celebration of our love for each other. I wanted to be able to share our joy with dear friends. So I planned a trip to Charlottesville, VA for a UVA football game weekend in mid-October, complete with staying at a romantic B&B owned by friends of mine and pre- and post-game tailgating with lots of friends. After the game, I suggested to Judith that we take a walk around the original, historic portion of the UVA "Grounds" known as "The Lawn." On our walk back to the tailgate, I knew we would pass by the small stone University Chapel and I planned to suggest we stop inside. However, as we approached the chapel, Judith saw it first and asked if we could go inside. Of course, I agreed. Once inside I suggested to her that we say a prayer together. After a brief prayer, kneeling beside each other at the front of the chapel I immediately forgot the proposal speech I had prepared and instead awkwardly asked Judith if she was ready to spend the rest of her life with me. With an expression on her face that I call her "contented look," she joyfully told me she was. Inasmuch as we had not shopped for an engagement ring, I had brought with me the engagement ring which had belonged to my grandmother. I asked Judith if she would wear it until we could get one of her own. She accepted it and, just like our relationship, it was a perfect fit.
Within a week or so of renewing my CM membership I got an emote from David. It was a dry witty emote inquiring about my golf game. I had said I loved golf…I didn't say I could play it! I sent him a couple emotes back, divulging this truth, if he was able to read between the lines. I loved David's droll sense of humor and realized how much like my own it was.
Although I then went out on a couple dates with other CM men, I was unable to get David out of my thoughts. I knew there was something different about him. We finally met and had a wonderful lunch. We continued to meet often after that…going for leisurely walks in the park, playing golf, having romantic dinners and even doing teenager stuff.
At first I questioned myself. I had just renewed my membership with CM. Was I rushing into things? I had just vowed to be patient and find the "right" partner God had waiting for me. I just could not dispute the fact that David appeared to be so perfect for me. We liked the same music, the same food, the same humor, the same orderliness. We were both analytical. I asked God if I was willing to not move forward with this relationship because I thought it was "too soon" after joining CM to find my "perfect man." I decided to take the risk and see what the future had in store.
Within a few weeks I knew I was in love. I knew that David was the perfect man for me. It was so scary. Was I imagining things? I felt like a school girl. I wanted to be with David all the time. I had never been in a relationship before where I didn't need my "down time," my own space.
We went to Virginia for his alma mater's football game. After the game he gave me a tour of the Grounds. I saw a chapel and asked him if we could go inside. (I often like to tour churches.) Once inside we knelt to say a prayer. Afterwards, David started talking hurriedly and when I realized what he was saying I thought, "Is he asking me to marry him?" Then he took out a ring and gave it to me. He said it had been his grandmother's. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It was the happiest day of my life.
Because of the availability of CM and my ability to use it as a resource to proactively search for and find that "special someone" with whom to share my life, I found "the next love of my life." She's cute, loyal, goofy, loving, vivacious, compassionate, patient, positive, intelligent, and…yes…sexy! She makes every moment I spend with her fun. Not only does she love me, but she also respects me and is devoted to me, and I to her. She does not need a man in her life, but she wants me in her life. We've both been willing to take chances by clearly and unambiguously expressing our feelings to each other. We've both been realistic about our expectations…not to be looking for someone who is perfect, but just to look for someone who is perfect for us. I also found it to be critical during our discernment process to not only ascertain if Judith was the right lady for me, but also to be deeply introspective about whether I was the right man for her. Stated another way, in more spiritual terms, I reflected on if I was the right man to help Judith get to Heaven.
I fall more in love with my darling Judith every day but there is still a part of my heart that will always love Cathy. I cannot erase the 33 years we had together. There are times when something reminds me of her and I still have a moment of grief, but that doesn't prevent me from completely loving everything about Judith. I am very fortunate that I can talk with Judith about any of this. She's very understanding but I'm also careful to be aware of her feelings about my relationship with Cathy. I don't compare them at all, as they are different individuals. And as for protecting my feelings, Judith is wonderful at doing this. We are deeply committed to guarding each others' hearts.
