Thirteen years of marriage is a very brief time to fill with all the adventures we have had over the years. Jane and I are deeply aware that our life has not been an ordinary sojourn – anything but. There’s a reason for that and it has nothing to do with me.
Even as I type these words, Jane is packing for her and her mother as they head out tomorrow to Churchill, Manitoba on the train. Her mom is 89 years old and I haven’t seen her this excited in a long time. She knows that with Jane there everything will be taken care of. This is just what my wife does – inspires people to press the envelope, regardless of age or caution. While her mom reads her books in Churchill, Jane will be in her wetsuit, swimming with the Beluga whales – just like her.
It was on our first trip to Sudan all those years ago that I suddenly understood that being with Jane could be a dangerous thing. It wasn’t because we were in a war zone or that we were attempting to avoid enemy troops as we sought to locate slaves seeking their freedom. I’ve spent a lifetime in such conditions, so we were a good match that way. No, Jane suddenly became dangerous because I discovered she was helping me to believe in the impossible. Such people turn our worlds upside down. We all have values, but, over time, we come to our personal accommodations with them, coming to terms with the fact that we’ll be lucky to see some of our dreams come true. My wife breaks those limitations, not by rhetoric or argument, but by living out her ideals to the very limit of their reach.
We had just finished identifying a number of slaves, mostly women, seated under the shade of a tree and looking concerned that they might not find their freedom. We had purchased that liberty through funds we had raised in Canada, but these struggling Sudanese women didn’t know anything about that. Jane rose from the ground and addressed them through an interpreter. “You’re free to go your own way,” she began. “Find your families. Live your life. Build a better world with your freedom.” In an instant I realized I was listening to a great liberator – not just of others, but of me. It was then I knew that this is who I wanted permanently in my life. We sat back to back, on the ground, and ruminated over what we had just experienced. Even there I knew her spine was stronger than mine.
But she has been dangerous, let me tell you. In her journeys to Iraq during the Gulf War, Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, the Congo, and now Sudan, she has never been content to leave a place without making life better, even for just a few. She has made me younger, and if you could have seen her mother today you would have thought she was a spring chicken. This is the effect of Jane Roy on the lives of others.
I can’t get a fix on the exact moment I became overwhelmed by her goodness; instead, I was just kind of baptized into it. It wasn’t about the words, gestures, looks, or even touch. It was the sense of human movement, that I was journeying out into my world and it was going to feel the effect of my presence specifically because I was affected by Jane’s abiding company. This is a powerful revelation and stands at the root of all great loves. She had immersed me into humanity and I was in the depths of it already before I realized just how much I loved her.
Charlotte Bronte wrote in Jane Eyre, “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” I understand what she meant, but that’s not me. Personal dignity – at home, with friends, in my community, in Sudan, or even in the House of Commons – to me is the inspiration for true character. Jane makes me truly happy, but it’s a byproduct of respectfulness and humility she has brought to our relationship.
So, here’s to you, Jane. To the climbing of Kilimanjaro to the savanna of Africa; from feeding the hungry to chasing our desire for adventure; from enjoying our moments alone to those times when the kids jump in our bed and won’t leave us alone; from the building of a family to the construction of a deck; from the jumping into life to the pursuit of each other. But behind it all is this absolutely restless desire to heal our world – to give without getting, to learn humility with honour, from burying those that perished to bringing new life out of slavery. It’s always – repeatedly and, yes, at times dangerously – about helping others. I was like that before I met you, but you refined me, bettered me, and taught me that sacrificing for love of others can be a spontaneous thing.
You are a darling, Jane, not because you’re mine but because you’re you and in the beauty of your character you have become the servant of all humankind – God, I love that. Tonight, while you’re asleep, my eyes will be wide open because I’ll be living in the world of Dr. Seuss – “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” This is my reality. You are more than a dream date or a loving wife and terrific mother. You are life as God meant it lived. Thank you for taking me along.