At a funeral I recently attended, I was asked several times, "How did you know the deceased?" I searched my mind to recall the very first time I met Harry Axel Olson, Ph.D. My memory went to when I worked as a business consultant for the Maryland Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, Central Region.

It's not unusual for reverends to have a regular job before answering the call. Harry, a psychologist, came to SBDC for business planning assistance. SBDC personnel, seeing his talents, hired him to do a teaching seminar at a SBDC retreat in Ocean City. At the time, I was booking speakers part time and booked Harry several times for various seminars.

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Later, I bumped into Harry when I attended a church in Baltimore County where he and his wife, Carol, were longtime members. He was writing, making tapes and seeing clients, and was very active in his church. Harry would refer clients to me for pastoral counseling and I would refer clients to him. Sadly his wife, Carol, passed away while on a trip to the Bahamas she planned for the church; tragedy struck when the group went snorkeling. The rule was that if you are in trouble, raise your hand. Carol raised her hand because the tide was very strong and exhausting to her. They helped her onto a boat, but she had already "passed into the arms of God," as Harry said in a book he wrote: "St. Paul's Secret: How to Experience Joy and Victory No Matter What."

Harry handled Carol's funeral very well and sent everyone a Christmas card with an optimistic letter as usual. I felt drawn to contact him because he seemed so focused and had written a new book: "Growing Courageous Girls: How to Raise Authentic, Strong, and Savvy Girls in Today's Mixed-up Culture." I wanted to know how he managed to diligently structure his life. He seemed to go full speed ahead no matter what obstacles appeared. We met and discussed joining forces for a new project. That was when he told me he had always thought of himself as being female. I was not shocked by this surprising news but was accepting. Immediately I thought with empathy, "I can't imagine what Harry has been going through." This began a very new learning period for me.

Harry planned on changing his name to Priscilla and eventually would have a gender transition operation. Harry chose the name Priscilla and published "Growing Courageous Girls" under that name. Harry settled on the name Priscilla after being inspired by the biblical story of Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple of Christian missionaries who lived, worked and traveled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (Romans 16:3 NASB).

We had lunch periodically, discussing mostly business, but Priscilla did touch on God. With a tear in her eye, she said she knew God loved him as Harry and now her as Priscilla. She joined a new church where she could attend dressed as Priscilla. But she did visit her family church, where most would recognize her as Harry, no matter what she was wearing.

I believe Priscilla is resting in a place now where God's peace is guaranteed. Let us do our part to accept those, like Priscilla, who might seem different but are equally deserving of love in God's eyes.

The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul's UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.

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