42: Wedding Vows

42: Wedding Vows

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Wedding Vows

To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.

~Hopi Indian saying

“Mom, Dad, we’re engaged!” The words flowed from my son Jeffrey’s lips. The announcement was not totally a surprise; we had known he had bought a ring for the love of his life, Katie. We were happy and pleased that Katie and Jeff were going to get married. As we prepared for the wedding and its attendant events, such as the shower, the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, the only thought that gnawed at me was that I wanted to walk down the aisle at church and dance with Jeff at the reception. Truthfully, though, it was more than a thought. It was a goal, a promise, and a vow that I had made to myself many years earlier.

More than twenty years following spinal-cord surgeries that had paralyzed me from the shoulders down, I was able to walk with a walker because of years of physical therapy. Six months prior to the engagement, I developed severe foot pain that doctors could not diagnose accurately or treat effectively.

What was I going to do? It was hard to reconcile my long-time goals with my current reality. I had to come to terms with the very real possibility of going down the church aisle in a wheelchair and foregoing my dream of dancing with Jeffrey at the reception.

I began to counsel myself. “It’s no big deal, really. There are many more important things that I should concern myself with.” In the grand scheme of things, this was barely a blip on the radar screen of “Things to Worry About.” But despite my best efforts, there was no way to convince myself to give up on such a long-held vow. In some ways, trying to get to that place where I could accept less than my goal only made me that much more determined to achieve it!

I made an appointment with a foot surgeon. He advised me to try physical therapy and stretching exercises for my foot before going the surgery route. I did the stretching exercises religiously, and it felt slightly better. But with the wedding only a couple of months away, would my foot improve enough for me to walk down the aisle?

Of course, I had other things to worry about as well. There was shopping for my dress, planning, and sending invitations for the rehearsal dinner. I cry at weddings as a matter of routine; it is part of who I am. So getting on an even keel emotionally was important so that, during the ceremony, I wouldn’t be doubled over, sobbing heavily into a soggy Kleenex. Ah, so many problems and so little time to worry about them!

But topping the list was walking down the aisle. I first mentioned it to my husband, Walter, who advised: “Instead of worrying, why not see how you do at the rehearsal? That’s why they call it a ‘rehearsal.’” I couldn’t argue with that logic, but me being me, I still worried.

One week before Christmas and nine days until the wedding, the day of the rehearsal had arrived! As we turned into the church’s parking lot, my nervousness gave birth to a whole new generation of the butterflies that had plagued me all day. Now was the moment I had both anticipated and dreaded at the same time. Now was the time for me to “do or die,” win or lose, succeed or fail. All of my efforts to be able to walk down the aisle would be worth everything or nothing, depending on what happened in the next few minutes.

In the church, we were greeted by Katie’s parents as we waited for the bridal party to arrive. Walter pushed the wheelchair to the back of the church so that it was even with the last pew. I gazed down the aisle; it looked very long, almost intimidating, that evening.

Originally, the plan was for Jeffrey to stand at the front of the church. He spoke to our priest and asked if he could walk down the aisle with Walter and me instead. Father John was happy to oblige. So it was settled; the logistics were in place. Now it was up to me.

On cue, with Walter and Jeffrey on either side, I stood up. Slowly and carefully, we made our way toward the altar. We stood briefly to practice lighting a “unity candle” and then we went to the front pew. We made it! I made it!

The next nine days flew by. It was Jeff and Katie’s wedding day! We entered the church, which was resplendent in red poinsettias. A massive number of butterflies fluttered inside me. I waited in place with Jeffrey and Walter. The music started; I remember how easily I got out of the wheelchair! Before I knew it, we were at the altar, lighting the candle.

One vow kept, more to follow...

Katie looked beautiful as she walked down the aisle. She and Jeffrey stood a few feet away from us as they clasped hands and began their vows. When Jeff repeated “... for all the days of my life,” I thought of all the times he had helped me through the difficult days of recovering from spinal-cord surgeries and the pep talks he gave me during my physical therapy sessions. I knew he would continue his caring ways with Katie, and I knew then that he would keep his promise to her and she to him. That gave me great comfort, and I managed to stay relatively composed — another vow kept!

But, still, I wasn’t done.

At the reception, after we were introduced, it was time for the dances. I cried through their wedding dance, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Jeffrey walked over and clutched my hands. “Do you want to dance?”

Tears sprang to my eyes. “I’d love to.”

He helped me up. We swayed to the strains of “That’s What Friends Are For,” a song that Jeffrey, at age four, sang for me when I was still in the rehab center. It quickly became and has remained my favorite song.

I looked up at my beloved son, Jeff. I told him how much I love him and how proud I am of him. He kissed me on the top of my head and said, “Mom, I am so proud of YOU!” I couldn’t stop the tears this time. The dance was over soon, too soon.

Thrilled beyond words that I was able to walk down the aisle, stay composed through the ceremony, and end the wonderful day by dancing with my son, I truly know the deep sense of satisfaction and elation that accompanied those achievements.

Whether vows are made with family and friends as witnesses and pledged to your soul mate or made in private to the innermost part of your soul, they are promises to be kept.

~Donna Lowich

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