A romantic love tale involving an Australian couple, Valentines Day in Oregon, Dr Francis Seow Choen and his cousin, Pastor Kong Hee
Grace Gawler is know globally for her work in supportive care medicine, especially with cancer patients, however this time of the Chinese New Year she was in need of urgent surgical assistance for a problem Australian surgeons could not fix.
She was referred to expert colo-rectal surgeon, Dr Francis Seow Choen who is a cousin of Pastor Kong Hee. I accompanied Grace to Singapore and just 5 days after her successful surgery we were sitting with Dr Seow Choen and family near the front row of hall 8, enjoying an excellent New Year sermon by Pastor Kong Hee.
Later that night, over dinner I shared the extraordinary circumstances by which Grace and I met. It’s a story that shows the mysterious workings of a force bigger than ourselves and how true love was put on hold for almost 4 decades. Here is our story.
I’m an Australian and had been living in a small mountain town in Oregon, USA for many years. It was February 2007 and I had just returned from Washington, DC, where I had been part of a group convincing politicians on Capitol Hill to support the creation of a US Department of Peace—a body for resolving domestic and international conflicts via peaceful means.
When I returned to Ashland there was an email waiting which fascinated me. It was written by a Ms Grace Gawler and reads as follows…
“Hello Pip, it is Valentines Day and I am staying in Ashland and have been here a week. I just collected a copy of the Sentient Times Magazine and found your Restorative Justice article. My, my – it is such a small world! As I was reading the article I realized who you were… my physical education teacher from Geelong High school in 1970! So I just wanted to connect and say hello. I have had a look at your website and I want to congratulate you on the much needed violence prevention work you are doing.”
Grace said my article impressed her and she asked if I might to consider planning some human growth and wellness workshops together. To be honest I did not remember her name because PE teachers taught hundreds of students each week, and it was 37 years since my short 2-year stay at Geelong High school. However when Grace sent me a senior student photo from 1970, I recognized her immediately. An outstanding student with deeply blue eyes — she emanated a clear and radiant beauty.
Due to the bizarre nature of our reconnection, a small voice inside me began to suspect something special was happening. I’d been married before but had not enjoyed relationship success, so I schooled myself to be cautious. A flurry of deepening emails led to phone calls and text messages, in which it became clear that we had more commonalities than is usual. I did what I could to curb my rising excitement. Nevertheless, within just four weeks I took a giant leap and flew to Brisbane, Australia, to begin our new life together.
Grace had also been unlucky in relationship — her 21 year marriage had ended despite years she spent helping her husband survive end-stage cancer. They had married when he had only two weeks to live but eventually they had 4 children together. They separated in 1997 and the shock caused Grace to have a routine surgery which went terribly wrong, eventually causing her to lose most of her colon. It was a recurrence of this problem that led her to Singapore, Professor Seow Choen and the wonderful City Harvest Church for Chinese New Year.