Excerpt a from my book, ”The Promise”
February 27, 1971
I want everything to be perfect today. My friends are all around me fussing like fairy godmothers, wanting to make me and my simple wedding into something magical. But no one seems to know what to do with me, and all I want is to be alone so I can fuss over myself.
I make a clean getaway by telling them I need to use the bathroom. As I sit on the edge of the tub, looking around, I wonder how this ugly bathroom ever became the little oasis it has been for me.
Standing in front of the mirror, I push my hair back so I can get a good look at my face. Pausing for a moment, I meet my own eyes in the mirror. God, I know You’re somewhere inside there. You’ve always been with me, and if I hadn’t felt you there all these years, I would have never been able to hang onto your promise. Here we are. Today’s the day I marry the man of my dreams. I know I have a lot of hard roads ahead of me, but at least I’ll have Tommy walking beside me, and You will always be at the center of our love like the glue that binds us together. How can I go wrong with two strong forces in my life like You, God, and Tommy?
When I come out, my friends are waiting. They like what I did with my hair, but still, have to touch tuck, and spray, so every piece of hair is in place. Another friend holds my unzipped dress so I can step into it. My maid of honor, Mary Faith,
puts the mantilla on top of my hair, pinning it in place. I look at the friend who’s been there for me through the worst of times. It’s been five years. She never judged, was always honest, upfront, and sincerely cared, but most of all, she never gave up on me. If it hadn’t been for her telling me that Tommy was the best thing that ever happened to me, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of her right now. I think she knows from here on out I’m in good hands. Maybe she’s relieved in a way that she won’t have to pick up the pieces of my life for me anymore. “It’s getting late,” she says to me, “it’s time to go.” She’s not a touchy-feely kind of person, so when she smiles at me, and I smile back at her, we know the fondness we feel in our hearts for each other. No matter where life takes us, the memories of these teenage years, we share will always be with us.
“We have about ten minutes to get there,” Dad says, looking at his watch. “Thank goodness it’s only around the corner,” I say to Mary Faith as we dash toward the car.
“Connie,” I hear Sue’s voice in the back of us. “Look here.” I turn and smile when I see her snapping a picture. I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, turning to say, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.
Father Lawrence pauses for a moment as we sit for his sermon.
“All these readings are about Love. Of course, it is appropriate to talk about as we join these two in holy matrimony. But I have to say in the short time ‘I’ve had a chance to get to know Tom and Connie. There is an understanding of love between them that goes beyond their years. What struck me the most in our conversations was their understanding of unconditional love. There is a pureness to the word where one loves with their whole heart, their whole soul, and their whole mind. There is no condition for how I feel about you; there is nothing you need to do to make me love you. I love you for who you are. I give it freely. But when two people come together in holy matrimony, they become one. Entering into a bond of commitment that comes with the promise of expectant love. Now we are no longer looking from our point of view, but from the view of the one, we love. Will you love me in sickness as well as health, and through the years of growth and change, even when I am old and gray. These are the conditions of marriage, and yet in your commitment, you still offer to love each other no matter what. It is as simple and yet complicated as following the Way, the Truth, and the Light. There is no expectancy in love because all we can do in love is give and receive. So, those who go into a marriage with the idea that ‘it’s a 50-50 proposition will only find themselves fighting over who did what the last time of equal value. If you must put a number on it, then give 80% by doing the best you can and let the 20% fall where it may. True Love gives without condition because that’s what it’s designed to do. The only condition that God asks of us is to love one another as he has loved each one of us. To do onto your brother as you would want to have done onto you. I know it sounds so simple. In truth, it is until we let our pride get in the way. Marriage is not about your way or my way. It’s about finding common ground that brings two people together as one. It’s only the beginning of your love story, Tom and Connie. There will be many ups and downs yet to come; it’s all a part of growing into a deeper love for one another. I pray that you always see the blessing of God’s promise that has brought you here today and that you will create many happy memories of lasting love in the years to come.” Tommy and I look at each, smiling because Father Lawrence found a way to fit the promise God made to me into his words today. He did it in the form of showing us that that promise will carry through into our new life together now. It all feels so unreal to me. Too good to be true. The kind of thing I would dream about to escape from the bad that was happening in my life. I don’t want anyone to pinch me for fear I’ll wake up and find out that none of this is real. Standing before us, Father Lawrence says, “Since you intend to enter into marriage, join your right hands and declare your consent before God and one another.” Tommy and I turn toward each other. We join our right hands and then our left as well. I look up at him, and he smiles down at me. Everything around us disappears, including Father Lawrence. We hear his words but only see each other standing face to face surrounded by light.
Tommy leans over to me and whispers, “Did I tell you how beautiful you are yet today?”
“All I know, Tommy, is that you’ve made me the happiest girl in the world. Thank you for loving me the way you do.”