Our Story

Our Story

Sometimes I wonder at how different a life can be based on small, seemingly random choices. In order to meet Karen, we both had to book flights from completely different parts of the world to the same small city, at the same time, for entirely different reasons… and to arrive early enough that the airport would clear out and we’d both be left without a ride into the city. Thankfully for me, my nerdiness put me on an early flight so I could fly on the then-new 787-8. If I’d chosen any differently, Karen and I would’ve never met.

As it happened, we both arrived into Cairns, Australia very early. The airport quickly cleared out, leaving just the two of us in an empty terminal. She immediately caught my eye – she was beautiful with her backpack, and had a kind demeanour. I didn’t have the courage to say hello right away, but the situation forced our hand. We still debate who… one of us asked the other to share a ride into the city. We couldn’t find one easily, so we called from a telephone outside and waited. Karen was in town for a conference on geriatrics, and I had recently completed a short documentary with some folks in their 80’s and 90’s, so we quickly found we shared some common interests.

As we stopped at Karen’s hostel we agreed to get breakfast, but first Karen needed 5 minutes to change clothes for her presentation. I waited, happily at first. 10 minutes passed. 15. 20. I started to think she’d just been nice, that maybe she didn’t want to chat anymore. It started to take so long that I left and walked down the block – keeping my eye on the hostel just in case. Thankfully I didn’t walk too far.

In perfect foreshadowing, 27 minutes later Karen emerged showered and in a gorgeous black dress, ready for her presentation. We grabbed a smoothie and had a nice conversation. I felt sparks… but we were both in relationships at the time, a fact that was then incompatible with pursuing a connection any further. We shared Facebook contacts and parted ways.

It would be more than two years before I’d see her again.

We stayed in distant touch, as social media “friends” do, for more than two years. When I set out to travel full-time, I reached out to Karen and a few others I knew, hoping to find friendly places to stop on my travels. Karen invited me to Carnaval in Brazil that year, but I decided instead to start my journey in a different direction, heading East instead of South.

And then tragedy struck. Within a week of each other, both of my parents were diagnosed with serious forms of cancer. I cancelled my trip and headed home to Canada to help take care of my folks. It’s around this time that the connection between Karen and I started to grow. As I reached out to my friends for support, Karen and I began to chat more and more. As a doctor she was very knowledgeable about what was happening and what to expect. But more than that, her compassion and calm radiated through her messages to me.

There was one particularly rough day, when it became clear that my mom had just a few weeks to live. Karen had been supportive the whole way, but on this day we crossed a threshold to something new. Karen sent me a calm video of a lake, with her singing gently in the background. It somehow spoke perfectly to the moment, to my needs, to the grief, to everything that was happening, embracing it all and denying none of it. Something jumped inside me. From that point I knew this was a connection I wanted to pursue more.

It’s been the same ever since. Karen is a smart, capable, compassionate, kind, funny, independent and connected human that I admire very much. It makes me so happy to be with her, to have found a relationship where when each of us flourishes the other grows too. We embrace and enjoy each other’s weirdness, and I’m a better person because of her. We’re a billion-in-one lucky.