Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A love story

Whoso loves, believes the impossible. -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Tonight, I'm reposting a story that still stuns me.  As time goes by, I notice how the styles and quality of these pictures seem a tad "dated" but the way people came together to honor the woman who would be my children's grandmother is timeless. 

The loss of Susie is a part of our life as her not knowing Anna Cate and Molly represents a constant void in our family. Yet I'm still comforted by this night where she knew how loved she was, how BJ and my love and our union was the conduit for this outpouring of love for her. I celebrate this day and people who have become my family of faith by reading this story of my first wedding, which wasn't about me or a marriage, but about love, which is the greatest testament to any wedding or marriage. Thankfully, nine years later, I still love the man I stood next to here and I call so many who were there with us (and children we have brought into our fold) my dearest friends. We don't get it all in life and my goodness, we miss having Susie in our life, but I'm so grateful for the friendships her legacy left us. Read what these people did for our wedding, for this dear woman.


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As a bride, nine years ago today I was a very small part of the greatest story I've ever witnessed.
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  Its story was the first time BJ and I began our life together because another life was ending and we wanted our beginning to start before hers ended.  We wanted that and a whole host of others made possible a really beautiful love story in a wedding.  And just like it is different that the bride was a witness to the story, the couple in love (BJ and me) are not the love story I'm talking about.  For most nuptials the church is the backdrop to the bide and groom, but for this story, the church and one of her servants played the lead role. The love story between a woman and her church family manifested in our wedding on this day, six years ago.

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Every year on this day, I read what I wrote about the wedding our church gave us so BJ's mom Susie could be with us for a wedding.   I still cry to think of the love people have for Susie and the way that we experienced such joy in the face of such loss. Here were my thoughts after the ceremony that I wrote to my friends via email.  (I have pictures of the day but can't figure out how to get them off a dvd of images so I snapped them from the album.)

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In July of 2003, Susie King was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She courageously and bravely fought for almost 16 months. Originally, she was told that she wouldn't make it long, yet she lived an amazing life to the fullest in her service to her church family, friends, and her sons. Her courage was a testament to her faith and devotion to life on this earth with the hope and peace that only comes from knowing the world beyond. She was the sweetest, most giving person I have ever known. Things took a turn for the worse, and on Wednesday, October 27th, 2004, her oncologist told her that this was going to take her life, and it would be soon.

That evening around 11:30 our dear friends and pastors, Larry Haun and Patti English, helped make her son, BJ, my fiance at the time, and me see that getting married with her here might be possible, but it had to be quick. I could never have imagined the ways that our church family could pool th
eir talents, to give so lavishly to provide the most memorable wedding possible. 

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In less than 60 hours later, On Saturday at 5pm, BJ and I dedicated our lives to each other in a service that will only become more amazing as I reflect longer upon it. There were amazing flowers and decorations. My parents made the 14-hour drive so my dad could give me away, but before he gave my hand, he offered a beautiful prayer and thanks to the people of the Fredericskburg Baptist Church. The music was exquisite including a prelude with a violin and organist. The service included Ave Maria, the Lord's prayer, and two congregational hymns (O God Our Help in Ages Past and Love Divine All Loves Excelling). Susie and mom were escorted in as Susie's friend Toni Crowder, a professional opera singer, sang "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" accompanied by her husband (the violinist). Communion was offered to the whole church; the long loaf of bread that was broken was made by Susie and her dear friend Marian Whiltshrie while a trio sang sweetly, "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" (Susie's favorite song). The elements were offered as the trio sang "Amazing Grace", and while there was enough juice for 350, they ran out. BJ and I were served out of the same cup and plate that was a gift to us. Afterwards, we lit the unity candle, and the unity candle was lit during our service in December. 

The reception downstairs was breath
taking. 
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The line to give Susie a hug as she sat in a chair was much longer than a line to speak to BJ and me. After we cut the cake, we were escorted out with bubbles into a London taxicab and driven to dinner. It wasn't until then that I even noticed that there were favors handed out that were hand made. After dinner, a woman at church donated a room to us at the Colonial Inn, which is one of the oldest in Fredericksburg.

As my mother wrote to my aunt Anne, "Sarah and BJ's wedding was beautiful and poignant. It was an amazing testimony of what can be accomplished in 48 hours to show love for one dear woman, Susie King. The decision to go from a small dedication service to a full wedding was swift, complete and beautifully done. The church house was packed with more than 350 folks, the service was exquisite, the flowers were breathtaking; and the full reception and beautiful three tiered cake were delicious. They are married in the eyes of the Lord” so that Susie could have been there.

My Aunt Sarah, who flew up at the last minute for it said as she was leaving: "It was something out of GUIDEPOST." I can take no credit, but will remain forever thankful and amazed.

Susie died two weeks later and the last time she was in that sanctuary was for that wedding. 
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I am so proud to have been a part of that story that still moves me. 

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life; to be with each other in silent, unspeakable memories." --George Eliot

2 comments:

allahna said...

I have never been more honored to have been asked to share in that amazing testimony of love that day...given and shared.

Dad said...

I wept again. It was in some ways the most amazingly spiritual moment of my life. Dad