44: Gaining Not Losing

44: Gaining Not Losing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Gaining Not Losing

A son is a son till he takes him a wife; a daughter is a daughter all of her life.

~Irish saying

Honestly, my attitude was in the toilet. I had the dubious honor of playing “Mother of the Groom” for the second time in six months. The first wedding had been fraught with emotional volcanoes, causing singed feelings to rumble beneath wedding number two.

I had already empty-nested both my boys, respected their privacy and relationships, and had given advice only when asked. But it felt a lot like rejection. After all, I had invested into my sons’ lives every ounce of love, patience, wisdom, and energy I possessed. I felt I was about to watch another bride and her large, close-knit family swallow the rewards of my life’s work and leave my husband Bob and me abandoned by the roadside. I prepared for the June event in Rhode Island with a perpetual lump in my throat and gritted teeth.

We planned a get-acquainted party at our New Jersey beach house before the week in Rhode Island, since the two families had hardly laid eyes on each other. I was to drive from our home in south Florida on Memorial Day weekend to open the beach house and arrange catering, etc., in New Jersey. The night before I left, I had a quick conversation with Fran and Jim, the bride’s parents, and quipped that I would wave at about 10:30 as I passed through Jacksonville, Florida, on my way north.

“We’ll wave back!” they chuckled.

At 5:00 A.M. Sunday, I climbed into my big white cushy Lincoln Town Car, kissed Bob goodbye, and zoomed off into the sunrise. I had the huge trunk crammed with wedding gifts, clothes for cool and warm temperatures, my computer and printer, plus miscellaneous decorations for the party. Two large framed prints wrapped in a beach towel took up the back seat. As the sky brightened into a classic Florida sunshiny day, my mood became darker as I thought about what I perceived as my impending loss. I’d sacrificed a career for my kids, had been the confidant, the encourager, the tutor, the coach, and the chief cook and bottle-washer for almost thirty years… roles that would of necessity become those of the new wife. I envisioned a future of lonely Christmases and long-distance grandparenting, years of polite correspondence, and arms-length hugs.

I approached Jacksonville as the holiday crowds convened onto a stretch of road construction, where five lanes became three. Without warning, a little sports car on a right merge cut into the right lane, pushing a car halfway into the middle lane. The resulting crunch of four cars into three lanes at sixty miles per hour sent me speeding toward the median strip and directly at the metal guardrail. I swerved left to avoid the rail, which caught my rear right wheel. It hurled my car into a deadly spin, turning over twice, and landing upside down with a deafening crunch.

I hung by my seatbelt with a soothing music CD still playing, grateful the airbag hadn’t deployed. I carefully wiggled fingers and toes, moved various body parts, and exclaimed “Thank you, Jesus!” several times before I realized voices were calling me outside the car.

“Are you alone?”

“Are you hurt?”

“Can you get out?”

A bevy of good Samaritans listened to my directions and forced the passenger side door open. I released my seatbelt, stopped the music, gathered my purse, glasses, shoes, and overnight bag (all scattered and covered in glass on the car ceiling), and squeezed through the half-submerged door to cheers and clapping. Although my neck hurt, I did not even have a scratch, but my beautiful car was scrunched to half its original height.

Someone asked, “Is there anyone you can call? Your husband?”

“It’s 10:30!” I laughed. “He’ll be in church for the next two hours. But I have the number of some folks in Jacksonville.” I prayed Jim and Fran would be home.

“Hi, Jim, it’s Lynne,” I said as he answered the phone. “Remember how I told you I’d wave when I got to Jacksonville? Well, I’m here, but I just totaled my car on I-95!”

“We’ll meet you at the hospital,” he said as the paramedics strapped me to a body board and whisked me into the ambulance.

Within a few hours, Jim had retrieved all my stuff from the wrecked Lincoln, Fran had installed me in their master bedroom, and I had discovered warmth, hospitality, and friendship that dissolved my in-law fears. We really were going to become one big family when our kids married.

Miraculously, not one item packed in the car was damaged, even the framed pictures on the back seat! The accident should have snapped my neck and killed me, but a strained neck muscle was the extent of my injuries. Only a small, carved olivewood cross hanging from the rearview mirror suffered a tiny broken corner of the cross-piece. It is now suspended from the rearview mirror in my second Lincoln Town Car. That little cross from Jerusalem reminds me that the plan for my life can be revealed in upside-down circumstances and be completely unlike anything I could imagine. Fran, Jim, Bob, and I truly celebrated at our children’s wedding (which could have been a funeral) and have since welcomed two adorable grandchildren together. The blended family relationships have extended our family’s blessings rather than ending them.

I have amended the old saying about losing your son when he gets married. I would change it to:

Your son is your son when he finds him a wife. Their marriage can bless you the rest of your life.

~Lynne Cooper Sitton

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