Both had had “tumultuous pasts” but were drawing strength from the love and acceptance of Baha’is.
And when 26-year-old Robert Mason Brewer was slain, Lisa-Marie Fusco continued their spiritual search.
Sixteen months later, on Sept. 10, that journey found its destination: Fusco joyfully declared herself to be a follower of Baha’u'llah.
She had asked herself one final question: “Why am I not a Baha’i already?”
“Sitting on my bed I made one of the hardest decisions in my life,” recalls Fusco.
“For the first time I spoke directly to Baha’u'llah, saying that I would trust that He is the Manifestation of God and … asking that He not fail me.”
Failure to find peace had marked much of Fusco and Brewer’s lives.
Indeed, they met at a time she had “feelings of wanting to die.” Brewer’s words of hope — laced with humor — bore her through, and their relationship quickly grew.
Enter the Baha’is.
Fusco, now 21, has been living with a Baha’i family, the Quinns, near Tampa, Florida, since her sophomore year in high school. She calls Pam Quinn “Mom” and looks to Patricia Paige Quinn as a sister.
“She very quickly became part of our family,” Quinn concurs
“It’s very hard for her to trust” because of her upbringing, Quinn says, “but she came to me and said, ‘I trust you. I really want to be here, where I know that I’m loved and I’m treated like your daughter.’
“Which is exactly what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried to be a mother to her and advised her as a mother would, like I have my other two daughters.”
Into that environment came Brewer.
Little by little he was getting his life back together after trouble with the law and drugs, says Fusco. He found shelter at the Salvation Army and, despite periodic seizures, was organizing a band he hoped would raise awareness of domestic abuse.
“The times Rob spoke with Mom about the Faith were what I recall lengthy and insightfully enlightened spiritual conversation,” says Fusco.
Quinn recalls those chats fondly. “As smart as he was, I was just so impressed that he would want to sit down and talk with me about spiritual matters and about religions. I’m no genius, and he sought me out!”
His contact with other Baha’is was equally meaningful, Fusco says. “The benevolence showed by every Baha’i he encountered touched him greatly, giving his trusting and loving nature a home.”
A home Brewer envisioned sharing with Fusco when he proposed marriage.
“I said yes” — happy, she says, in the knowledge they were learning about a faith that “expanded our beliefs of global unity” and represented a foundation for “raising our future children.”
Children they weren’t destined to have together. On May 4, 2010, his life was brutally ended. Five people eventually were charged in connection with his death.
In the aftermath, Fusco began her own spiritual search in earnest.
“Lisa really wanted to discover what [Brewer] was so compelled about the Baha’i Faith,” recalls Quinn. “So she began to do her own studies, and with my older daughter [Paige] started going to youth meetings.”
She also attended Baha’i events such as a series of talks called “Meeting of the Minds.”
At these talks followed by discussion, “each person was valued for their opinion, as well as recognized … as an individual, which I hadn’t seen in a long time,” says Fusco.
“This helped me understand that unlike what I had experienced, I mattered and so did my feelings.”
“She learned very quickly that she was unconditionally accepted by the members of the Baha’i Faith all across the board,” says Quinn, “and that Baha’is were practicing how we are taught to act as Baha’is and it was consistent. And I really think that drew her closer.”
At the third such gathering, as the speaker talked, Fusco felt herself being drawn to a painting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
“I thought of the essence of this very old-looking man, and how radiant … He seemed and how it enveloped me,” she recalls.
Soon after, at a youth gathering, Fusco signed the card registering her as a Baha’i.
With the Quinns cheering her on. And Brewer, she believes, applauding from the next world.
Especially as she engages with fellow Baha’is in working for a better world. One of her first acts of service was helping with children’s classes at the conclave held to elect a delegate to the next Baha’i National Convention.
“With each passing moment he celebrates with me the opportunity … he was not afforded, and I can smile knowing he will always be with me on this journey.”