Good Morning, Good Morning to you all. I’m afraid I have some very sad news to share with you all today…
Last Friday, August 5, at 1PM, St. John’s Barefoot Minister, Anne Marie Porter, took her last breath on the island she loved so much. And her spirit left this earthly world; casting behind it a light of kindness, strength and gratitude in her void for all who were lucky enough to know her well now feel. I, unfortunately, was not one of the lucky ones to have a history and personal connection with this beautiful woman who married hundreds of happy couples on the beaches of St. John. And, I don’t believe tributes as important as this one should be written without that personal connection behind them. So, I reached out to an old friend who readily agreed to write the following dedication. Both in healing and in memorandum….
“Thank you, Girlfriend.” – A Testament to Anne Marie Porter, aka The Barefoot Minister, aka, Angel on Earth
When living within such a small community, especially here on St. John, it doesn’t take long for those diamonds in the rough to catch a ray of the Caribbean sunshine, and sparkle it in your direction… Leaving a permanent glimmer on your life and in your eye.
Ten years ago to date, my sparkle came an hour before sunset on Trunk Bay as I arrived to shoot one of the first elopements of my career here on the island. I remember the nerves, double-checking the clients’ names, and triple-checking my camera gear to make sure I was prepared.
And I remember Anne Marie…Standing in the parking lot to greet me with that contagious smile upon her face. She grinned and sweetly said, “Hey Girlfriend.” For reasons unbeknownst to me, at that very moment, my nerves disappeared. And I felt like I was in the presence of a best friend, a sister, a loved one instantaneously; yet I had only known her for a few minutes. As the years passed, I quickly learned that this was just one of Anne Marie’s many beautiful soul qualities that she exuded when you crossed her path. That ability to make you feel as though you were being wrapped in the arms of an angel’s hug. And that’s what she became to me, to my life here, to my career growth… an absolute Angel.
Over the last ten years, our friendship grew to the point where I would leave an hour earlier to meet with her at our beach ceremony spots. Just so we could get in as much Life & Soul Talk as possible before our couple arrived to say I Do.
Life, love, and loss were our go-to topics of discussion, and it never failed how she could turn any negative aspect in my life into a positive one. It’s as though she took the ‘heavy’ out of anything I was carrying on my heart or shoulders and carried it on hers instead. No matter if we had both been crying or laughing to the point of tears just minutes before, each time our couples first approached us come ceremony time Anne and I introduced ourselves with a smile:
“You have the A-Team working with you for your special day! Anne and Anne-Marie!”
For the hour that always followed this greeting, I’d forever capture her gift of blending two hearts into one. I owe an extremely major portion of my success as a photographer and believer in Love to the witnessing of her in this element.
Although I could write this testament to her for eternity, there are simply not enough words or paragraphs to justifiably encapsulate the remarkable essence of Anne Marie, but I will do my best by sharing the details of three (especially) special exchanges she and I had over the last few years. And I foreshadow that it’s no coincidence that all three provide such bittersweet comfort and inspiration at this time of mourning for all of us whose lives she has touched.
The first exchange that stands out is not so much a matter of the details of the predicament I was facing, but how Anne Marie gave me the exact mindset shift and faith that I needed to power through it. Last fall, as many others on this island have faced recently (and are possibly still facing), my four-legged 95 pound Animal Care Center rescue pup and I were given extremely short notice to vacate our home of five years and relocate.
In the midst of a housing shortage and crisis, I was beyond stressed and had very little hope of a positive outcome. After sharing this update with Anne Marie during one of our chats, she gifted me with the phrase, “The perfect home is mine,” and instructed me to repeat it often throughout the day and adopt it as truth. A few weeks later, a dog-friendly apartment became available.
I share this seemingly minor exchange as a chance for anyone else on the receiving end of her positive perspective shifts, to sit and smile in this moment while you remember. But I also felt compelled to share this just in case her words can help anyone reading this right now. It’s yet another way for her legacy to ripple out, help someone, and live on.
