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Joyce and Barry Vissell

Meant to Be
by Barry and Joyce Vissell


These two miraculous true stories of love are excerpted from "Meant to Be," by Barry and Joyce Vissell.

True Love

When I was two years old, my mother put me in a day care center. She tells the story of how I was terrified to stay at this place until a two-year-old boy named Bobby joined the group. As long as Bobby was there, I was not afraid. Both of our mothers had to work full-time, so Bobby and I were there every day together. The staff reported to my mother that we were never far from each otherís side. When nap time came we would refuse to nap unless our blankets were side by side.

After three years in day care, it was time for public school kindergarten. The day care staff tried to prepare us for the fact that we wouldnít be together again. That didnít make sense to my five-year-old mind. I wanted to always be with Bobby.

Our mothers, acting independently of each other, enrolled us in the districtís elementary school. Imagine our surprise when I reluctantly went for my first day of kindergarten and there was Bobby! We were in the same class! Again, we played together every day.

Bobby was the bright spot in my life, since my home life was anything but happy and secure. My father would go out drinking and come home and hit my mother. My only joy and security was my time with Bobby at school.

In first grade, the children started to tease us for playing together so much. We didnít care. Our favorite activity was swinging and telling each other jokes. We would laugh for a long time over our jokes.

Meanwhile, life at home was growing more and more unhappy. Lying in bed at night, I would hear my father yelling at my mother and hear my mother crying. I felt so sad I didnít know what to do. To comfort myself, I thought of Bobby during those times and tried to remember the jokes heíd told me that day.

In second and third grade the teasing grew intense. The boys called Bobby a sissy for playing with me. Sometimes heíd leave me and go off to play with the boys. Those were very sad days. Usually, though, heíd continue to play with me.

One night, when I was eight years old, my father came home more drunk than ever and began hitting my mother very hard. I tried to stop him and he struck at me. I ran to my room crying. I wished I could sneak out of my house and be with Bobby. In the middle of the night my mother woke me saying, "Get up, pack some of your favorite things. We are leaving here for good. Now hurry!"

My motherís voice was urgent and I obeyed her. We got in the car and drove west for seven days. All the time we were driving I cried. I wanted to be with Bobby, the one person that I felt secure and happy with.

I gradually adjusted to a new life in California. I never saw my father again. I learned to make new friends, yet every night for years I thought about Bobby and missed him. My mother would not let me write to him. She said my father could then find us and maybe kill her. That sounded pretty scary to me. As I grew, she refused to tell me about my past, what city we had lived in, etc. In time, I forgot all about Bobby.

I became a rebellious teenager and left home when I was sixteen. At seventeen, I married a man ten years older than me. I thought I loved this man until, shortly after we were married, I discovered he was an alcoholic. I wanted to leave, but didnít know how. Just as with my mother, my husband began beating me up after his drinking binges. My mother and I werenít talking. I had no idea where my father was and I didnít have any close friends. I felt resigned to my fate.

One night, with two black eyes and a bruised body, I got in my car and drove away. I ended up driving for several days until I came to a coastal town in Washington State. During the drive, I decided one thingóI would never trust a man again! I concluded that, since my own father was abusive and violent and my husband turned out to be the same, then all men must be bad.

Eventually I got a job as a waitress and began to carve out a simple yet lonely life for myself. My mother and I began talking every week on the phone. It felt good to be in communication with her again.

One day, a customer brought in an ad for a workshop on relationships. "Well thatís sure not for me!", I remarked with much sarcasm. "I never want to be with a man again. Iíve had it, Iím done."

That seemed like a strong statement for a twenty-five-year old woman to be making, so she teased me a little, then seriously urged me to go. "You are too young to give up on relationships," she said with a smile. She then ripped out the ad and placed it in my pocket.

Returning to my lonely room in the boarding house, I looked at the ad. Something about the possibility of a loving relationship intrigued me. Then all my fears came up and I ripped up the ad and threw the pieces in the garbage.

