I believe my gay marriage was one of the happiest marriages any couple has ever had, even though we faced great adversities together. Separately, those challenges would have destroyed each of us. I am alive because I had my life partner to live for until I finally got the right diagnosis and treatment at the very brink of death. And she had a much longer life with multiple sclerosis, paralysis, and then quadriplegia, than she would have had without me. For both of us, those 20-plus years were the happiest of our lives.
I met Margaret Ardussi on June 30, 1984, when I traveled from my home in Silver Spring, Maryland, to Fairfield, Iowa, for a world peace assembly for yogic flyers. I had arranged to stay in the house of a lesbian couple where she was renting a room. Within a day, I felt like I’d carried her image in my heart all my life and at last I had found her. I knew she was the love of my life. I was 30 and an unemployed writer. She was 43, a genius artist and highly regarded teacher of the transcendental meditation technique, who had been diagnosed four years earlier with multiple sclerosis when she became too disabled to work.
By the fourth day I knew I wanted to marry her and spend the rest of my life with her. I only hesitated in this intention for an hour to reflect on the challenges we would face due to her MS. Then I decided to trust the flood of love I felt for her. To have rejected her for any reason would have torn the heart out of my chest.
I spent every minute I could with Margaret getting to know her and falling more and more in love. This was made somewhat easier by the fact that God smote my car before I was accepted in the course. A friend paid my way, but I had no car to go to all the meetings, so Margaret and I would hitchhike to the flying hall in the morning and evening and we spent most afternoons together.
When the course was over, I went back to Silver Spring and she visited her parents in Issaquah, Washington, so a dentist friend could exchange the mercury fillings in her teeth for composite ones — something that was thought to cure MS at the time. I continued to court her with beautifully typed letters, mix tapes, and phone calls. To reassure Margaret that I loved her just the way she was, MS and all, I read a couple of books about multiple sclerosis so I could prove to her I knew what I was volunteering for.
When Margaret’s dental work was completed at the end of September, she was scheduled to get a ride back to Fairfield with a friend. Meanwhile, I attended a motivational seminar, which inspired me to take matters into my own hands and buy her an airplane ticket from Seattle to Dulles on the day she was going to drive to Iowa. I called her to tell her about it, but she wasn’t home.
Unbeknownst to me, Margaret had been asking the universe for a sign about whether I was the right person for her. God answered her prayer by smiting a second car. When Margaret returned home, she had two messages, one from me and one from her ride. She called her ride first, who told her, “My car died, I’m flying back to Iowa, you’re on your own.” Then she called me and I told her, “I bought you an airplane ticket to come to me.” She burst into tears. That was her sign.
I picked her up at Dulles Airport on September 25, a date we later celebrated as our anniversary. We had never even kissed before until we arrived at my — our — apartment.
Margaret Ardussi was the most beautiful woman in the world to me and I told her so every day. Every day, I told her that I loved her forever and ever with all my heart. I told her that I loved her just the way she was. I told her I rejoiced in her. I told her I thanked God for her in my life. I told her I was lucky to be with her. I told her that she took care of me just as much as I took care of her.
I enjoyed reminding Margaret that, when we met and she already was too disabled to work, while I was 12 years younger and able-bodied, no one wondered what I saw in her — but there was discussion about what she saw in me! I told her she was loved and needed. I told her she was doing an important job in the world due to her extremely rare skill of radiating bliss, and that it was just her good fortune that to do this very necessary job, she had to be pampered and adored. I was serious and meant every word because I was telling her the truth. But reminding her of this always made me smile and laugh and bubble with bliss.
Margaret died in our home under hospice care with me at her side due to a stroke and complications of multiple sclerosis on December 7, 2004. Her last words to me were, “I love you!”
I know I feel more urgent about marriage equality for lesbians and gays than other well-known gay and lesbian conservatives do. But that’s because my gay marriage was so happy and so long and I see all the good it brought to us, Margaret’s parents and sister, and my family. Because we were a couple, all of us had longer, much happier lives and my father published two books.
The time for marriage equality for homosexuals is now because the rights of marriage strengthen couples. And strong couples strengthen their families, their communities, their nations and their world.