, Port Arthur, Texas


September 27, 2012

Loved one’s spirit lifts wedding weekend

We just returned from a wedding in San Francisco. The Groom was the eldest son of my best friend who died last year. She and I bonded in Sister Mary Ellen’s ninth grade classroom sharing miniskirts and makeup. During our teen years, I spent more Friday nights at her house than my own. When I ran short of funds in my last semester of college at UT, it appeared I would have to delay plans for graduation. My roommate at the time, Shelly wouldn’t hear of it. She arranged for a loan from her parents and we finished up together.

While I have known her oldest son since he was in the womb, I didn’t meet Patricia, his bride, until just a few years ago. It was during our second meeting that I saw her true strength and character. When the doctors informed us that, short of a miracle, there was no hope for Shelly’s recovery from a massive brain aneurysm, we clung to each other like life rafts on a stormy sea. Standing in a circle around Shelly’s hospital bed, we held hands and prayed. While we didn’t get the miracle we asked for, Jace and Patricia’s love for each other turned a corner that day. I’m sure of that.

They announced their engagement later that year. I was looking forward to their wedding in San Francisco like a 5 year old anticipating her birthday. However, while packing for the trip, I thought about Shelly and something new came over me. I was sad, yes, but my grief was laced with indignation. The mother of the groom should be here for this! Would her absence pall this momentous occasion?

Then the words of the hospital chaplain washed over me. “As much as she helped you while she was here on earth,” he said, “she will help you all the more from Heaven.” Father Mike blessed Shelly on the day she died as requested by the family “to honor her spiritual beliefs.”  Then he helped us let her go. His encouraging words took some sting from her departure. They offered faith when there was no hope. I clung to his prediction as I boarded the plane heading west.

The weekend began with a rehearsal dinner peppered with love and well wishing. We feasted on salmon and exotic veggies while sitting on a deck overlooking the Pacific ocean. Strung with lights from one end to the other, Bay Bridge twinkled in the background while we toasted our bride and groom.

After Shelly went to Heaven, her first grandchild came to earth. Jace’s wedding was his neice’s social debut. I carried her around for a bit showing guests her polka dot dress and red tights. Rare is the person who doesn’t feel blessed by an infant’s smile. It’s clear she has her father’s eyes, but there was something about how she worked that party. It made me think of Shelly.

My favorite moment of all three days occurred during the exchange of vows. The young couple grabbed hands and faced each other all ready to answer the big question from the minister. Do you take Patricia as your lawful wedded wife to have and to hold from this day forward until death do you part? In a loud voice with a big smile, he proclaimed his commitment: I ABSOLUTELY do!

We laughed at his adlib. An embellishment added to the classic response lifted everyone up. Wait a minute. I recognize that adjective. Shelly ABSOLUTELY spoke in superlatives.

Overall, the wedding weekend was practically perfect. While Shelly was absent physically, she could not have been more present in spirit. For the first time in almost two years, thinking about her did not make me sad.  I wasn’t the only one who came home inspired. The texts started rolling in before we were even unpacked.

Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” That’s where Shelly lives these days. In our hearts. We can carry her with us wherever we go. Sometimes, like this past weekend, she carries us.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at

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