When I went to bed that night, I felt lonelier than I had felt in years. Usually I was very good at holding in all my feelings, yet that night I couldnít keep them down. I felt the pain of having an abusive father, then having the same experience repeated in my marriage. I felt lonely, but so fearful of ever trusting again. I hadnít given much attention to spiritual matters, yet on that lonely night I prayed to be able to trust again. After a while I slept peacefully.

When I awoke, I knew with a certainty that I must go to the seminar on relationships. Something seemed to have happened to me during the night. Then I remembered my prayer. "Maybe this is the help Iím needing," I thought as I rummaged through the garbage to retrieve the ripped-up ad. Finding one piece with the phone number intact, I called and registered. I felt lighter and happier than I had felt since I was a young child.

The day of the seminar came and I felt a strange combination of fright and enthusiastic anticipation. I quietly entered the room and saw that it was filled with people. The frightened part of me grew and I almost ran out of the room, but the enthusiastic part of me found my way to a quiet corner where I awaited directions.

Right off the bat, a young man came over to sit next to me. He said he felt a little overwhelmed by all the people and needed to find a friend. He told me a joke and made me laugh. Something about his manner made me relax. I found myself opening to him. He told me he was part American Indian and his name was Sun Bear. Sun Bear and I spent the entire seminar together. At the end he asked for my phone number and I gladly gave it to him. We began dating. When Thanksgiving came, I asked if he would come to my motherís house with me for the weekend. He agreed.

My mother greeted us both with warm hugs. She began to ask Sun Bear about his past. I was getting annoyed with my mother for probing into Sun Bearís life so deeply. Finally she stopped and a very strange expression crossed her face. Abruptly she excused herself and was gone a long time. I apologized to Sun Bear for my motherís unusual behavior.

Finally, she came back, holding a photo album. "Sun Bear," she asked with choking emotion, "Did you have a different name in childhood?"

He looked uncomfortable with this question and I was seriously annoyed, then he responded, "Yes, my mother and friends called me Bobby."

My heart began to pound wildly. With that my mother pulled out a picture of two little children on a swing. "I believe this is you, Sun Bear, with my daughter Jennifer."

Love had guided us back together after seventeen lonely years. We have now been married for thirty years and feel so grateful to be together again. And oh -- I still love to listen to his jokes.

ó Jennifer Walker


Heart Of Love

My brother, Danny, was born ten minutes before me. Inseparable from the beginning, we could only sleep if the other was close by. If one woke up, the other was soon to follow. Our two younger siblings were born within four years of our birth. Our parents were so busy with them that Danny and I took care of each other. If someone asked us what our names were, we would say in unison, "Danny"óor maybe the next day we would say, "Darlene." As far as we were concerned, we were one and the same.

Throughout elementary school, junior and senior high, we ate every lunch together. The friends we had were always "our" friends. When we chose the same college, our father finally put his foot down and would not allow us to room together. We were assigned separate rooms with roommates of the same sex. I guess our parents hoped we would begin to operate more as individuals, but Danny and I continued to spend as much time together as possible. We began dating, but always as double dates. The truth is, we both knew we couldnít spend the rest of our lives together, as we both wanted to have families of our own, but we were also so fulfilled in each otherís presence. Danny was my brother, my best friend, my main support, my confidant, and the funniest person I knew.

Although I liked doing everything with Danny, the pastime I enjoyed the most was painting. Danny was a sensitive, trained artist, who drew heavenly landscapes, with pictures of angels and little children. He could draw the most beautiful faces. His weakness, or so he said, was painting hands. In contrast, my strength was painting hands in their infinitely different positions. Often, Danny would ask me to paint hands on the angels or children in his paintings. When Danny and I were painting together, we felt exceptionally close to each other and also to our Creator.

One evening, we stayed very late finishing our work in the art classroom. Driving home, there was a special feeling between us. Suddenly, there was a car in our lane coming straight towards us. We were hit before I could even scream.

The driver of the other car was a teenager who had had too much to drink at a party. He was killed instantly. Danny was seriously hurt and rushed to the hospital. I was shaken, but not badly hurt. I rode in the ambulance with Danny. The doctors were grave and honest, Danny had sustained irreparable brain damage. There wasnít anything that could be done. As his only relative present at the time, a surgeon approached me about the possibility of donating his heart for transplant. I got my parents on the phone and we all agreed to donate Dannyís heart so someone else might live. As Danny lay in a coma, his heart was removed and rushed to a waiting donor.

