Last week, after I spoke on a panel at Sunstone, I greeted a woman who had been in the audience of my session. As soon as I looked at her I knew we had met before and I knew I knew her well. I couldn’t remember how but I knew I had fond feelings for this woman as she hugged me tightly.
“I know you,” I said to her.
“No you don’t. I’m just a reader of your blog. I’ve read you for years.”
Her face was kind and familiar.
“No. I know I know you.”
But the conversation carried on as we talked about the panel on religious extremism and how faith can be used harm others. And that’s when she causally mentioned she was from Quebec.
“I know you!” I said to her again.
“I am pretty sure you don’t! You couldn’t know me. I know you because I’ve followed you.”
But the connection in my brain synapses had been made.
“I was a missionary in Quebec! I was in Gatineau for six months! I spent so much time at your house. I used to hang out with your family. And your handsome husband.”
“Ex-husband,” she winked.
“Oh I am sorry,” I replied, and then carried on. “You have a daughter Sophie and a son and your name is…Christine, right?”
I felt like a magician doing a great trick. Her face was frozen for a second.
“Wait, this is crazy,” she said when her lips started to move.
“I remember you so well because I had determined that when I was done with my mission I was going to be just like you. I loved everything about you. I even loved how you laughed at your husband when he gave us kisses on our cheeks because he wasn’t Mormon and didn’t understand the ‘no kissing the sisters missionaries rule’ at that point.” I said excitedly.
“I…don’t…remember this…are you sure? Are you saying I’ve been reading you for this long and you’ve known me and I’ve known you and I just didn’t know it?” Her forehead wrinkled and her eyes squinted at me as her brain searched for recollection.
“Yes! That’s what I am saying.”
And then we compared notes. 4 kids, married around 30, had kids in our early thirties, one divorce, an interest in religion and philosophy. I had indeed followed in her footsteps. It was a proud moment for me; I ended up a lot like Soeur LaBeau after all.
Mormonism has its rewards. If you can weather the publicity storms, tolerate the mess of historicity, have hope in systemic changes (so on and so forth) there really are some beautiful, uniquely Mormon experiences to be had. This moment at Sunstone made Mormonism feel more like family and less like a religion. Especially after sitting on a panel discussing how faith can harm others, and a week of Mormon frustrations (BSA), this felt like a time when faith connected and healed.
“Bring your family back to Quebec and stay with me,” she said as we started to part after taking some photographs together. “We’ll take you to get the best poutine.”
(Poutine! Thanks mission to Quebec!)
“Oh I would love to!” I replied back. And I really meant it.