Furthermore, I believe as widows/widowers we should be respectful to our deceased spouses for making us who we are today…and so should the next love of our lives. A few months ago Judith told me that seeing pictures of Cathy displayed in my house reminded her how thankful she should be to Cathy for having shaped me into the person with whom she was now in love, and she also told me how grateful she was to Cathy for "giving" me to her. Judith has acknowledged to me on several occasions that she considers me to not only be a gift from God, but a gift from Cathy as well. I cannot imagine kinder or more loving words to tell a widower.
A few weeks ago I sent Judith an e-mail story with the moral: "Do not spoil what you have, by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." In response to the story she said, "I am very aware of this. If your gift is not packaged the way you want it, it's because it is better packaged the way it is! I love the way my gift (you) is packaged!"
Not a day goes by that I don't wonder how such a wonderful lady was still available when I stumbled across her. And not a day goes by that I don't thank God that she was still available when I stumbled across her. And not a day goes by that I don't also thank God that He gave me the wisdom to recognize what a precious lady she is. I truly believe God brought Judith to me at a time in both of our lives when we would both appreciate each other the most.
Although I have belonged to three internet dating sites, CM has been the easiest of these for me to use and meet people. I am so thankful to CM for providing the vehicle by which God sent David to me. I knew God would send me someone who was perfect for me, my only fear was that I wouldn't realize it when He sent him to me. There is no doubt in my mind that David is that right person. He is the most amazing man I have ever met. I want to spend my life honoring, loving and taking care of him.
I have heard people question whether they are too old to meet and fall in love with someone. It took me 48 years to meet the man of my dreams. My relationship with David is the most mature relationship I have ever had and at the same time I feel like a teenager…crazy in love! I sensed from the first emote David sent that he was different…that I needed to pay attention. Looking back I'm sure that it was my guardian angel telling me, "Judi, here he is…this is the one."
I guess my advice for others is to pay attention to your instincts and intuition…and do not give up. There is a perfect match out there for everyone who has not been called to the single life. You do have to open yourself up and accept rejection and failure. It's like my mother always told me…nothing in life is free. Everything has a price tag attached.
We will be married May 16, 2009, one year after our first date. Please keep David and me in your prayers. We will indeed keep you in ours. God's blessings.
UPDATE (December 1, 2009): It's now one year after Judith and I first told you about our success on CM, and with the advent of the new Alumni Forum, I thought it would be an appropriate time to let you know how we are doing.
First and foremost, God blessed us with a most wonderful wedding day. Several CM'ers conveyed their well-wishes and support to us, and one, my dear friend Karen, made the day incredibly special by coming all the way from Wisconsin to meet us for the very first time in person. Our fairytale continued with an amazing honeymoon in Italy. Highlights included special seating for newlyweds at an audience with the Pope, Sunday mass at Il Duomo in Florence with full pipe organ accompaniment, and spending our last full day in Italy at Assisi.
Upon our return, we set about confronting the issue of combining our two households. Although we had both put our houses up for sale months earlier, we had had no serious interest or offers. However, we remained undaunted in our pursuit of wanting to buy a home we could call our own, as we had firmly decided that living in either of our houses permanently was not an option. While living at Judith's house we continued to look at houses to buy. Then, at the end of August, we had a serious offer on Judith's house and needed to quickly find a house for us to buy. Once again, God blessed us, as within 48 hours we found exactly what we had been looking for. Negotiations on the sale of Judith's house and the purchase of our new home proceeded rapidly, with plenty of offers and counter-offers, but everything seemed to fall into place. We closed on the purchase of our new home on Sep. 25, moved my household on Sep. 26, moved Judith's household on Sep. 28, and closed on the sale of her house on Sep. 29. Whew…what a whirlwind 96 hours that was!
Although unpacking and blending our belongings has gone slowly (and not without a few minor disagreements, plenty of compromises, and some new furnishings), we have succeeded in transforming our new house into our new home. We are very much looking forward to entertaining visits from friends and family, including wayfaring CM'ers.
A few evenings ago, Judith and I were reflecting on the fact that in the last year or so we have spent no significant time apart. Yet we both continue to look forward to spending every day with each other, sharing our thoughts, our feelings and our experiences. Our love grows deeper and more fulfilling every day. We remain convinced that we are perfect for each other.