From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Two Fathers and a Bride

Remembrance is the only paradise out of which we cannot be driven away.

Jean Paul Richter

My daughters were ten and twelve years old when their father died. Among the shattered dreams was the reality that some day they would marry the men of their dreams, and their father wouldn’t be there to walk them down the aisle.

My husband, Gerry, was a motorcycle officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the spring of 1990, my worst fears were realized when he was hit by a car while driving the police bike. His injuries were extensive and included multiple broken bones, lacerations to his face, arms and chest, massive bruising and a severe brain injury.

Our girls, Myriah and Dale, braved the turmoil like little soldiers, though it wasn’t easy for them. When Gerry first came home from the hospital, the girls understood that he wasn’t able to go outside and play with them, or take them fishing in the creek, or help them with their math and reading as he had done in the past. But as the weeks progressed and then turned into months, it was harder and harder for them to comprehend. Then five months after the crash, he died at home of a heart attack.

After Gerry died, I doubted that the possibility of feeling joy would exist again. But it did. Within two years, I met and married Lyle, a wonderful man with three beautiful children. It was wonderful to be in love again, and the girls and I were thrilled to have a new family.

For the next ten years, the kids kept us busy with school, activities and all the usual trials and tribulations that go along with raising children. We eagerly assumed full responsibility as mother and father to all five of the children. Still, in the back of my mind I knew that one day, one of my daughters would take that special walk down the aisle of a church. And no matter how much Lyle loved her and did what he could to be a father to her, a void would remain because Gerry could not take her on his arm and walk her to the man of her dreams.

As expected, the day finally came when Myriah and her boyfriend of five years announced their engagement. Wedding plans consumed our days and our nights for the better part of the next eighteen months. All the while, I remembered the dreams Gerry and I shared of him escorting the girls on their wedding day—her wearing a magnificent gown and he fully adorned in his dress uniform of red serge, boots and breeches.

As the wedding quickly approached, I realized how sad I felt about Gerry not being there to participate. I knew, even after all these years, this sadness was as much about my pain and sorrow as it was about my daughter’s. I was grieving that I would not dance with him or watch him waltz her around the ballroom. In reflecting on my feelings, I was astounded with an incredible idea for a beautiful ritual to include him in her wedding ceremony.

The day of the wedding was drenched in sunshine. Leaves of red and gold scattered, colorfully blanketing the ground. As I sat at the front of the church excitedly waiting for the spectacular event to begin, the harpist plucked away at the strings of her instrument. Soon, the wedding march commanded our heads to turn.

First down the aisle came the two flower girls and the ring bearer. Following them were the bridesmaids and my younger daughter, Dale, the maid of honor. Immediately following her marched Nathan, my brother, who was a sheriff, and next to him was Amelia, a close friend and officer that Gerry had trained, both wearing their official dress uniforms. Nathan carried the folded Canadian flag that had adorned Gerry’s casket at his funeral, and Amelia held Gerry’s Stetson hat. They reached the front of the church and reverently placed the hat and flag on a white pedestal. They turned to face Myriah and Lyle, as he walked her down the aisle.

When the bride’s shoes made one final click on the shiny tile floor at the front of the altar, the officers raised their arms in a magnificent salute. At that moment, when their gloved hands graced the tips of their hats, I knew the hearts of two fathers beat as one.

Janelle Breese Biagioni

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