To my precious Lenée, June 15, 1961 - May 19, 2014
On May 19, 2014 at 4:30 in the morning, my world changed in a way that I could never have imagined. My precious wife Lenée, to whom I had been married 26 years, 6 months and 25 days, went to heaven. She is quite simply the most beautiful and amazing woman that ever walked the face of this earth. I’m going to do my best to tell the story of how God supernaturally brought us together.
The story that follows focuses primarily on the formative years of our relationship, from the summer of 1985 to our wedding in October 1987. Those were amazing years, and they are indelibly etched into my conscience. I recently discovered Lenée’s diary as I was going through her things. The words that she wrote both validated and expounded upon my recollection of events. I also read every card that we ever gave each other. We both kept every one of them. Please visit my gallery devoted solely to Lenée. I have also created a brief video about our lives together. This will hopefully serve to give you some insight into what an amazing woman she was.
House of Cards
Our story actually begins in 1980, five years before Lenée and I even met. My girlfriend Cindy and I had been dating for about 2 years. Neither my mom nor Cindy’s mom (whom I adore) thought that we belonged together. The mothers liked both of us, they just didn’t think that we were a good match. At one time Cindy and I had both been Christians, serving the Lord together. However, now we were both running from God, because we wanted to get married and deep down inside we really didn’t think God wanted us to. So on December 13,1980 we married, not bothering (nor wanting ) to consult with God in the matter. We were going to marry regardless of what God or our parents said.
The marriage had challenges from the outset, most of which were of my making. I never abused Cindy or anything like that – it’s not in my nature. However, I also never showed her the love that she and any other woman craves. In fact I didn’t even realize that this was necessary. In my ignorance and selfishness I just assumed that men and women thought alike and shared the same needs. If motorcycles, scuba diving and photography made me happy, surely these would suffice for Cindy as well. If not, she could pursue her hobbies just as well as me. Why would there be a need for intangibles like romantic dinners, going out to movies, or wasting money on flowers? What was so important about just going for a walk together and talking about things which seemed unimportant to me? If I didn’t need these things, surely she didn’t.
On Monday, April 2, 1984 I came home from work in the afternoon to an empty apartment. The only thing left was a chair, the bed, and a few dishes. My clothes were all still there, but Cindy’s side of the closet was empty. Above all, there was no Cindy. She had disappeared without a trace, and I had no idea where she was. My house of cards had come suddenly and violently crashing down.
I was devastated. In my despair I did what so many of us do. I prayed to God, asking Him to forgive me, promising to serve Him once again. I told Him that I would never again turn my back on Him. I then asked Him to bring Cindy back to me. The pain was so great, and I had no idea where she was. I couldn’t even contact her just to talk about the situation. She was gone, and I was utterly helpless to do anything about it. I never saw her again.
A few weeks later I was visiting with my mom in San Bernardino. I was an emotional wreck and was completely unsuccessful in hiding this fact from mom. She could clearly see the anguish on my face, but I didn’t want to discuss the matter with her because after all, she had not been for the marriage in the first place. Finally tears began to well up in my eyes, and she proceeded to talk with me with the love that only a mother can show. I just lost it and said “Mom – it hurts so bad. I want Cindy back more than anything. I love her so much.” It was then that mom looked me straight in the eye, and she spoke to me in a very loving but firm voice. She said “Doug, I don’t think you know what love is." I have never forgotten those words to this day. I went home and pondered what mom had told me. I had to be in love with Cindy! Didn’t the pain that I was feeling prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt?
July 1983, Catalina Island
A friend shot this picture of Cindy and me on one of our many trips to the island. I did a lot of scuba diving back then, and Catalina was a great place for it. I ignorantly thought that all was well with our marriage, but I have no doubt that Cindy had already been planning to leave me. Nine months later, in April of 1984, she did just that. I never saw her again.
A year later, in the summer of 1985, I went before the Lord and prayed for two things that were weighing heavily on my heart. First, I asked Him to guide me as to where to go to church. I was living in the San Fernando Valley, but was going to church every Sunday in San Bernardino 100 miles away. That was a 200-mile round trip on my motorcycle (I didn’t have a car at the time). It was the church that Cindy and I had attended before we went off on our wayward path. I loved that little church. However, that 200-mile ride was wearing on me after a year, and I thought surely the Lord must have something closer to home for me.
