People often ask me how I met Anne-Marie, my wife since September 2000. They are curious because I am French and she is Australian. They would like to know who was visiting which country when we met. In this rather lengthy blog entry, I hope to elucidate these questions and entertain, surprise and move you. Our story is unique, as all true love stories are.
The truth is, I was living in France, and she was living in Australia. I had just returned from a 2-year mission in England for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I was still in the mindset of a missionary, trying to meet new people and inform them of what I believe to be true.
Marriage is the number 1 priority of returned missionaries. Why? There are many reasons, but one of them is that we believe in the divine origin and destiny of the human race, and that this destiny can only be achieved as family units, with a father and mother “sealed” for time and eternity, becoming one with each other and with God. This describes a process and an ultimate goal, not a state achieved all at once. You can find a very concise description of our beliefs on marriage and families in the Proclamation to the world on the Family. There is also a wikipedia article on the topic.
With this important background information, you are ready to learn how I met, proposed to and married Anne-Marie.
I was living at my parents’ place in Plouzané, France since my return from England in December 1999. The transition from missionary life to “normal” life was difficult. I had spent every day of my life for 2 entire years working for the welfare of other people, without any material rewards for myself, and often with limited success. This was tremendously energising for me, I felt useful and I felt worthwhile. Returning to normal life, I had to start caring for my own material needs. I had to find a job, consider furthering my education, spend time with my family in ways which I had learned to avoid for 2 years (movies, music, computer games etc…), make friends with the hope of finding a young woman who could love me despite my faults and who would have the same beliefs, standards and long-term objectives as I had…
It was rather overwhelming. However, on the 30th of January 2000, I was spending some time on ICQ, chatting to some new friends I had made, introducing them to my beliefs, when Anne-Marie popped up on my screen saying “Hi” (or something along these lines…). She had found me by searching for someone with similar interests. I replied rather abruptly: “Fine, but what are you doing on my contact list?”.
She said she was just looking for someone to chat with. We then went on to discover things about each other, where we were from, what our interests were etc… Soon later we each discovered that the other was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That definitely gave us much more common ground!
After this, day after day we would spend more time chatting. She was going through a tough time with her family, and was struggling with intense feelings of worthlessness. I had met many women during my mission who felt awful about themselves, mainly due to the way they were treated by men in their lives. I had learned to care deeply for them, and most importantly, I had learned to listen. I really wanted to help Anne-Marie to be happier, and I believed that it was in my power to help her. I didn’t have any intentions of flirting with her, it was entirely altruistic.
After about a week of rather intense discussions, we had started to send emails to each other because of the difficulty of finding each other online at the same time (there were either 6 or 7 hours time difference between France and Australia). I realised that my feelings for Anne-Marie were becoming quite strong. Many of my thoughts throughout the day would revolve around her and how I could help her. I decided that I was beginning to love her with more than a brotherly love, and that I needed to find out how she felt about me.
Our chats and letters became more personal after that. We would share more intimate feelings with each other, while still remaining in a sort of brother-sister type of relationship. Throughout the second week I became more and more engrossed in this relationship, and I thought about it all the time. I started to wonder if events could work out between us in a way that we could eventually marry. I did not believe that there was only one person on earth who was destined to be my soulmate, but I believed that our Heavenly Father puts us in each other’s paths for good reasons, and that He can inspire us to create beautiful and everlasting relationships if we seek them.
Consequently, two short weeks after we had met, and after I had assured myself that she trusted and loved me, and after I had prayed to my Heavenly Father and felt that He approved of my decision, I proposed to Anne-Marie on ICQ. I knew that she was preparing to serve her own mission for the Church, and I told her that I was willing to wait the necessary 18 months before her return. She accepted, and the cascade of emotions that had been building up for the last 2 weeks reached a height which I had never felt before in my life. I was floating on air, with a strange feeling of un-reality, as if what I was living was not completely true, simply because it seemed to fantastic.
The part that shocks most people in this meeting story, is that by that time (Valentine’s day 2000), I hadn’t seen a single photo of Anne-Marie. I didn’t know what she looked like. I had sent her photos of me, but she had no means of scanning hers. Of course I was very eager to know anything new about her, but her physical appearance was not what I was most eager to discover. I just knew, without any doubt, that what I was doing was right. There is nothing more exciting, more exhilarating than to do something completely extraordinary, knowing that it is the right thing to do.
In my next blog entry I will describe the decisions we made on that 14th of February 2000, and the few very difficult months that followed until we could finally meet in person in July.