Five of us were able to take the trip: three of the Cunningham Women (our niece Andrea's mother-in-law, Katy, and two of her sisters-in-law, Libby & Peggy), my mom and I. [This photo shows Libby, Katy, Andrea, Ilana, Jen & Peggy, who are all part of the clan.]
We left Seattle mid-day on Friday, with Libby driving us all to Portland, and checked into our hotel (the Benson, which dates back to the 1920s). We talked and laughed all the way down Interstate 5. Through a connection of Libby's, we were treated to chocolate-dipped strawberries and a huge basket of fruit when we had settled in to our rooms. My mom was tired, so she elected to stay in for the evening and order room service. The rest of our party went out to dinner, planning to walk to the evening session at Trinity Cathedral (which was hosting the conference) from the restaurant. We had a great dinner and conversation.
I was supposed to save seats in the Friday night session for a friend (her son, Johan, is a brain tumor survivor [www.caringbridge.org/visit/johanlofas]) who was also bringing a friend. After dinner, our group walked several blocks up to the cathedral. We were not late, but arrived just as the introduction was being given. Trinity is a large, dark, beautiful cathedral; it was dark outside when we entered the foyer, but softly lit inside the nave. We quietly took seats on the left side, very near to the back, as the pews were all nearly full. I realized that I wouldn't be able to save seats under these circumstances, and wondered how I would find Nan later among all of these people. I hoped that we hadn't caused her any inconvenience. I then decided to let go of those concerns, as there was nothing I could do about them now.
Fr. Rohr's talk on Friday night lasted for an hour and a half, which sped by. My sensation, as he began to speak, was that I was a desert, parched and dry, and the first drops of rain were beginning to fall on me. Mercy. Tears gently flowed up into my eyes. I had forgotten what his voice sounded like. I had not expected the humor, lightness and warmth it carried. He radiated compassion and the strong, yet gentle, love of God.
As I looked around to get my bearings, I saw a woman whose profile reminded me of Nan's, sitting across the aisle from us, one row ahead. Nan and I hadn't met in person, but we have corresponded for nearly a year, so I knew her from her photos. I noticed that this woman was wearing the LIVESTRONG bracelet. I thought, That would be a coincidence, if we had chosen seats in exactly the same area, among hundreds of people here. But they say "There are no coincidences." Then the woman turned and smiled at me, and I knew that we had found each other. That was the first obvious "God thing" of the weekend for me. I hadn't had to "do it right;" it was being done right for me.