Second, I asked the Lord to bless me with a wife of HIS choosing. I explained that I now realized that I was neither smart enough or wise enough to do something as important as choosing my own wife. I only placed one condition on Him. I told the Lord that this girl would have to be a true servant of God, someone who was absolutely sold out to Him. I needed this given my less than stellar history of walking with God. I also remember telling the Lord that this girl did not have to be beautiful in outward appearance. However, I was quick to add that I would certainly not complain if He included it in with the package. After praying I thanked the Lord for the answers. I knew He had heard me. The Bible says so.
A week later I went to the managers of my apartment complex to pay the rent. I found out that they were Christians, so I asked them if they knew of any good churches in the area. They said “We’ve heard good things about Ed Longshore’s church in Woodland Hills." I paid the rent, thanked them and made a mental note of Ed’s church.
Another week went by and I was talking to a lady name Clara Green. She was responsible for cleaning the apartments in my complex once they had been vacated. I had seen her many times before but had never struck up a conversation until now. After talking with her a bit I found out that she too was a Christian. I asked Clara the same thing that I had asked my managers – whether or not she knew of a good church in the area. Her response was immediate “You bet I do! I go to a church in Woodland Hills called Agape Faith Center. Ed Longshore is the pastor and it’s awesome.” OK then, that’s two different people telling me the same thing. I would give Ed’s church a try next Sunday.
Sunday came around and off I went to Agape Faith Center. I walked into the auditorium at Taft High School where the church was holding its meetings. As was my custom, I sat towards the back of the congregation, trying not to be noticed. This also gave me the advantage of being able to survey everyone in front of me. When Pastor Ed got up and began to preach I knew immediately that God had answered my prayer. This man spoke with an anointing that was undeniable. He did not compromise the preaching of the Bible in any way – no watered-down gospel here. I was home, right where God wanted me. An indescribable joy and peace welled up within me, God’s way of telling me my search was over. Awesome! Prayer number one had been answered.
However, there was a problem. As I looked around over the congregation I noticed that it was fairly small, perhaps 150 people. More to the point, there were very few girls there my age. The few that I did see were seated with guys who were obviously either spouses or boyfriends. This was not encouraging.
After the service was over I went home rejoicing, knowing that I had found where God wanted me to go to church. I mean there was simply no doubt whatsoever about it – I just knew it. I was home at last. I thanked the Lord for answering my prayer, but I then quickly reminded Him that there had also been a second prayer – this matter of a wife. I explained to the Lord (like He didn’t understand such things) that it was “pretty slim pickins” in the girl department at Ed’s church. The natural temptation was to seek out a large congregation with more fertile hunting grounds, as though I was a predator seeking prey. I quickly dismissed the notion and told the Lord that I would go to church wherever He said. He would have to work the wife thing out. It was His problem, not mine. But I was lonely.
Who is She ?
I continued going to Agape Faith Center every Sunday, thoroughly enjoying Pastor Ed’s no-nonsense preaching. Oh how I loved that church. It was small but so very powerful. One Sunday, approximately a month after I began attending, I sat down in my usual spot at the rear of the church to the left. This location was nearest the exit, so I could quickly leave once church had ended without anyone noticing. At the beginning of the service a young lady walked out onto the stage that I had never seen before. She was beautiful, in fact gorgeous. She began to give the church announcements, as though she held some sort of position of responsibility within the church. Who was she? Why had I not seen her before? Oh she was beautiful.
A couple of more weeks went by and I found out that her name was Lenée. What a beautiful and unusual name I thought. It was pronounced like Renee, but with an L. It turns out that she was the church administrator, essentially in charge of managing the business side of the church. What was even more interesting is that she was the Pastor’s daughter! Yikes – dangerous territory I thought. Unbeknownst to me, she had taken notice of me as well, despite my hiding towards the rear of the congregation, and my quick exits after church. I began to change my tactics, sticking around church after dismissal. Suddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to leave.
