It’s a morning wedding. A simple one. There is Spanish moss in the trees. The birds are out. This is John’s first marriage. He’s forty-five years young. It’s the biggest day of his entire life.
And I forgot a wedding gift.
This is his cousin’s hunting land, a place John thought would be a perfect spot for a shindig. He was right.
John’s new wife has two kids. Boys. They are pure energy, but well-behaved.
John has no family at the ceremony. No mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins. There are only two older men standing for him. They are wiry and weathered.
They used to work on oil rigs with John. He calls them the only family he’s ever had. They treat him like a sort of son.
The bride’s family is in attendance. They are salt-of-the-earth folks. Khakis and button-downs, cotton dresses. Simple.
“I look forward to being a dad to her boys,” says John. “I grew up without one, I know how bad kids need a father.”
John knows a lot more than that. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. It was bad. He went through surgery, chemo, nausea, hair loss, weight loss. The works. He’s been in remission ever since, but it’s changed him.
“Scared the you-know-what outta me,” says John. “Now I wake up each day and think, ‘Man, is it gonna come back?’ It plays with you mind.”
She is the picture of loveliness. She was married once before. Her husband left her. She and her boys moved in with her mother.
John was working on a concrete crew, laying a driveway for her mother’s rental house. Her kids befriended John right away.
“He was all they could talk about for days,” she says. “I thought, geez, I’d better get to know this guy.’”
She asked him to stay for supper; John sat at her table that very night. This woman is fast.
“She surprised me,” says John. “Ever since my diagnosis, I kinda thought life was over. I mean, no woman wants a single, middle-aged guy with cancer. But she proved me wrong, I mean, ’cause here we are.”
Here we are.
The kids stand between John and his bride, underneath a tall oak. They are wearing neckties. When the preacher gets to the do-you-promise-to-love-hon
“We do,” they all say.
The reception is tame. It’s on the porch of the cabin. There is sweet tea and casseroles. Someone bought chicken tenders from Winn Dixie.
One of John’s friends stands, removes his cap, and starts a prayer. He has special words written for the occasion, but he changes his mind. He decides to wing it.
He closes his eyes.
“Dear God, thank you for my friends, we are grateful you let them find each other…”
Amens from all.
“Thanks for coming,” John says to me. “It’s weird, I’ve been smiling since last night. This whole day has gone by fast, I kinda wish I could write it all down so I don’t forget.”
I think I understand what you mean, John.
Consider this a late wedding gift.
Dolores Fort - May 31, 2017 5:44 pm
Beautiful! Never give up hope!
jamie - May 31, 2017 6:01 pm
Such a beautiful, simple, and meaningful ceremony. Surely worth more in spirit over a choreographed, catered affair costing way too many thousands of dollars.
Susan in Georgia - May 31, 2017 6:55 pm
Ah…such a sweet story and your gift to John & his bride is absolutely perfect.
Elizabeth Haymon - May 31, 2017 6:57 pm
I absolutely adore this wedding gift! Such a treasure!
Kathryn - May 31, 2017 7:10 pm
I never thought I would find love again either – but there we stood outside under a pavilion in Alaska – with just the minister and the bar tender at the nearby restaurant for witnesses – pledging our vows to one another. It was magical. It was so much sweeter and more meaningful than a giant spectacle wedding with hundreds in attendance. It was priceless.
Sam Hunneman - May 31, 2017 7:52 pm
Utterly perfect. “We do” got me. May you bring each other blessings and joy each and every day.
Jack Quanstrum - May 31, 2017 8:07 pm
Beautiful, wonderful, we’ll written, captivating, and I could go on and on. I felt like I was there at the wedding. You have done it again Sean! Brought me a gift of being grateful, thankful and at peace with myself and the world around me. Amen!
Lynda - May 31, 2017 8:21 pm
Thank you for pointing out the small things in life that are really HUGE! I’m passing on your column to everyone because we need it. Thanks again.
Michael Bishop - May 31, 2017 9:22 pm
Sometimes life has mulligans. This simple wedding seems like a do-over for a passel of blessed folks. Your thoughtful wedding gift will surely own a place in all their hearts. Thank you for letting us all eavesdrop on the ceremony.
Paul E. Click - May 31, 2017 10:55 pm
Ain’t it great? A good story needs no embellishment! Ours is kinda like John’s–we found each other about 5 years after being widowed. Married 10 days later. That was 11 months ago. Life is good!
Thanks for your stories!!
Janet Mary Lee - June 1, 2017 12:48 am
You being there sounds like a present. Your column was the icing on the cake. I am fixing to say what hundreds say to you. I always love your column. I always tear. But this one? I am flat out bawling. Oh Sean..Bless this family, and yours…
Dana Durden - June 1, 2017 12:53 pm
I envision every story you write, like a mini movie in my mind. I love that my daily minis are real stories about real people. Thank you for the gift, Sean.
Yvonne Searcy - June 2, 2017 10:13 pm
Loved the story
Yvonne Searcy - June 2, 2017 10:16 pm
Very heartwarming story.. First one I have read. Thank you
Connie - July 4, 2017 2:36 pm
Beautiful. As a divorced person in her 60’s, I often feel it’s too late, that my life is destined to be without a partner at my side, but you share hope.
Janet Mary Lee - July 5, 2017 4:41 pm
Connie, I hear you. I am a divorced person in their 60’s after 40 years of marriage. Hope is a good thing! But make your life beautiful. We deserve it. With Hope we need to have Gratitude, Understanding, and Forgiveness, and a Recommitment to life. I am in debt to divorcecare.org and I have a better Partner who will always be at my side and never leave. Thank you, Jesus!
Sometimes with the best priorities come the best times!! To Hope, and sureness!
Anonymous - January 28, 2018 10:29 am
A lovely story of hope for this almost 60 yr old grandmother. Married 35 yrs. Divorced 4 yrs. No retirement. He left one week after his dear Dad died, inheriting a boat load of money, but I had been watching his phone and his plans with his girlfriend. Most of his children have turned their back on God because a child gets their first picture of God from their dad. It was a sad picture of mistreatment of preaching it and not living it. So I’d like to find a good man who would even father my adult children, just to be kind and do life together. Is like to have in my golden years what many have taken for granted. Thank you for a glimmer of hope
A special wedding gift | Biker, Books and Yarn - January 28, 2018 12:35 pm
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Susie Byce - January 28, 2018 12:48 pm
“We” do. ?
Angel - January 28, 2018 1:17 pm
There is so much beauty in the simplicity of it all. Nothing extra to take focus away from the important matters.
Joyce Anne Bacon - January 28, 2018 4:42 pm
Sounds much like my wedding. I was 17…he was 19. And here we are 62 years later…still together.