I am in a meeting when she arrives. The receptionist comes to get me and I excuse myself. I think it will only take a few minutes to complete what I need to do.
I love it when serendipity and fate step in with moments of human brilliance that leave me breathless with awe.
Her name is Marlene Clay. I’ve asked if I can write about our encounter and share her story.
Of course, she replied. If it can help one person, why not?
Marlene is a social worker. For over 33 years she has served people in need, working with marginalized populations to help them cope with life’s travails.
For the past 10 years, she also cared for her husband of 30 years until he passed away 17 months ago.
I was devastated she tells me. Lost.
To ease her grief she threw herself into the music of Bon Jovi, an artist she has followed throughout his career.
But she doesn’t just listen to his music. She decides to go to as many concerts as she can, no matter where in the world he is performing. Which is why last year Marlene attended 15 concerts on Bon Jovi’s world tour and travelled to 5 countries outside Canada. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the USA.
As she’s telling me her story, my eyes are widening in awe. There is a grace and openness about her that is compelling. Her eyes sparkle and look deeply into mine. I feel like she can see me, deep inside. Hear me. Know me.
She has come to the Foundation offices where I work with a book she wants to present to Bon Jovi at his Las Vegas acoustic concert next week. 200 people. An intimate setting and a chance to ask questions, chat, and get to know the man behind the music.
I don’t want to go and ask the normal questions, like, where do you get your inspiration from, or what do you do when you’re not playing music, she tells me. I want to do something that will make a difference to him too.
Her idea. To present him with a copy of the Calgary Herald’s book The Flood of 2013, with a message from the Calgary Homeless Foundation on the inside leaf. The Foundation has a connection with Bon Jovi. We were recipients last year of his largesse. As the first stop on his world tour where Richie Sambora was not in attendance, Bon Jovi had donated $100,000 to the Calgary Homeless Foundation as a way to make-up for his lead guitarist’s absence. His donation made the headlines but this was a way to make our thanks more personal, said Marlene in an email last week to ask if we’d be willing to write in the book.
I’m going to his acoustic concert in Las Vegas and want to give him a copy of the Flood of 2013 book and tell him the story of how his donation made a difference in people’s lives, she wrote.
Which was why I was sitting with Marlene yesterday afternoon, writing a note in the front of the book on behalf of the Foundation.
I asked her why she wanted to do it. We had sent a thank you letter at the time of the donation, and while this seemed like a nice gesture, it was a bit out there.
I met him, personally, she says. He made a difference at a time when I really needed something to help me deal with my grief.
And she went on to tell me the story of last year, just a few months after her husband’s passing, while sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Toronto she had the opportunity to meet him in person.
He happened to walk right past me, she said. And I knew, this was my moment.
Marlene jumped up and approached Bon Jovi, or Jon, as she calls him and said, “Can I tell you something?”
The super-star stopped, looked at her and replied, ‘Yes’.
“Your music makes a difference.” And she quickly told him about following his tour, listening to his music in an effort to cope with her grief.
“Bon Jovi looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry”, and then, he stepped right up to me, put his arms around me and hugged me,” she said. “He held me like that for a few moments and then, stepped back, smiled and turned and walked away.”
And in that moment Marlene felt her grief lift. She felt as though her husband Leigh was there, making it happen, making it all possible.
Even my grief counselor is surprised at how well I’m doing, she laughs.
And she is. Healing. Living. Moving through the grief with grace, her heart open to all that is possible when we accept that no matter what happens to the one’s we hold dear, Love is always present, Love is always creating miracles all around.
I spent an hour with an amazing woman yesterday. We laughed and chatted and in our conversation I felt connected to the beauty and magnificence of the human spirit shining brightly.
I wasn’t expecting it. Didn’t anticipate such a simple task to be so filled with generosity of spirit and light.
I am blessed.
Marlene has promised to let me know what happens at the concert. She’s promised to get a photo and when she returns, to get together for tea.
I’m looking forward to our next encounter.
I like being surrounded by people of grace.