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    Newlyweds After 25 Years

    reverend“Before we met, you and I were halves unjoined except in the wide rivers of our minds.

    We were each other’s distant shore, the opposite wings of a bird, the other half of a seashell.

    We did not know the other then, did not know our determination to keep alive the cry of one riverbank to the other.”

    These lines are the opening words of The Commitment Reading of the Pueblo Indian, which Judy Hostetler and Shawndra Miller chose for their wedding ceremony in October of this year. I found the entire piece quite beautiful, and so apt for these two women who have been together in a committed relationship for 25 years!

    I spoke with them recently, and would like to share some of their thoughts:

    ER: How were the two of you “halves unjoined” and “the opposite wings of a bird” before you came together?

    Judy: I was a whole person; I wasn’t incomplete, but I had this strong wing that needed another for me to really soar. You kind of want your ‘wing’ to be joined with someone else’s, but you don’t know where this bird is going to take you!

    Shawndra: When I was a baby, my mother said I was always saying “zu-dee, zu-dee.” Now we wonder if Judy and I were together before? I was saying “zu-dee” to remind myself of whom I was supposed to be looking for.

    We were a distant shore for all of our early lives. Certain things had to happen (for both of us) before we could “keep alive the cry of one riverbank to the other…to reach each other’s distant shore.”

    ER: What would you say is the most significant thing in your life about who you are and what you bring to the world that might not ever have been brought forth had you not found each other and had these 25 years together?

    Shawndra: I think that I have experienced more trust because of Judy’s presence in my life. Seeing how she interacts with people has taught me about being comfortable in my skin. There’s the growing sense of being able to love and care without “fixing” someone. I don’t know if I would have figured that out.

    Judy: I think that because of Shawndra I am better able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and understand what the other person’s reality is like, particularly when it is very different than mine. I think that, because of Shawndra, I am better able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and understand what the other person’s reality is like, particularly when it is very different than mine. Maybe empathy is the word.

    ER: Any thoughts about marriage per se? I mean, I assume the legal reason and benefits and so on are part of it, but what else?  Why get married when you already have a successful 25-year relationship?

    Judy: When you’ve been together for over 20 years, there’s a comfort that develops and there’s often no need to say anything or do anything but just be together. So getting married is less about solidifying a commitment that’s already there and more about celebrating what we already have.

    Shawndra: The legal part is very important from a practical standpoint, but being part of the movement in our country at this point in history is exciting and fun. It makes us feel like we are a part of society in a different way because we can participate in this vital social structure equally.

    Judy and Shawndra also talked with me about their vision for their life in the coming years. They had already become strongly connected with many people in their wonderful neighborhood in Indianapolis. Their shared vision for these next years is to deepen their connections with their community and to bring the spirit of love, friendship, mutual support and encouragement to their friends and neighbors.

    Judy and Shawndra were married October 15, 2013, at McClure’s Beach on the Point Reyes peninsula.

    Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit