22. The Wedding Gift

22. The Wedding Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The Wedding Gift

At the end of the day, a loving family should find everything forgivable.

~Mark V. Olsen and Will Sheffer, Big Love, “Easter”

The alcove in the church where my fiancé and his best man stood with the pastor was trimmed with polished oak panels and white walls. The last rays of light from the setting sun shone through the stained glass windows. Members of my bridal party milled about. Their chatter about tomorrow’s events drowned out whatever the pastor was saying.

Tomorrow was the big day and I was sure to be nervous, but for now I felt relaxed. The church door opened with a squeak and light from outside flooded in. Everyone’s attention turned to the new arrivals. I stiffened. This was the part I feared the most.

I greeted my father and stepmother as they took a seat in the last pew. My mother had an amused expression on her face. My parents had been divorced for twenty-one years. They had the type of divorce where they communicated with each other as little as possible, and there had been no communication at all for the last six years.

My mother had promised me she would be kind, knowing how important it was for my father to be a part of my wedding. It was my stepmother I worried about. We had our struggles as a stepfamily in the six years we lived together. I struggled to accept her role in my life and resisted her attempts to teach me responsibility and accountability. I felt she favored my stepbrother over me, as all the chores were dumped on me. Despite old feelings, I wanted her included in the festivities and even politely insisted that she be escorted down the aisle to be seated with my father at the wedding.

The rehearsal at the church went without a hitch and the dinner that followed went just as well, even though my parents somehow ended up seated across from one another. Still, I slept in spurts that night as unanswerable questions haunted my thoughts. Would family photos at the church be awkward? Would my parents end up seated near each other at the reception because there was no assigned seating? Would my father leave the reception early?

The next day brought a flurry of activity and rushing around. Before I knew it, I was standing in the doorway of the little church with my father by my side and a full audience awaiting our walk down the aisle. He gave my hand a squeeze and we both started to cry. I knew then that everything about that day was going to go just right.

After the ceremony, my husband and I stood by the doorway greeting our guests. My mother and stepfather stood with us, thanking everyone for coming. I braced myself as my stepmother approached. How was this going to play out?

What I got instead was the best wedding day gift—forgiveness. Smiling from ear to ear, my stepmother embraced my mother in an enormous hug and told her what a beautiful wedding it was. I was speechless. My mother was dumbfounded. Everything about the gesture was genuine. Twelve years of hurt melted away as I watched her reveal her true self in an act of humility.

Forgiving her for every injustice I felt as a kid and filling my heart with love allowed me to let go of the past and embrace my future with my new husband. That chapter in my life ended on a good note.

The family photos turned out great. My parents sat at tables next to each other, and it wasn’t a problem. And my father stayed to the end.

~Valerie D. Benko

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