Lenée and I became acquainted shortly thereafter thanks to a mutual love for motorcycle riding. She found out that I had a bike, and she had her own bike too. We began riding everywhere together, genuinely enjoying each other’s company. We were friends straight out of the box. We soon discovered that we had almost everything in common, including a love for animals, the outdoors, motorcycles, but above all the Lord. She was an adventurous soul, fiercely independent and strong-willed. However, much to my dismay I began to realize that she was a little bit too strong-willed for my liking. If Lenée didn’t like something, she told you. If you asked for her opinion on something, you had better be prepared for an honest and direct answer. Let’s just say that tact was not high on Lenée’s list of character traits at the time. This did not mix well with me, a more sensitive soul who bruised easily – admittedly too easily.
As much as I genuinely enjoyed Lenée’s company, I quickly realized that there was no way we could ever be meant for each other. It seemed as though every time we got together I got my toes stepped on, although I’m sure Lenée never realized it. I didn’t want to say anything because I was afraid it would generate confrontation and just exacerbate the situation. The simple truth of the matter is I was too sensitive and she was too direct. But I was the one taking the beating. I was so disappointed because I was hoping that Lenée might have been that special someone that I had been praying for.
Bruised toes notwithstanding, I continued to do everything with Lenée. She would take me grocery shopping because she had a car and I didn’t. We went to church outings together, to friend’s houses together, on motorcycle rides together, and anything else you can think of. My toes were gradually becoming more impervious to her bluntness, and we became best friends. I do not make this statement lightly. To this day I consider that I have only had 3 “best friends” in my life, and Lenée was chief among them.
Dating for Dummies
Fast forward to the summer of 1986, and Lenée and I have now been best friends for a year. Motorcycle riding, going to movies, and just hanging out with each other was always on the agenda. We so enjoyed each other’s company. Then something strange and admittedly unfamiliar began to happen within me. My thoughts towards Lenée were changing somehow. When we would get together I once again began to notice her striking beauty, something that had somehow been hidden from me under the guise of friendship. “Dear God” I thought, “she’s beautiful”. How could I have forgotten? I took notice of her trademark smile and joyful laugh. I was treated to both often since we were always together. I tried to suppress my newfound “feelings” for about a week. However, my emotions continued to increasingly factor into the equation, and I seemed helpless to control them. Could it be possible that I was falling in love with my best friend?
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I called her, finding it surprisingly difficult to do so. After initially and uncharacteristically stumbling around with my first few sentences, I asked her if she wanted to go to a movie tomorrow night. Her response was predictable. “Sure!” I waited for a few seconds, and then said “How would you feel if we called this a date?” There was a pause for what seemed like an eternity as I waited for her response. I was 28 years old, and yet had only dated twice before. This was a really big deal to me. A few seconds later she finally answered “OK!” My response was typical for me, deliberately understated. I simply replied in a monotone voice “Cool.” Inside I was turning cartwheels and doing backflips, but I couldn’t let her know this.
We went to the movies the next night and had a great time. We saw "Star Trek the Voyage Home". We went with our married friends John and Kathy Nicholls. Lenée had asked me if she could invite them along, and I thought it was a great idea. John and Kathy attended the same church we did. We really liked them and felt that their presence would help to remove any potentially awkward moments that a date might create. I don't think that either Lenée or I really knew what to expect.
Honestly it was really just business as usual for us. Nothing had changed except for the fact that I had chosen to officially designate the event as “a date”. However, I do remember being uncharacteristically nervous, wondering if I was now expected to somehow behave in a different manner. I hoped that I was not messing up a good thing. After all, we had been best friends for a year now. Do I hold her hand? Do I kiss her goodnight? I did neither. Someone really needs to write a book on this stuff. Perhaps a “Dating for Dummies” handbook will be forthcoming.
I then asked her out again on a second “date”. The first date had been harmless enough, and I was no worse for wear. This time she said I could come over to her apartment and she would cook me dinner. Afterwards we would watch a movie. Back then it was VHS tapes and VCR’s. After dinner I sat next to her on the couch in her living room and we started the movie. I pretended to watch, but my mind was far removed from the TV screen. All that I was aware of was the beautiful woman that I was sitting next to, a person that I could no longer view as just a friend.
