our mother was holding the Finnish flag,” my father liked to say. “I knew she would be carrying it, and I was looking for it.”

“I didn’t expect to see him,” my mother would say. “He was the last person I expected to see.”

My parents had many stories about their courtship, but this was one of their favorites. It had the dramatic backdrop of a General Conference (GC) session. It was 1966, and the GC session was being held in Detroit, Michigan. My parents were both attending, but not together.

They had met during my mother’s final semester at Andrews University. She was getting her master’s in English and would be returning soon to Finland. My father still had another year left in his theological studies. When the school year ended, my mother decided that they should take a break from seeing each other.

My father thought it was a breakup.

My mother wasn’t sure what it was. She only knew she wanted clarity. She wanted to return to Finland either single or engaged, not something in between.

Prior to General Conference session, my mother had been asked to carry the Finnish flag in the Parade of Nations. She was excited to participate. That evening she put on her Finnish national costume and joined the other flag carriers outside the stadium. Although she was a tiny woman, my mother held the flag out ferociously before her. Maybe it was the tilt of her head, the determination around her mouth, or those serious eyes, but when my father finally caught sight of my mother, he leaned over to his uncle and said, “I want to marry the woman carrying that flag.”

After the service my father somehow made his way to the floor of the auditorium. His uncle came with him. My father found my mother (it helped that she was still holding the flag) and introduced her to his uncle. “Hey, I can marry you two,” my uncle volunteered.

And that’s how my mother discovered that my father was as serious about their relationship as she was.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

—Sari Fordham

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