Today is the sixth anniversary of the day that Vanessa and I were united in Holy Matrimony.
The email I sent out to close friends and family said:
Unless you are very prompt about checking your email, by the time you read this, we will be married. It's scheduled as a stealth event (no invites, etc) just after the 5:00 PM service at Liberty Church.The reason for the elopement?
Vanessa and Pat
Except for our church family, and one or two of our bio-family, we were catching great big gobs of resistance, and some astounding roadblocks. I think most of it was well-intentioned; people didn't want us to 'rush into things.' They didn't want us to have to face the rigors of living as a mixed race couple in the south. There were some SERIOUS questions about my health, and my ability to provide proper parenting to Kenneth and Alicia, who, at ages 6 & 5, were starting first grade and kindergarten. Yeah, got that; we had spent a LOT of time working on those issues, and if we didn't have answers at that point, we at least understood that we were going to have to come up with them in the course of things.
Some of the objections weren't well-intentioned at all, and those we just disregarded. With regret, often, because they came from people we loved, but we were mature adults (58 & 51), and we realized the futility of trying to please people who weren't interested in being pleased except on their own terms.
Wanna know a secret?
I've saved every bit of correspondence Vanessa and I have ever had with each other, from the very first contact on Christian Mingle, the internet dating site where we met. For an anniversary present (first? second? we don't recall) I printed it all out, and gave it to her, sorted and boxed up.
And, in the process of looking for a wedding picture to include, I happened to read some of the last exchanges before the wedding.
I had forgotten the rather frantic negotiations that took place in the days immediately preceding the wedding. I had forgotten just how desolate I was, BECAUSE we had actually scheduled the wedding for July 9, we had some almost unbelievable family/friend induced drama in the two weeks leading up to the wedding, and I finally called it off with just days to go.
It kicked the guts right out of both of us.
From the beginning of our courtship, we had been seeking (and receiving) counsel. We studied books together, listened to teaching tapes, and followed carefully the program of study prescribed to us by our pastor. So, when the wheels came off, we didn't have to work hard to find help & bring them up to speed. Even so, it was crushing to both of us.
I felt like I was going to die, but was afraid I wasn't.
We took a break from each other, and continued to work with our pastor (and our APPROPRIATE friends), for a month.
I've looked at some of our writings from that period, and it would just break your heart, IF you didn't know that the story has a happy ending.
The ONLY good part about it is that it makes me truly grateful for today. Because we DID resolve those catastrophic issues, and we DID agree to continue to work with each other, and with informed counsel when needed, it's amazing how far we have come together.
I remember that guy, I remember his pain, and the thing that touches me the most is how little hope he had for the future. Can't blame him, really; this is a guy who lost his health, his career, and then his family, all in the space of a few weeks. He sat in a chair for three years, and about all he could do was breathe in, and breathe out. And, when he had the energy, when he breathed out, he said the prayer: "Jesus, save."
That's all he could do.
So, he was used to failure; he was used to enduring. He wasn't used to joy. So, when the light dawned, in the person of this wonderful, radiant, godly woman, it was a new experience. And when it collapsed, he returned to his chair.
"Jesus, save." Because he had no hope now, and not much experience of hope from the past to draw on.
Here's the deal: Sometimes we change because we feel the heat, not because we see the light. So, the last thing that guy wrote, six years ago, was this: "I can't stand the thought of living in the dark any more."
And he went on, and got stronger, and he became me. I walk without a cane, today, and I've lost 40 pounds of belly fat, and I exercise regularly, and I make it to church on time, every week.
And now you know why I refer to Vanessa as
My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA.
Peace be on your household.