Emboldened by the success of the previous night, I took the decidedly risky step of holding her hand while we “watched” the movie. She didn’t pull it away, and I acted like my hand had somehow migrated over on it’s own, as though autonomous from my command. “This is good” I thought. Finally, as it got late I got up to leave. I thanked her for a wonderful time, gave her a kiss on the cheek at her front door and left quickly before she could protest. I got on my motorcycle that warm summer evening and rejoiced the whole ride home. I now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had crossed that nebulous and precarious threshold separating friendship from love. I was in love with Lenée, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I was in love! When I got home I talked to the Lord all about it, reminiscing over every detail of that lovely night.
Kicked in the Gut
Date #3 followed quickly thereafter. Again it was dinner at Lenée’s apartment. I eagerly rode my bike over to her place, wondering what to expect tonight. I remember praying “Lord, please don’t let me screw this up." When I arrived I could sense that Lenée seemed to be somewhat apprehensive, even reserved. We sat and ate dinner, talking about nothing in particular. After dinner we both went over and sat on the couch. Lenée, not being one to beat around the bush, turned and looked at me. She said “Doug, I treasure our friendship together. Right now I want to keep it at that, and nothing more. You are a dear friend to me, even my best friend, and I don’t want anything to jeopardize that”. I don’t remember much more from that night, but I remember those words. I responded like I always did, masking my emotions. “I understand – no problem”.
Inside I was devastated. Exactly what I had feared had just happened. This couldn’t be. How could I have been so wrong? I thought sure that this was of the Lord. I left shortly thereafter, not staying for a movie. I felt as though I had been kicked in the gut. I rode home and got on my knees and just cried. I apologized to the Lord for having been so wrong, and for having tried to make something happen when it obviously wasn’t His will. Had I offended her by holding her hand? Or was it the kiss on the cheek? They both seemed too inocuous to me, too harmless. No, the culprit here had to have been my feelings - they had betrayed me.
I didn’t call Lenée after that. I couldn’t. It’s not that I was mad at her, I wasn’t. I was just in pain, and I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. Dating was such a rare thing for me, something I didn’t like to get involved in. Dating carried with it too many potential pitfalls, such as physical temptation and emotional vulnerability. My emotions felt as though they had been ransacked. After a few days I was doing better, but I still didn’t want to call Lenée because now it was just too awkward. However, I missed not talking to her. I missed not being with her. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind.
The next Sunday at church Lenée got up on stage as usual to make all of the church announcements. She looked straight at me, and I awkwardly smiled in acknowledgement. I deliberately left immediately after service was over. I so wanted to talk to her, but I just didn’t know what to say. A couple of days later she finally called me. She asked why I had been avoiding her, to which I responded that I frankly wasn’t sure what to say. She said that she’d still like to keep hanging out together, just like before. I was thrilled, and our friendship resumed, like nothing had ever happened. The awkwardness had also left, much to the relief of both of us. We were best friends once again.
Another year went by, and now it’s Saturday, the 4th of July, 1987. Lenée and I went to Pierce College in Woodland Hills to watch the annual fireworks show together. We arrived at about 7:00 pm and staked out a place on the lawn. Sunset was still a little over an hour away, and the actual fireworks show was not due to start until 9:00 pm. We had 2 hours to kill, so we brought a picnic dinner with us to help pass the time. We had done the Pierce show before, so we knew the drill.
After making quick work of our sandwiches we just sat there as the sun prepared to set over the hills to the west. We were talking about nothing in particular, just whatever happened to cross our minds. It was a beautiful warm summer night, the sort of night that heightens the senses and stirs the soul. Then I noticed that Lenée began to look at me in a manner to which I was unaccustomed, making deliberate, direct eye contact with me as she would say something. Obviously we had looked at each other before during the course of conversation, but this was different. Her look had become a stare, prolonged and purposeful. I also noticed that she was smiling as she looked at me. Why was she smiling? What was she so happy about that I was unaware of? This was weird.
This went on for several minutes, and I thought that I must have just been imagining things. That gorgeous summer evening was surely playing tricks on my senses. However, one thing that I was not imagining was how beautiful her eyes were. I had never seen so deeply into them before, and I liked what I saw. There was just enough golden sunlight left in that beautiful evening to cast the most pleasant glow on her face. I didn’t know what to make of all of this, but it had been going on for about 30 minutes now. This was not my imagination. I pretended not to notice. But I did notice.
Finally the sun went down, and I could no longer see Lenée’s stares or smiles. Now I could take a breather and get a chance to collect my thoughts under the cover of darkness. As the brilliant fireworks would illuminate the sky I would catch Lenée staring at me out of the corner of my eye. I was paying no attention whatsoever to the fireworks. Honestly, I don’t remember the fireworks show that night. I’m sure it was great. It was probably the best fireworks show I never saw. Afterwards we both went home, and I reflected on the events of the day.
The next day Lenée and I went to church. John and Kathy Nicholls were having a fellowship at their home afterwards. Lenée asked me if I’d like to go. This was not unusual for we had gone to John and Kathy’s often, as they were always opening up their home with its large yard for church get-togethers. I said sure, so we both met at their home later that afternoon. Between games of volleyball and bocce ball we would drink glasses of lemonade and sit together on the lawn. Then it happened again. Lenée would stare at me with “that look” that had so captivated me the night before. She was mercilessly exercising all of her feminine charms on me, and this time I would not be saved by the arrival of nightfall. This went on throughout the afternoon. All the time I was remembering my advances towards Lenée a year earlier, and how disastrous that had been. I was none too eager to travel back down that painful path. So once again I pretended not to notice. But I did notice. Oh did I ever notice.
During the following week I prayed about the situation. I may have been confused, but God wasn’t. What was it about Lenée that so consumed me? Why was it that anytime she wanted she could manipulate my emotions at the drop of a hat? Why was she in control? Then all at once it just hit me. I was still in love with Lenée. In fact I had been in love with her for over a year, even after she had rejected my advances. I loved that girl, plain and simple. And now it appeared as though she loved me. Was I willing to take a chance again, to risk getting hurt again? Oh yeah.
So what was my next step? I thought about it for a little while, and a series of random thoughts began to run through my head. I love her. She is what I’ve been praying for. I also knew that God was watching over the situation, and that He would make sure that both of us would be ok. God was VERY involved in our relationship, because we had both asked Him to be. It was time for me to start trusting Him. After all, He was my dad, and He loved me.
The next time Lenée and I got together the "look" was still there. Her hints were becoming increasingly more obvious. This was necessary too because I was still gun-shy after my failed advances of the previous summer. Lenée realized this. The ball was now in my court once again, so it was time for me to act. After agonizing for an hour or two over what to say, nothing came to me. I realized how ridiculous this was, so I came to my senses and just spoke from my heart. I told her “I don’t know exactly how to put this, but I still have very strong feelings towards you. In fact they haven’t left me since last summer. I'm in love with you Lenée.” Then I waited, hoping desperately to hear a favorable response. She just smiled and said “I was wondering if you were ever going to say anything! I don’t think that I could have been any more obvious. In case you haven’t noticed, the feeling is mutual.” I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, nor is it recorded in Lenée’s diary. What I do remember is a tremendous feeling of elation and relief. We were in love with each other. Finally.
Whether in color or black and white, the look of love is unmistakeable. Lenée first began to look at me like this on the 4th of July at the Pierce College fireworks show. It was a look that penetrated down to the very core of my being. I initially was confused by it, so I pretended as though I didn't notice. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Lenée later told me that on that 4th of July night "the Lord just flipped on a switch inside of me". She fell in love with me that night. I had fallen in love with her a year earlier. The 4th of July was Lenée's Independence Day, and there was no shortage of fireworks.
Lenée and I saw each other every day for the next 5 days. We made no secret of the fact that we were now a couple. We wanted everyone to know. For the first time in our relationship we were both in love with each other, and we both knew how the other felt. There was no more pretending, no more uncertainty. I was done waiting. I knew in my heart that dating Lenée was not necessary. We already knew everything about each other. What purpose would dating serve? I proposed to Lenée on July 17. This was only 13 days after the Lord had "flipped the switch" inside of her on the lawn at Pierce College. She said yes.
