Lori Mayer-Perowitz believes everyone has a story to tell, and hers just may be one of the greatest love stories ever told.
She was Lutheran. He was Catholic. Lori met Ryan on a blind date set up by a co-worker and they immediately hit it off. But within the first year of dating, they broke up.
“It was that important to him to want to raise kids Catholic, and I was Lutheran and set in my ways,” Mayer-Perowitz recalled. “But we still loved each other a lot.”
Even though the two parted ways, Ryan’s parents invited Lori to attend a Catholic retreat on the Mass.
“That was the first time I really understood what Mass was all about,” she said.
Lori attended adoration regularly with Ryan.
“Protestants can go to adoration and it’s a good prayer time,” she recalled. “I genuflected but I wasn’t Catholic, so it didn’t mean the same. I would see people in the chapel making such deep actions and think, ‘Wow. I don’t feel what they feel. I don’t understand it, but I want to, I really want to feel that connection with Jesus.’ It just kind of kept growing.”
Through her adoration experiences, Lori knew that God was calling her to become Catholic. The following year, at the Easter Vigil, she took that important step. Not long after, the two were married and started their family.
“I had the American dream. I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful child. We were in a little town, we were happy,” she said.
And then brain cancer came.
“It just shocked us,” she remembered. “He was very healthy and just 37 years old.”
They’d only been married five years and had one son, Matthew, and were expecting their second.
“We thought, ‘He’ll just have surgery. We’ll get beyond this. He’s a very faithful person, why wouldn’t God want to keep him around?’” she said.
The first surgery went great. They had their, second son, Andrew, and another year went by.
“We felt, ‘We’re beyond this. Thank God,’” she said.
Things went back to normal. Lori became pregnant again and gave birth to their daughter, Maria. About six months later, Ryan went in for an MRI. The cancer had spread to the other side of his brain.
Ryan underwent a second surgery, but the doctors couldn’t remove all of the cancer. Ryan didn’t want to undergo more radiation and chemotherapy so they traveled to Texas, where they tried a natural therapy for about six weeks.
“It was hell on Earth,” Lori recalled. “We were far away from home. I was nursing Maria, she was just under a year old at that time. We came back and continued treatment, but it didn’t seem like it was helping. And it was me who was preparing this medication that took hours to prepare, and I had three little kids. Ryan decided it was too much and we were just going to let God take care of it, whether that meant a healing in physical aspects or a spiritual healing.”
That January, he went off all treatment. Ryan wasn’t in a lot of pain, but his mind was changing.
“Sometimes he’d be there; the next minute, he would just not be himself,” she said.
She brought him to the hospital on a Saturday and he died the following Thursday — Holy Thursday.
“We prayed the Litany of the Saints and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and he had received Communion. We were singing. When we sang the ‘Amen,” he took his last breath. It was an absolutely beautiful and sacred moment,” she said.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
The days and months that followed were difficult without Ryan. Lori said she knows she wouldn’t have gotten through those days without her faith.
“I tell my kids: Sometimes, you can’t hear God with your ears, but you can hear him in your heart. When you’ve got that feeling that he’s talking to your heart, whether it’s gazing at the host in the adoration chapel or just out in your everyday life, just know that he is always there and he loves you more than you could ever imagine. He will never leave you. There are Bible verses that say that you can have everything taken away from you including your husband, your rock. But God is still there, and he will not let you fall,” she said.
Lori continued her prayer life and time in adoration. Although their home was in Casselton, North Dakota, she felt drawn to Alexandria, Minnesota. She wasn’t sure why. So she typed it into “Google” and a realty site popped up on her screen.
“I had been to adoration and I just felt that call to throw my net out into the deep, to not worry about not knowing all the answers. I just felt that sense of, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s going to be fine.’ I felt peace, and it stayed.”
Lori bought the house she saw on the real estate site and moved to Alexandria, where she began to attend St. Mary Parish. After about two years there, she considered dating again.
“I had the desire to get married again, but I didn’t want to get married just to get married. I knew that my first husband was the love of my life, and I wanted it to be the second love of my life if I was going to do it,” she said.
Lori was very intentional about who she wanted to meet. She decided to use an online dating site called Catholic Match.
“I had put some very specific things on my profile. Of course, I put that I had lost my husband and that I had children. I needed someone who was going to be compassionate towards that aspect, knowing that my kids needed someone to help them grow. I made
sure to include that adoration is very important to me. Most importantly, I knew my job was to get my husband to heaven. That’s ultimately my job, and I expect my husband to get me to heaven,” Lori said.
She recalls kneeling beside her bed before answering an email from a potential suitor.
“I thought, ‘OK, God. Do I answer this? Do I get excited? I felt I really want to be married, but I know that if it’s not in your will, that you will be enough. You will be more than enough for me.’ So I really felt the surrender. … The word ‘surrender’ comes a lot when you lose someone. Anybody who’s been through cancer or anything hard that’s beyond your control knows the word ‘surrender.’”
The next day, she answered the email. The gentleman, Gary Perowitz, lived in Morris, about 45 minutes from Lori. The two emailed back and forth for a few weeks. In one of the emails, Lori wrote about her love of adoration. So when he suggested they meet in the adoration chapel in Alexandria, she was overjoyed.
“I remember there were one or two older ladies in the chapel, and he bought a rose for me and a rose for Mary, and he lit candles that day. I’m sure those ladies were wondering, ‘What is going on?’ Afterwards, we went out to lunch, and then we walked along the lake and visited. It was an amazing date,” Lori said.
Both felt an instant connection. They decided early on that God was calling them together. But they knew the kids needed time to process what was going on. Gary was very intentional during the courtship and suggested they date for four seasons.
Almost exactly a year later, Gary approached Lori’s parents and asked permission to marry their daughter. He also went to Ryan’s mother and asked her blessing, which she graciously gave.
Gary surprised Lori with a marriage proposal in the place she has felt the most love in her life — the adoration chapel. They entered the sacrament of marriage eight months later.
“I know with all my heart that Ryan is happy and thankful that God brought Gary into my life. And it’s been wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” Lori said. “I have Ryan to thank for everything, really. God, of course, too, but Ryan’s the one who led me to adoration and to the Catholic Church.
“The veil between heaven and earth is so thin. Our loved ones are still praying for us and they can intercede. We have faith, hope and love. And love is the one that endures forever. I have felt that from heaven, to earth, beyond life. I have felt that and it’s amazing.”