Note: Earl and Leah got married in Sanctuario de San Antonio at 2 pm on the 10th of October 2010. Here’s my take on their story.
Dear friends, I’m really happy to be presiding at the wedding of Earl and Leah. I first met Leah and her family through her brother Mark some years ago, so when Leah invited me to be part of this occasion, I said “Yes” without hesitation and, I think, without even checking the date!
Before this wedding I had the opportunity to chat with Earl and Leah a couple of times. While listening to them, I couldn’t help but notice that their story seems to be characterized by many firsts.
Earl and Leah first met in 2006, the year of Xavier School’s Golden Jubilee. It was the first time that Xavier School decided to organize a retreat for its alumni living abroad, and there was one for those living in the West Coast. As expected in such Xavier-sponsored spiritual activities, the ICANs were also invited (and probably outnumbered the Xaverians!). So on the 23rd of July 2006, four years ago, Earl first caught sight of Leah at that alumni retreat held in the Jesuit University of San Francisco.
Lest you conclude that Earl might have been too distracted to do any praying, let me qualify that he actually first saw Leah towards the end of the recollection. Earl confesses that it was probably love at first sight. Years later he still couldn’t quite put his finger on it: According to him, something quite inexplicable about Leah drew him to her, so much so that he kept hovering around her after Mass, even following her to the Ladies’ Room–i.e., the door–just to create the occasion to meet her and talk with her.
What impressed Leah most about Earl that first time they met was the courtesy and respect that he reserved for her. (I won’t ask Leah if that’s a first among Xaverians she has met.)
But all those positive first impressions almost went down the drain on their first date, when Earl arrived late, making Leah, ever the efficient organizer, wait for two hours, not to mention bringing her to a restaurant that was pretty strict about something that Earl had completely forgotten about: reservations. But they eventually managed to have their late dinner, and the conversation between them that evening more than made up for all the initial hitches. Since then, they’ve celebrated their anniversary every year by eating in the same Thai restaurant.
That night Earl messaged his dad that he finally met someone special, someone whom he truly felt at home with, someone with whom he felt absolutely comfortable opening up to. The most important signal for Earl was that for the first time since he moved to the U.S., he didn’t feel homesick. It was as if that instant connection she felt with Leah made his ten-year homesickness suddenly evaporate.
Leah, for her part, used to keep a long list of qualifications that she looked for in a guy–qualifications like “mature, responsible, hardworking,” maybe even “always punctual.” But that night for the first time, she decided to toss that list out her window–not because Earl didn’t fit any of them (in fact, he fitted a lot of them!), but for Leah, meeting someone like Earl just made the list irrelevant.
My suspicion about our couple is that it was a case of finally finding a kindred spirit in each other. Since then, they’ve always looked forward to meeting up and spending time together, just doing simple things like watching movies and enjoying a good meal together. They’ve also noticed that they tend to fight whenever they’re hungry, and it all just goes away once they’ve had a good meal. That’s the first time I’ve heard of a conflict management strategy that’s feasible, easy-to-follow, and enjoyable.
For his MBA, Earl had to move to Boston, so that was a tough time for them both as it was the first time they would be separated for a long period of time. Thanks to the wonders of Skyping, they survived that difficult phase in their life, but it also offered a time for testing and strengthening their relationship. Leah eventually got happily reassigned to Cambridge. However, that time in their life taught them a couple of important lessons about relationships: That every relationship requires both intimacy and solitude alternatively, and one secret to a successful marriage is learning how to maintain both.
The rest is history. One chilly day in July of 2008, Earl proposed to Leah in Alaska, falling on his knees on a patch of glacier–a first among non-eskimos, as far as I know–and here we are. This afternoon, as they prepare to exchange their vows to commit themselves to each other for life, let me address the couple directly.
Earl and Leah, you have been such a gift to each other. And I say that because as those closest to you know, you have made each other a much better person. Some of these changes have been quite visible to your friends, but there are many others that perhaps only both of you know.Earl, Leah has said that you have widened her horizons and inspired her to become a better person. From you she has learned that she ought to care not just for one’s own family, but also for others outside her immediate circle, to help people simply because they need help. Leah, you have helped Earl believe in himself by helping him recognize that lovable person that you’ve fallen in love with, the person who wants nothing more now than to grow old with you.
You have each brought out the best from one another. And when you think about it, that is one of God’s important goals in marriage: to help us grow into more loving persons and to become the best that we can ever be through the help and support of our partner. Never stop doing that; avoid the situation when you no longer help one another become better and more loving and you begin to get in the way of one another’s growth. Promise that you will always inspire each other to become more loving and better.
Earl and Leah, if you look around this church, you will find the people dearest to you, your families and friends, who want nothing more than your happiness together. As you make your lifetime commitment, remember that they are there for you promising you every form of prayer and support. Even more importantly, the Lord will be there for you. It was He, after all, Who conspired to make sure that you meet each other. It will be He Who will make sure that you continue to bring out the best in one another. His words to you today are a promise: If you love one another, there will be many more firsts in your life together, and best of all, the best is yet to come.
Image from Earl’s Facebook