The picture to the left is the ring we picked out for Lenée. We both fell in love with it the moment we saw it. I ended up buying her a lot of jewelry during the course of our marriage. We had the same exact taste in jewelry, just another example of something that God gave us in common. Ours was a special, unusual union.
The day after I proposed to Lenée she did something that I was not aware of at the time, but that I found out about shortly after we were married. It is also recorded in her diary. First she went to her father. She said “Dad, I’m coming to you not as your daughter, but as a member of your congregation. You’re not just my dad, you’re also my pastor. Please tell me – what do you think about me and Doug getting married?” He told her that he was all for it. He thought it was wonderful.
The image to the right shows Lenée standing with her dad (Pastor Ed Longshore) and her mother Darlene. The image was shot just the night before our wedding at our wedding rehearsal dinner. Pastor Ed is quite simply one of the finest men of God I have ever known. As for Darlene, she has enough love in her heart to fill the entire world. I love Lenée's parents dearly.
Lenée then asked the same question to two other ministers she deeply respected, men of God who knew me and Lenée very well. Their names were Dennis Tinerino and Ron Kussmaul. Dennis was one of the greatest body builders of all time, now turned evangelist. Everything Dennis did he did full throttle, and his evangelistic ministry was no exception. His nickname was “The Sermonator”, a clever play on words referring to his years of competition against arch rival “The Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ron and his wife Johanna were visiting ministers from South Africa with a very powerful, anointed ministry. Both Dennis and Ron responded to Lenée exactly as Pastor Ed had. They thought our engagement was perfect, ordained of God. I love the fact that Lenée sought the counsel of men of God in this life-changing decision. God was going to be the foundation of our marriage, or there would be no marriage. It was that simple. We both felt the same way.
Left: Dennis Tinerino at one of his many bodybuilding competitions. He won more titles than I can list here. When God got ahold of him Dennis became a spiritual powerhouse and was nicknamed "The Sermonator".
Right: Ron and Johanna Kussmaul from South Africa along with Lenée. This picture was taken at Agape Faith Center which Lenée's dad Ed Longshore pastored. Ron and Ed were co-ministers at our wedding, an honor that Lenée and I would never forget.
Two days after I proposed Lenée and I went to church. We were bursting with excitement because Pastor Ed was going to announce our engagement to the congregation. We had set a wedding date for October 24th, only 3 months away. Ed had us come up together to the front of the church. He turned us around and the three of us faced the congregation. He then said that he was both “pleased and proud” to announce the engagement of his daughter to me. The reaction from the crowd was overwhelming, and Lenée and I smiled and cried at the same time. Everyone in the building had known for some time that we were meant for each other. Apparently Lenée and I were the last ones to figure it out. Shouts of “It’s about time” could be heard amongst the audience. Everyone was applauding. Someone whistled. We had not expected such an over-the-top reaction. Indeed, it was about time.
The next 3 months went by like a whirlwind. Lenée completely immersed herself in the business of planning the large wedding she had always dreamed of. She was on top of it every step of the way. No detail got by her. She was a supreme organizer and facilitator. This was a good thing, because I also was an outstanding organizer. Ours would be a home of neatly labeled files and perfect closets. Even the garage would be cleaner than most people’s living quarters.
Mom was Right
Finally the day had arrived. It was Saturday, October 24, 1987. A couple of hundred people had gathered with us at Woodland Hills Community Church to witness our union. Lenée’s dad was both presiding over the ceremony and walking his daughter down the aisle. This was pulled off by a clever idea Lenée had. Ron Kussmaul was in town holding a series of meetings at our church. Ron would conduct the beginning of the ceremony while Ed was giving away Lenée. After that Ed would take over. As I said, Lenée had envisioned every detail many times over in her head. She was so gifted in this area.
The wedding started 15 minutes late at 10:15. That’s not bad for a wedding, although if Lenée had been in charge I guarantee it would have started on time. My brother Michael was my best man. Lenée’s sister Cheree was her maid of honor. There were also three groomsmen and three bridesmaids. Michael and I stood nervously at the altar as we awaited the start of the wedding procession. I was decidedly uncomfortable being out there all alone with my brother. There was no one for anyone in the audience to look at except for the two of us. I was not used to being the center of attention. Thankfully that was all about to change.
