Life was so divinely orchestrated yesterday, I felt like I was a character in a movie. First I attended the funeral of a good friend who at 76 passed away last week. She shared my love of Jesus, was a model of childlike faith, perseverance, and how to be a loving spouse and mother.
I first met Dottie five years ago when we each were teaching religious education at our parish, she taught in one of the first grade classes and I in the other. Our friendship began in earnest though 2 1/2 years ago when her husband was nearing the end of his life.
Dotty instilled in me through her stories of their love and through her own sacrifice what the actions of a mature love looks like. I would listen to her talk about how she viewed her husband, how deeply she cared for him, and sheepishly think to myself, “Hmmmm that’s not how I always am with my husband.”
I found out about Dottie’s passing last Sunday in Mass. Even though I knew she hadn’t been feeling well for some months it still came as a shock. I mourned the loss of my friend. When I found out her funeral would be on my wedding anniversary though, I smiled.
Seventeen years ago yesterday I pledged to love, honor, and cherish, my husband Kevin, in good times and bad, till death do we part and for the first time in 17 years it looked as if Kevin and I were not going to be together on our anniversary.
Our oldest three boys and Kevin were scheduled to be on a retreat for Catholic Boy Scouts. Kevin was one of the arrangers of this retreat weekend which at one point had its date changed due to a scheduling conflict and somehow the fact that the rescheduled date was our anniversary weekend didn’t click with him till it was too late.
Any other year I would have let anger get the best of me over this, but by the grace of God this year I didn’t. I let it go, I let God handle it. Instead of being together on our actual anniversary, we planned that I would head over to the camp (about an hour away) the next day on Sunday for an intimate Mass in the mess hall. It would be something fun to do with the four little ones still with me and I wouldn’t have to try to wrangle them at Mass by myself.
On Friday as Kevin and our older boys were packing up to go, I felt melancholy. I knew it wasn’t “that big a deal” but I was sad that I wouldn’t see him on our anniversary. Trying to make sure I had all the info for Sunday, I asked him what time Mass would be at. He checked his email and he said the Mass was changed to Saturday afternoon. I would see him on our anniversary after all.
My friend Heather was so kind to come over to watch the boys for me on Saturday morning so I could attend Dottie’s funeral. Dottie always dressed to the nines for Mass often wearing elegant hats to complete her ensemble. I tried to honor her in the black and white sundress I wore. I hunted down a curling iron in a drawer it has sat untouched in for years, to give my hair a little lift too. Dottie’s is the first funeral I have attended in Vermont for a friend in the 11 years I have lived here.
I sat near her usual spot. I sang the hymns, praised Jesus, looked up at the statue of The Risen Jesus that was so close to Dottie’s heart, felt her presence, and remembered her… Afterwards at a local Inn I had the opportunity to meet and talk to two of her three children and a few of her grade school friends. I was able to tell her children how much I loved their mom and that her life made an impact on mine.
As I drove back home after the funeral, time was running short for making it in time for the Mass at the Boy Scout camp. So when I arrived, I thanked my friend for watching the boys, got them packed up in the car, grabbed a few snacks, and our wedding candle (I thought maybe the priest could just have it lit at the altar or something). I didn’t really have time to change so I just slipped on a pair of sandals instead of the heels I had on and we headed off.
I drove our big 12 passenger van over the hills of Vermont in and out of rain, the sun sneaking out here and there, following my directions to the camp. I pulled up as Kevin was walking the dirt road to meet us. Normally I would have felt self conscious to have been wearing a fancy dress to a Boy Scout camp, but this day I didn’t, I was just happy we made it in time and happy to see Kevin.
The first thing that Kevin told me as we pulled up, after “Happy Anniversary!” was that the Mass was going to be said in honor of Dottie.
While driving the winding way through the country side of Vermont over to the Boy Scout camp I was thinking about our marriage and about how I had dealt with the little bump of not being together on our anniversary and how even though it hadn’t been easy for me I had given Kevin grace for it and a few other moments like it lately. And I thought how different that was from so many bumps we have had in the past, and felt in my soul that not making a big deal about it gave us a peace instead of stealing it and gave Kevin a true feeling of love and me the opportunity to practice the “action” of love. I thought to myself about how our marriage has grown and how I was excited for our future married life together and how this was just the beginning…
As we were getting out of the van I mentioned to Kevin that I brought our wedding candle. I watched as he took it over to the priest to explain that it was our anniversary and to ask if we could have it on the altar during Mass or something.
Instead the priest suggested we use it in a ceremony during Mass where we renew our wedding vows.
Jesus took me from the funeral of my friend and a mentor in marriage to this humble scout camp where I would end up renewing my wedding vows. And just to tie a bow around the whole event with Kevin dressed in his uniform and I in my dress… we were even dressed for it. Our 7 sons and the other adults and boy scouts there watched as we again pledged to love, honor, and cherish, each other, in good times and bad, till death do we part, with Kevin’s eye glistening at me through his smile just like he did 17 years ago.
Jesus you orchestrated it all…
How could I have ever doubted you?
Dottie, may you rest joyfully for eternity with our risen Lord and your husband Ed. Thank you for your friendship and your witness and Happy Anniversary to Kevin, my partner, my husband, my friend.
Sending you all love as the sun peaks through the clouds while driving through the winding hills of Vermont,