The God of second Chances

Written By: Jeff  Passe

THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES The God I believe in is a god of second chances. – Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States The alarm had gone off at 4:30 a.m. but she was pretending to ignore it. I leaned over and whispered, “I’d really like to see the sunrise at the lighthouse. Please?” “Ugh, I’m so sleepy. Can’t we go another time?” she murmured, not even half awake. “That’s what you said last week,” I reminded her. “You keep telling me how special it is to witness the first sunlight to hit Long Island. I want to see it for myself.” That was not quite the truth; I had an ulterior motive. I had wanted to propose marriage for several weeks now, but it had to be at a special location. Thus, the proposal had to wait until Memorial Day, when I came to Montauk for one of my regular summer weekend visits. Montauk was her favorite place in the world, a sleepy fishing town that Carl Fisher tried to transform into a world-class resort. His attempt ended as a result of the Great Depression, but now the town was blooming again. The lighthouse was Montauk’s icon, a symbol of light and hope in the midst of darkness. I’d chosen the ideal spot to ask her hand in marriage, but she literally wasn’t budging. “Remember how Memorial Day Weekend was cold and rainy. There was no way we could go then,” I told her. “This is our second chance. I have to leave tomorrow night. Let’s do it.” I wouldn’t be back for several weeks. I guess I was persuasive. She sighed and rose from the bed, piling on layers of warmth, preparing to sit on frigid rocks while the Atlantic winds persisted in its nighttime chill. Pleased as I was to be moving, it still wasn’t a “done deal.” If I wanted the kind of proposal that would live on as legend, it had to be timed to take place at the exact moment of sunrise — 5:14 a.m. I must admit I was a little worried that the answer would not be yes. She was a very deliberate decision-maker. I had to be prepared for some amount of delay and disappointment. We passed through the still dark town on our way to the easternmost end of the island. I couldn’t tell how clear it was. Perhaps there would be no sunrise, I worried, just a mass of clouds. I needed a backup plan. Could I simply time the proposal for 5:14, with the scientific knowledge and faith that the sun really was rising at that moment? Would that fly? We were not the only ones in the parking lot, or on the rocks. I should not have been surprised. If you’re going to be awake at sunrise, what better place to be? The new challenge would be finding a private spot. Fortunately, she had one. As a summer resident since childhood, she had spent more mornings by that lighthouse than I wanted to know about. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and waited for the sun. A layer of patchy clouds hovered along the horizon. The sun would surely peek through, I thought hopefully. I decided to jettison the 5:14 plan for its lack of spectacle and wait for the first hint of yellow. It was probably only a minute or two but it felt like forever until a little twinkle of sunlight caught my eye, but then it disappeared. It was hardly a sunrise at all! Not good enough for a proposal! It would be silly to ask her hand in marriage when it was still night time. But then I had another opportunity. The sun suddenly burst out in a brilliant blast of gold. I asked her to marry me and she immediately said yes. We hugged and kissed. I was just as excited about her instant response as I was about her assent. I may have even cried a little. It was a second chance for both of us. Our first marriages had ended, each after 24 years, and we were in love. It was our goal to be happily married once again, to each other. Once the sun finished its glorious rise, we returned to the car. We didn’t want to simply drive home on such a momentous occasion and it was too early to go to a restaurant, so we headed for the surfer beach at Ditch Plains, where we knew there would be benches by the water. We took our blanket along and snuggled like lovers do at dawn. Once again, we were not alone. This time, we confronted revelers who had been up all night. One young fellow, about 25 years old, apparently still a bit drunk, was talking loudly in a familiar Noo Yawk accent. He took a look at us and immediately sauntered over with a smile forming on his unshaven face. “May I take your picture?” he asked, pulling out a small camera from his back pocket. “Sure,’ we replied in unison, ‘how come?” “It’s just that you two look so happy!” he exclaimed, as he pulled the shutter. Thinking perhaps about other middle aged couples he knew, he then asked, “Do you mind if I ask how long you’ve been married?” “Funny, you should mention it,’ I replied. ‘We just became engaged a half hour ago.” The young man’s smile, brighter than that morning’s sunrise, bathed us in its glow. Four months later we stood in a lighthouse chapel on the coast of Maine, near the spot where the sun first rises over the United States. It wasn’t easy to get married in this particular lighthouse. We actually had to apply for the honor, each having to complete a lengthy essay about why we wanted to marry each other. Little did we know that the officiant, who had never met us, would use our responses to prepare his remarks. He began by quoting, “We believe in second chances…”