The two years that followed were black years for me. I attempted suicide three times, was hospitalized and given drugs I refused to take. I did not know how to live without my beloved Danny. My parents and friends tried, to no avail, to get me interested in life again.

A friend finally got through and convinced me one day to go to a local art show with her. I was trying to enjoy looking at the art, mostly for my friend, when suddenly I stopped in my tracks. There were paintings that were so similar to Dannyís I could hardly believe it. I looked closely at the name just to be sure. I was told the artist would return in an hour. I waited, just mesmerized by the art work. An hour later, a young man approached me and introduced himself as John. I felt a strange affinity to him. We talked for the rest of the day about art, then gave him my phone number and went home.

Back at my apartment, I could think of nothing else but John. I wanted to see him again more than anything else. I was angry at myself for not getting his phone number. Two agonizing weeks went by before he finally called me. We made a date to walk in the park. I could not understand my feelings, but I felt as if I had already fallen in love with him. I felt happy for the first time since Dannyís death.

At the park, John and I walked and talked and it felt as if time stood still. I told him about Danny and my suffering of the past two years. John reached out and held me and, for the first time since Danny died, I felt comforted. While my tears flowed, I felt Dannyís arms around me as well as Johnís, and I felt at home. I knew in that moment that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with John. He shared that he had never felt such love for another person as he did for me.

John and I spent as much time as we could together. One morning, I asked John to tell me how he happened to begin painting. He shared the story of his life. He was born with a congenital heart disease. He had always dreamed of becoming an artist, but his health problem occupied much of his attention and energy. He told me of the years he was in and out of hospitals and finally he was in the hospital for what looked like the last time. He was dying of heart failure. His only hope was a heart transplant but the doctors gave very little hope of one coming his way in time.

One night, he was rushed to the operating room and quickly told that a heart was on its way. He woke the next day with a healthy heart pumping in his chest. The transplant was a success and he soon left the hospital to begin a new life. He immediately launched himself into his art. He hadnít stopped painting since his operation and concluded by saying, "Painting is my lifeís passion, Darlene. I feel the most connected to God when I paint."

I held my breath while he spoke, my arms covered with goosebumps. I asked in a slow whisper, "Was your operation in March two years ago?"

"Yes!" was his stunned response as we both were realizing the possibility of what had happened. We held each other for a long while, not daring to speak as the growing truth was emerging.

Finally I spoke, "John, I never wanted to know who Dannyís heart recipient was. We only learned that it was a success." Soon after, I placed a call to the hospital and asked them to research who received my brotherís heart. While we waited for the research, we studied Johnís paintings together. The faces on the people were beautiful. It was only then that I noticed and pointed out how he concealed hands behind objects. "I have trouble painting hands, so I put them behind flowers or animals or other people," John remarked.

The phone rang and we held each other as I received the information from the hospital that I already knew. Dannyís heart was successfully transplanted to John Yager.

John and I were married and, in a beautiful and sacred way, Dannyís love is with us every moment.

óDarlene Yager

© Copyright 2000 Barry and Joyce Vissel.  All Rights Reserved. 

Joyce and Barry Vissell have been a couple since 1964.  A nurse and medical doctor/psychiatrist, their main interest since 1972 has been counseling and teaching.  As a result of the interest in their books, they travel internationally, conducting talks and workshops on relationship, parenting and personal growth.  They are the founders and directors of the Shared Heart Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to relationship and family life as a spiritual path.  Joyce and Barry Vissell write a monthly column, "New Dimensions of Relationship," for newspapers and magazines worldwide.  It covers many timely topics about relationship and spirituality that have not been addressed in thier books.  They live with their three children, Rami,  Mira, and John Nuriel, four golden retrievers, four cats, and one horse at their home and center on a hilltop near Santa Cruz, California, where they counsel individuals and couples and offer classes, workshops, and training programs.

The Shared Heart Foundation
P.O. Bo 2140, Aptos, California 95001



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