The second exchange will resonate with many of you, and it’s regarding the storm whose five year anniversary is just around the corner: Hurricane Irma. When I was collecting the inspirational stories for my book from this island-loving community, both on and off the rock, Anne Marie’s account was one of pure resilience and hope.
I wish I had the chance to read her very own words right back to her and point out how she lived them out every day of her own life. Her words are not only helpful life reminders for us as we move forward with her loss, but they mirror the same thoughts we are saying about her today, and the legacy she leaves behind.
Dearest Anne, “Take life by storm.”
This is the “message for today” that came up on my Page-A-Day calendar.
I immediately thought of you because you have so transformed storms of destruction and despair into messages of healing and hope. You have used your huge heart and powerful energy to save so many dogs’ lives during these challenging times. Yesterday, I saw you, once again, using your love and talent to facilitate more healing.
Five and a half hours in a roofless shower stall holding a towel over my and my friend’s head as the cement walls blew down around us.
Healing tears bless our brains.
Still being together blesses our hearts.
-Anne Marie: Healing After Irma, Page 84
As life unfolded, she unknowingly, yet so effortlessly, assumed the role of being my guide in not only career related matters, but in areas of spiritual growth as well. Which brings me to the third and last especially profound exchange that came a couple years after the sudden loss of my best friend, my Father.
Having lost him in the physical realm, I was left with so many questions. It became a mission to understand where he went…What happened to his soul? Why could I still feel his presence in my day-to-day?
After many enlightening conversations with Anne Marie around these questions, one day in September of 2019 in our parking lot pre-elopement meetup, she reached into her beach bag, moved aside some of her beautiful parasols and a can of bug spray, pulled out a book and placed the book in my hand.
“Here, Girlfriend. This will give you comfort. What I suggest is opening it up to a random page any day that you wish to receive a message from a loved one who has passed on. It’s done me wonders, and now it’s yours.”
To no surprise, the book was a spiritual text that contained an introduction from Ram Dass, a psychologist and spiritual being whose signature she shared at the end of all her emails and notes.
Like him, she would always end her writings with “In Love, … “
As I sat to write these words tonight, I reached for the book, and did just as she instructed, randomly opened it to a page, and goosebumps spread all over my entire body. These are the words I found on that page. And this is what I like to believe her message is to us right now:
“Every chance that you get along your way,
sit in as much Light as you can…
The ultimate challenge to the illusion is love.
So love yourself.
Love others as you love yourself
(you certainly can’t love any more than that)
Because love is love.
Once it’s there
it spreads out evenly in all directions…
Celebrate your life…bring pleasure to it wherever you can…
When you begin to blossom and glow
and dance down the street
just because you are happy
and you know the illusion is your creation,
and you can alter it anytime you want simply by the act of self-love,
then you are free.
You are preparing your pathway Home whenever you are ready to come. ”
– Emmanuel’s Book, “Chapter 8: The Feast of Life: Creation, Joy, Abundance, Fulfillment”, Page 132
Just as Anne Marie has led so many of you, barefoot in the sand, to the spots where she blessed your union in love, she has also led so many of us in our everyday lives with the love she always shared. Although her footprints are physically gone from the beaches of St. John’s North Shore, she has left her footprints on our hearts forever.
Her graceful words blended with the sound of the ocean waves for the last 35 years. And I hope and pray that the next time I go sit on the sand at Trunk Bay that I can hear her whisper to me in the wind…
“Hey Girlfriend… the perfect Home is mine.”
Anne Marie, you will be forever treasured and carried on in the hearts of all who knew you.
We will Be Kind, in your honor.
‘Til we see you again…
In Love, Your A-Team other half
P.S. Did you know: Fifteen years ago, Anne Marie created the famous “Be Kind” bumper sticker that adorns so many vehicles & windows all over the island as a reminder for us to be kind to each other, as well as animals.
As a major animal lover and advocate, she expressed multiple times before her passing that she hopes people will “Be Kind” by adopting & caring for animals. So please contact your local animal shelters, wherever you may be. Offer to volunteer, adopt if you can, or simply just visit and play with and bring love & light to an animal’s life. If nothing else, just simply Be Kind in honor of her.