It was one of those one-degree-of-separation chance meetings that make Winnipeg so comfortable.
On Sunday, my wife Athina and I were at Joey's on Kenaston celebrating our son Ian's 30th birthday when I looked up.
And there was John Mohan.
I waved at him, and he smiled and walked towards our table.
You might remember John.
He's the former high-profile CEO of Siloam Mission who abruptly left last November without even an announcement from the homeless shelter.
A female employee, who resigned the same day as her boss, disclosed a few weeks later they'd been having an affair. It was a situation made worse in a personal sense because John's wife, Brenda, also worked in a senior position at Siloam. And by the fact the organization had offered the female employee a $5,000 severance package in exchange for her silence.
Siloam was in the midst of its prime Christmas fundraising season.
I wrote a column that criticized Siloam for its lack of transparency.
But, predictably, given the highly personal content, the column also ignited a firestorm of criticism against me and the Free Press, primarily because of a perception we were gossip-mongering.
"Our family respectfully requests as much privacy as possible as we work through this difficult time together," John said at the time.
Occasionally since then, I'd wondered what had happened to him.
And then on Sunday, he was standing at our table, shaking hands with me and my family. We chatted amiably, even warmly, for a minute or two.
Then he told me he would put his thoughts in an email. It arrived the next day.
-- -- --
It was a pleasure to see you, your wife and son Sunday night at Joey's.
Perhaps even providential.
Gordon, most people would not grasp how helpful you actually were by writing your perspective of the story. Although we weren't clamouring to make the front page of the Free Press under those circumstances, we believed public exposure would eventually make rebuilding my life and career easier. With nothing left to hide, people would engage with me already knowing my skeletons. That is somewhat liberating.
So, thank you.
Brenda and I have been on a painful and exhilarating journey the past eight months. I'm not sure if either of us thought we'd survive the upheaval I caused, but we've both come out better people, with a far better marriage.
We're still not sure what the future holds career- or location-wise, but we're holding out for opportunities that are meaningful to us and beneficial to the causes we commit ourselves to.
I am headed in the direction of establishing a consulting firm (focusing on non-profits' PR and organizational development needs) and Brenda hopes to offer her exceptional administrative skills to a non-profit organization.
We'd both like to stay in Winnipeg but are prepared that we may have to relocate. One mutual desire for us is that our experience benefit people and couples who find themselves in similar situations (but with less press coverage). At the risk of mixing metaphors, it's been a long journey, and the last chapter hasn't been written yet. We think it will end up a good-news story.
Best regards to your family,
-- -- --
On Friday, I spoke again with John, this time over the phone.
I wanted a little more detail on how they had they had defied the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme and began to put the pieces of their shattered marriage together again.
He began by giving credit to Todd Sellick, a therapist Brenda insisted they see together.
John also mentioned a trip they'd taken to the United States in the spring.
But I also wanted to hear from Brenda, who left Siloam in January. I wanted her perspective. Later Friday, her email arrived about what she called "the darkest days of my life."
-- -- --
For me, the decision to remain with John was never a question at all. I remember the moment I looked into John's eyes, and saw a very broken, hurting man. That glimpse into his soul is what gave me the determination to stay and walk through this journey with him. In order for us to move forward, I knew I would need to forgive him.
I soon came to learn that forgiveness begins with the choice and desire to forgive, followed by a continued process of forgiveness. The choice to forgive was made much easier by the remorse and regret that John expressed immediately after he told me what he had done. But all kinds of questions remained.
Was he sincere? Would it last? Could I trust him? Did he really want to be with me? Was I second choice?
These kinds of questions take time to be answered, for trust to be rebuilt and for forgiveness to be extended in its fullness. My deep faith in God as one who restores and offers grace to each of us (myself included) when we fail was the foundation upon which I drew my hope. In spite of what John had done, God still loved him and I needed to love him, too.
I also believed that through this we could have a marriage better than we ever dreamed possible. That God has a way of bringing good from things that look pretty disastrous to us.
Along with the help of our therapist, I have also done a lot of reading. Stories of others who have gone through similar situations and came through successfully, books that helped me to understand human nature and why we respond the way we do. But most of all it was important for me to know that I was not the only one to experience pain, that every day many people are experiencing severe pain and hurt for one reason or another and many had successfully moved on and not stayed in their pain. This gave me hope that I could, too. Most of all I want other women to know their marriage is worth fighting for and there is hope after betrayal.
-- -- --
I thanked Brenda.
For beautiful words and an even more beautiful soul.
I told her that being so open to sharing her story would help many others on their own painful paths. What I neglected to do though was to thank her for something else.
Her amazing grace.
John suggested, if anyone has comments or questions, please send them through me.
I'll be happy to pass them on.