The procession started with a groomsman accompanying a bridesmaid one couple at a time. Each couple made their way up the aisle until the altar was now surrounded by the full complement of wedding participants. Only Lenée and Pastor Ed were missing. I had not yet seen Lenée’s dress, but knew that she had gone to great lengths to pick it out. This was a well kept secret, something that Lenée wanted to share with me only on this most special of days. Finally the organist began playing “Here Comes the Bride”, and the crowd arose and looked towards the back of the church. I just waited, wondering what she would look like, hoping that I would be able to hold it together. This was really happening. Prayer number 2 was about to be answered.
It was then that Lenée appeared in the doorway, arm in arm with her dad who stood on her right. My brother let out a not so subtle “Wow”, and he grabbed my left hand and squeezed it. I’m not sure if anyone in the audience heard him or not. I squeezed his hand back in silent acknowledgement. I didn’t say a word. I was speechless. I was thankful that I was not required to say anything at the moment. I didn’t know how it was possible for the most beautiful woman in the world to look even more beautiful, but Lenée had pulled it off. She looked radiant. The dress was exquisite and flowing, exactly what I would have picked out for her had I been invited to do so. And here she was, walking and looking straight towards me. She was about to become mine, a gift straight from heaven. To my surprise, I held it together fairly well as I just stared at her. I mean I literally just stood there and stared, completely transfixed on my soon-to-be bride. She was a sight to behold. Her dad looked so very proud. When she joined me at the altar I whispered to her “You look amazing”. Indeed she did.
Left: The young ring bearer may be interested in the camera pointing at him, but my brother (best man Michael) and I are transfixed on Lenée as she begins her walk towards the altar. Moments before Michael had squeezed my hand and said "Wow". I'm not sure if anyone heard him or not, but I said nothing. I couldn't - I was speechless.
Right: Lenée approaches the altar with her dad. She had been looking at me the entire walk up the aisle, but had to look down for a moment as she came near the steps. That's my mom in the background wearing the glasses. She was looking straight at me, undoubtedly proud that I had gotten it right this time. She loved Lenée dearly and knew that we were meant for each other.
We exchanged our wedding vows and rings and were married a few minutes later. It was so exciting when Pastor Ed introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Doug Meek. The pride and joy that I felt at that moment are simply impossible to put into words, so I won’t even try. Prayer number 2 had been fulfilled in a very powerful way. The wait had been well worth it.
Left: Lenée and I take the first steps of our lives together as Mr. and Mrs. Doug Meek. We would take many more. I was bursting with pride as I walked down the aisle with my new bride.
Right: Two years earlier I had asked the Lord to bless me with a wife of His choosing. My only stipulation was that she had to be a true servant of God. I said that she didn't even have to be beautiful in outward appearance as long as she loved Jesus. However, I quickly pointed out that I would not complain if He included that in with the package. Looking at this picture of Lenée, it is quite apparent that I got the full-blown package deal. I waited on God and trusted Him, and I ended up getting blessed beyond my wildest dreams.
After the reception, Lenée and I headed to LAX to catch a plane to Hawaii that afternoon. It had been a long day, but at least we could rest on the 5-hour flight to the islands. We spent a week on Kauai and a week on Maui, thus beginning our lives together as a married couple. I did not know that it was possible to love someone so much. What really surprised me though was the fact that our love grew every year after that. I had heard others talk of such a thing before, but I had casually dismissed it as romantic nonsense. But it’s true, love can and will grow if God is the center of the relationship. The human capacity for love is limitless.
Lenée taught me how to love a woman and also how to be loved by a woman. Lenée taught me what love was. A couple of years after Lenée and I were married I was thinking one day about how blessed I was to have such a great marriage, and such an amazing wife. I thought about my first failed marriage and how it had ended in ruin. Mine was a tale of two marriages, one done right, one done wrong. It was then that I suddenly remembered the words my mom had spoken to me the summer of 1984. Once again I saw mom looking me straight in the eye and saying, “Doug, I don’t think you know what love is.” Mom, you were right. But now I do.