For whom the bells rang
Bridgman, MI—Within the first few months of my tenure as CEO at Parkview Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, things were going marvelously well. We were achieving significant progress in the plan to turn the hospital around.
However, my personal goal to find true love and a soulmate was in shambles. My plan to utilize online dating sites had crumbled ending in a disastrous fiasco of a trip to Mexico.
Then, a friend recommended a husband-and-wife dating agency in Portland, where everything was done through personal interviews and no computers were used. This was music to my ears, and I began to dream of the time that bells would go off when I met the right one.
After paying my membership fee, I was interviewed by both husbandand wife. I conveyedthat I really wanted to find true love. They asked me what would constitute real love for me. I replied that I would know when I heard bells. Then I was presented with a list of three names and phone numbers to contact.
The first name on the list was a bank executive in Portland. After a 40-minute phone conversation, I invited her to dinner at Fore Street, one of Portland's top restaurants. It was an enjoyable evening. We had several things in common. But, after dinner, there were no bells.
Number two on the list agreed to meet me at a coffee shop in Portland, not far from Maine Medical Center. After our first cup of coffee, I received a message (I was on call) and had to step outside to make a call to the hospital.
A second cup of coffee and some additional conversation had me wondering if the bells were about to ring. Then, I received a second call from work that I had to take. That was it for lady number two on the list. She walked out before I got back to the table.
Name number 3 on the list didn't return my call.
On to a fresh list of three more names. The first two names resulted in two more dinners and enjoyable evenings out. However, there were no bells.
The third name I thought was promising: a nurse living in Gray, a suburb of Portland.
After an encouraging phone conversation, I asked her to dinner at Fore Street. "I'm not into the traditional dating scene," she replied. Then she proposed, "How about if you come to my house on Sunday and help me rake leaves?"
My intuition knew better, but when you are searching for bells, you'll do anything.
Fortunately for me, it was raining cats and dogs as I traveled to Gray. I showed up at the appointed time and was greeted at her front door. She invited me in and said she had ordered pizza to enjoy while we waited for the rain to stop. While eating my pizza, I decided on the most gracious exit strategy.
On my way home I was really discouraged. Not only was I not hearing bells, but I was also spending a lot of time and energy chasing dead ends at a time when my work didn't leave much spare time for anything else.
The next day, the agency called and listened sympathetically to my tale of woes. They tried to offer some encouragement by reminding me that true love could be just around the corner, and they gave me my third list of three names with phone numbers.
I was so disheartened at that point that I set the third list aside and forgot about it for a few weeks.
During the first week of December, I came across the third list and thought about throwing it away. But I decided to try one more name. As I reached for my phone I read the first name on the list, Sharon Hudson.
We talked for about an hour, and I asked her if she would have dinner with me at a new restaurant in Portland called Five Fifty-Five. She accepted. Five Fifty-Five was developed in the building at 555 Congress St. that had been the home of Portland Fire Department's first steam engine,"Machigonne" Engine One.
Dec. 12, 2003 was a very cold day in Maine. The temperature was 10 degrees when I walked into Five Fifty- Five at 6 p.m. dressed in my black dress coat.
Standing just next to the receptionist stand, also in a black dress coat, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
As our eyes connected and I introduced myself, the bells in my head were already ringing. When Sharon introduced herself, the bells were so loud I had to ask her to repeat herself.
The dinner lasted three hours as we both learned of each other's life. This was truly love at first sight.
After a wonderful 10-month courtship, Sharon and I were married on Oct. 30, 2004 in a historic church on Bailey Island, Maine.
On the most beautiful day of our lives, Sharon and I were joined in matrimony by our friend Dr. Niels-Erik Andreasen, who was the president of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan,
Musicians extraordinaire Brad Krueger and Lisa Jardine performed a most moving rendition of “The Prayer.” We have always cherished the words, music and stunning performance of this song that day.
"Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe"
While nearly two decades of marriage has resulted in a few bumps, God's grace, like in the song, has guided us to a safe place.
Now, as Sharon and I gaze at the picture on our wall taken on that unforgettable day, the bells are still ringing!
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at email@example.com.