The dreaded day had arrived – Saturday, Labor Day weekend – our daughter’s wedding. My husband John struggled through the doors of the church. He juggled Sarah’s makeup case and huge wedding dress bag. He dropped his burdens off in the vestibule.
I kept mine as I slipped away to the chapel. I needed to pray and collect myself before the ritual pre-ceremony, ceremony. You know, when everyone is supposed to laugh and cry with joy while taking snapshots of the bride’s preparations.
I sat down, reflecting on how we got into this miserable situation. If only Sarah hadn’t been so rebellious. If only she hadn’t chosen to marry a creep. If only my sister had really kidnapped her last night.
Six Months Earlier
Our communication with Sarah consisted of arguments. No matter what our view, Sarah always took the opposite. She fought against any rule, restraint, or even common sense. We fought for her soul.
We battled over her new boyfriend. Dean had major emotional problems and several addictions. We tried to point out the dangers, especially the documented ones. Sarah denied what she could and ignored the rest.
Two months later, they were engaged.
I tried to illustrate for her our perspective. “It’s like watching you walk onto the rails of a train track and sitting down between them. A train is barreling towards you. We’re pleading for you to get off the tracks, but you’re ignoring us. Disaster is closing in, and we can’t stop the horror.”
“Oh Mom, Stop being so melodramatic.” Then she announced, “We’re having the wedding on Labor Day weekend.”
“In three months? Sarah, we can’t plan a wedding that fast. And many of our friends go to the lakes that weekend to close their cabins. Won’t you even consider a different weekend?”
“No, Mom. We don’t care who is out of town. We’re having the wedding when we want, so just shut-up about it.”
We endured argumentative arm-twisting over every wedding detail. The costs, and the arguments, soared. Eventually, we opened a checking account in Sarah’s name and deposited the amount we could afford to spend.
“It’s easier to let them fight it out,” John said.
“Yeah, and then, maybe they’ll break up,” I replied.
While we prayed for God to interrupt the upcoming nuptials, our relationship with Sarah deteriorated. I ached to connect with her, to bless her. So I attempted a peace offering; a gift of love to Sarah in a form I hoped she’d accept. I told her I would write something for her wedding. Her eyes brightened.
I began writing by remembering her birth.
My first child,
what a love you are.
Such delight you bring
into our world…
Tears began splotching the paper.
...inside my breast
are memories sweet
a treasure chest
I’ll always keep
of midnight cuddles
in grandma’s chair
you, sucking your thumb
and twirling my hair…
Why didn’t God just derail the wedding, preventing the nightmare Sarah was welcoming with arms open and a smile?
and bedtime wiggles
and happy giggles…
I grieved. The wedding marched on.
…your first a’s and b’s
ponytails and skinned knees…
Then I crashed.
A week before the wedding, I told Sarah I couldn’t finish the reading. She shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter.” No argument?
In the chapel, I pondered Sarah’s nonchalance. Too soon, I exchanged my refuge for the dressing
room’s pre-ceremony ritual. Film captured all the fake happiness.
Then, it was time. The music began. The best man seated me down front. Lyrics scattered through my mind.
…if ever you need
my arms to hold you
or want to cry
on Daddy’s shoulder…
Sarah billowed down the aisle on John’s arm. My eyes met his. Our pain united. Rather than joy, sorrow trickled from our eyes.
you will always be:
My first child
what a love you are.
Three years passed. Three years of Dean’s affairs, his ugly narcissism, and systematic emotional demolition of Sarah. Until today, when Sarah struggled through our door, juggling a suitcase and a newborn. We welcomed her with arms open and a smile.
In bed, I pondered the recovery Sarah faced. If only she had listened and changed her mind three years ago. If only…
Dear God! I jerked up. What if I had peeled my own protective shell and completed Sarah’s gift? What if I’d read her the lyrics beforehand? Would that have made a difference? Oh God, what if…?
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