THE END WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING
Joy, Heartbreak, and Everlasting Love
The time: the late 1960s. The place: Chattanooga Tennessee, where two teenagers from different high schools meet through their involvement in the Junior Achievement program. Mary Alice Howell and John Bevilaqua like each other well enough, but no romance ensues. Neither does it when both find themselves as freshmen at the University of Tennessee. John grows very fond of this petite but fiercely independent brunette, and although they aren’t sweethearts Mary Alice becomes the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, John’s fraternity.
After college Mary Alice and John strike out on different paths, she as a social worker in southeastern Tennessee and he as a businessman in Atlanta. Both marry and become parents: Mary Alice of a daughter, John of two sons. Careers change, marriages sour, and Father Time marches on — and as a new century nears neither of the long-lost friends is aware that they live within blocks of each other in Atlanta.
A chance meeting occurs in the spring of 1992, when John takes a bike ride and happens upon a couple walking their dog. He instantly recognizes the woman as Mary Alice, and the meeting kindles a longing that will not be quelled. Eight years later, the now-divorced friends begin a romance that progresses from partnership to marriage and forges a bond that leaves them soul mates in the truest sense of the word.
Their deep love and boundless joy is offset by heartbreak and tragedy. Mary Alice had recovered from breast cancer just before she and John reconnected, and she valiantly fights three more bouts with the disease before losing the battle in 2014. In the same year and into the next, John loses both his beloved mother and his younger son. As he mourns, he comes to understand that more than destiny has been in play… that the connection he and Mary Alice shared was not so much earthbound as, god willing, ethereal and everlasting.
Moreover, the couple knows how to seek out fun. They travel to seaside resorts at the behest of Mary Alice (an inveterate sunbather)… buy a lake house north of Atlanta and go on cocktail cruises….….then stay up late laughing and talking with a host of close friends… and get married in Malta and follow up with a honeymoon on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
On the advice of valued friends John determines to reach Mary Alice through the spirit world, not least because she has occasionally made her presence known. With the help of a celebrated spiritualist he learns how to refine his communications with Mary Alice. And in time he realizes that “the end was only the beginning” — so much so that he is among the founders of a nonprofit whose mission is to help others communicate with their departed loved ones and keep the most heartfelt of spiritual connections burning bright.