VANCOUVER—A couple of Vancouver lovers were getting ready to celebrate their first anniversary and had plans to buy a home, when husband Gord Brown suddenly lost his job.
“My boss told me that he had made the decision to close the office I was in, to pack up my stuff, and not to come back.”
The shock was sudden. Brown, a salesman, phoned his wife, Neysa Finnie, with the unbelievable news that their dreams and plans were about to be up-ended. Brown would spend the next year looking for work, while Finnie would support both on her income.
Now, looking forward to their tenth anniversary, the pair say the news was actually good news.
“That was honestly the best thing that happened to us,” said Finnie, now president of St. Thomas More Collegiate.
“People say: ‘he’s my best friend’ about their husbands. Gord wasn’t. I had lots of friends! He was the guy I was marrying,” she said. “That year, we actually became friends because we had to rely on each other.”
Finnie and Brown had started dating one month after meeting at a social club in Vancouver in March 2007. She was single, in her 40s, and invited by friends from a local outdoor club.
“I walked in the door and saw him. He was at the bar. I smiled at him and he smiled at me, but he had very sad eyes. And I thought: why are those beautiful blue eyes so sad?”
They struck up a conversation. Finnie soon learned Brown’s wife had died two years earlier after a five-year battle against brain cancer.
He was not Catholic, previously married, and not someone Finnie had imagined she’d marry. In fact, she was not expecting to get married at all.
Earlier that year, Finnie had gone on a silent retreat with the Cenacle sisters. She had a busy year coming up, with mission trips in Cuba and Tanzania that spring, and decided to take the time to rest, reflect, and thank God for being single.
“Had I not been single, I wouldn’t have been as involved in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives, I wouldn’t have had a chance to travel the world, I wouldn’t be so involved in church, I wouldn’t be able to lead these mission trips, I wouldn’t have been able to do all that stuff. Thanks be to God,” she prayed, eyes tightly shut.
Then, she suddenly felt the Holy Spirit say: “Not so fast.”
“My eyes flew open! Inside, I was screaming: ‘What?! I just got being single figured out!’”
She met Brown less than two months later. Sixteen months after that, they were married in the Catholic Church.
“He’d been through some tough things in a marriage, because of illness and things, I thought: This is a guy who’s going to be there, no matter what. You can plan a life on that.”
He wasn’t Catholic (another box on Finnie’s checklist), but his first wife had been, and he was familiar with the beliefs and traditions.
“The first time we sat down to dinner,” laughed Brown, “she started to eat and I asked her: aren’t you Catholic? Don’t you say Grace?”
“He holds me to a higher standard,” said Finnie. “One day I was thinking: when was I not looking for someone who was thoughtful, caring, loving, respectful, and reliable?”
They’ve been through a lot together in the last 10 years. Brown lost his job and switched careers. Finnie went through a career change, too, and has learned how to cope with an increasingly busy work schedule and accept her vocation to marriage.
“Things get thrown at you and you have to figure out how you can do it together,” she said. It’s important to “marry somebody who has your back, who you can rely on.”
The pair still go on regular dates to movies or the beach to remind each other that they’re best friends. “To take that time for each other, moving out of the regular routine, really lets us continue to develop.”
They were gearing up to celebrate their anniversary with an incredible 225 other couples also observing milestone anniversaries and celebrating unique love stories at the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Marriage Anniversary Mass at St. Matthew’s May 13.