I sat in the passenger seat of my car as Grant drove down the long oyster shell road that led to his dad’s memorial marker in the Beaufort National Cemetery.
It was August 21st, the day before our wedding, and Grant had planned a special memorial service in honor of his father. It was the first time all of his family had been back in Beaufort since the first memorial service that was given for his dad the year after his plane crash.
Grant had just flown in from Japan the day before.
The two months of summer between our trip to Alaska and our wedding had been really busy for me.
It had been a stressful and wonderful summer all at the same time. It was stressful when I thought about all that needed to be done in preparation for our wedding and my new life with Grant, but wonderful as I saw God work out all the details for everything.
I felt overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity that so many people from our church showed my family. There was no way to properly thank everyone who offered to help.
From the flowers, the food, the music, the invitations, the photography, the cake, and even down to the young people who offered to be servers at our reception, the kindness of our friends was more than we could have imagined. And I could go on and on.
I knew that our wedding was going to be wonderful because of all the people who were giving of their time and talents.
And I knew that I didn’t deserve any of it.
But the beauty of all those things could not compare with the excitement I felt over the vows that Grant and I were about to make to one another.
I have always felt that the aesthetic adornments of a wedding find their true beauty when they are not ends in themselves, but when they are reflections of a deeper beauty.
And that deeper beauty was the covenant that Grant and I were about to make before God. It was the answered prayers of our parents. It was our thankfulness to God that He had been preparing our hearts for one another long before we ever knew it. It was a day to acknowledgement His perfect gift of giving us each other, so that we could serve Him together.
I so wanted our friends and family who attended our wedding to sense that deeper beauty. I wanted them to feel God’s presence at our ceremony. And Grant and I both wanted every aspect of our wedding day to point to Christ – the One who had saved us and given us a purpose for living.
Because of that, Grant and I put a lot of thought into planning our ceremony.
One thing that we are extremely thankful for is that both sets of our parents have marriages that reflect Christ and that they have been faithful to the vows that they made on their wedding day (including Grant’s dad, Kelly, and his father now, Preston).
After much thought, Grant and I chose to use the same vows that my mom and dad had written for their ceremony when they got married in 1980.
We also chose two “special music” songs for our ceremony. The first song was one that Grant and I had both grown up loving. It was Keith Green’s “Make My Life a Prayer to You.” When I was a freshman in college, I had written out the lyrics to this song as a prayer in the front cover of my Bible.
When Grant and I were dating, he told me that he used to listen to that same song over and over again in high school. The song became even more special to us when we realized that God had used it in both of our lives separately.
We also chose a song that was been sung at my parent’s wedding called, “I Could Never Promise You.” The song speaks of how we can never love one another in marriage the way that we should without Christ’s strength.
We were also including something in the ceremony that was important to us in another way.
It was Grant’s father’s wedding band. It was the band that his mom, Susan, put on Kelly’s finger on their wedding day in 1983 when they promised to love and be faithful to one another until death parted them.
When they got married, I know neither of them ever imagined that death would visit their marriage so soon. But it did.
But even in three short years of marriage, Kelly and Susan demonstrated a life of faithfulness to one another and to Christ.
I knew Grant was honored and excited to wear his dad’s wedding band, even now, 23 years after his death.
Grant and I had already engraved our wedding date next to his parents on the inside of the ring.
It was a reminder to both of us that we were to love one another until death separated us.
I looked over at Grant as we were nearing the end of the oyster shell road that led to his father’s memorial marker.
I could see that the cars of most of our family members were already parked under the giant live oaks that grow throughout the cemetery.
Grant parked the car. We sat there for a moment.
“Are you okay?” I asked Grant.
“Yeah, I’m fine. This is just a big day for me.”
Grant was serious and I could tell he was holding back emotion.
“GraceAnna, I know God took my dad to heaven for a reason, but sometimes it’s hard. I just wish he could be here.”
Grant and I both smiled, knowing that we wouldn’t be in the cemetery if his dad were alive, but I knew what he meant. He wished his dad could be there for our wedding.
Of course, Grant doesn’t mean that he would want to change anything about his family life now. He has the best family in the world, but it doesn’t mean that he somehow wishes that his dad could be here.
“Grant, your dad would be so proud of you. I know you are going to honor him today in such a special way. And in doing so, you will honor Christ. I’m praying for you.”
“Thanks, GraceAnna.” Grant took a deep breath and opened the car door.
To be continued . . .