Remembering voice from past

In the not-too-far-distant past, works of fiction usually carried — somewhere in those informative pages before the story starts — a disclaimer like this: “Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
So much for that. Today, I’m going to talk about some real people, but without giving their names. They are not fictional. I’m bringing them to you for reality’s sake, because once again, I’ve been reminded that what we humans call coincidence is when God arranges something but chooses to remain anonymous.
Two sisters “of a certain age,” both of whom live in our TJP circulation area, became b’not mitzvah during a recent Shabbat morning service at a local congregation. I had met them only once before, years ago, when their extended family had a reunion in Dallas. But the pair have another sister who lives in Indiana, and I’ve known her for years, because we’ve been together many times during some annual conferences of the National Federation of Press Women. She invited me to attend this simcha, and I did. However, it’s been quite a few years since our last meeting, so we both had to say “Are you …?” when we first looked at each other.
The two of us were sitting and talking quietly before the time for the service to start, and other conversations were swirling around us. Somehow, I heard a name from the past. “Are you …?” I asked, because I didn’t recognize her either. And it took her more than a moment to recognize me. Her late husband, gone now for almost a decade, had been the incredible editor who gave my freelancing start as a Dallas Morning News contributor when I was new to the city. And I had been one of the eulogists at his funeral! When she got the positive answer to her “Are you …?” question, she said, “It’s funny. This very morning I was taking a long walk and thinking about (no name here!), and I remembered what you’d said about him. It was so comforting…”
But what was she, the widow of a truly devout Catholic, doing here in this synagogue, obviously at home and among friends? “I’m converting,” she told me.
One of the necessary basics in a long journalistic career is the constant need to ask questions. Sometimes they are prying questions, but those are not to be shied away from. Everyone has the right to ask anyone any question — as long as the asker grants the askee the right to say “I prefer not to answer that.” So I asked: “Why have you chosen Judaism?”
Surprisingly — or maybe not so surprising — I got the same answer I’d recently received from another converter-in-progress, and from others in the past: It boils down to “I just couldn’t believe that ‘Jesus thing.’” (I’m sure my readers who have been after me for years to become a “Messianic Jew” are annoyed as they read this, but that’s OK; you’ve annoyed me that long, too. I know who you are, but I’m not going to name your names, either…)
Well: The two b’not mitzvah, wearing beautiful kippot and tallitot brought home from Israel’s Women of the Wall, were sure in their knowledge and effective in their readings and commentaries. I will carry their mental pictures with me, because I may not have occasion to see either of them again for a long time. But I will see their sister — the one from Indiana — this-coming fall, when our presswomen’s organization convenes in Birmingham, Alabama.
And I will see the woman who is my favorite editor’s widow, and whom I hope will now become my friend, in a short time, at her conversion ceremony.
(If any of you recognize the person I’m talking about here, you don’t have to tell me who you are; I already know. I’m sure I’ll see you very soon, too, when we’ll get to offer congratulations instead of condolences!)

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