Thursday, March 29, 2012

Unfortunately, There Will Be No Icons of This Man....


(I think I've reposted someone else's stuff once in 800+ posts.  This is the second time.

This is a story retold with permission from a friend, slightly edited to protect identities. His Dad is a retired minister who sometimes does weddings for people on the fringes of society.)

My Dad drove into this apartment complex that he said looked very run down.  The people, mostly white (which in the poor part of our town essentially means a meth problem instead of a crack one), looked rough.  He gets to the apartment where the wedding is to take place and nobody is parked out front and there is no activity there.  He calls the mother of the bride several times and there is no answer.  He decides to wait until 15 minutes after the wedding was supposed to have started.

About 5 minutes after the wedding should have been going, the mother of the bride shows up.  She is drunk.  She lets him in the apartment.  The place is a dump and not decorated for a wedding.  Some neighbors start bringing over folding chairs.  In about 20 minutes time there are maybe a dozen people there.  The groom shows up and is introduced to my dad.  He's in his early 50s and very quiet and somber.  

Eventually the bride comes downstairs into the living room and dad said that she looked like death - extremely pale, skinny, just like a meth head, and appearing very nervous, in a wrinkled dress, and perhaps in her late 20s.  

Dad didn't know what to think.  She had a three year old daughter who was the only person there remotely dressed for a wedding, in a flower dress.  The child ran around the living room, around her mother, around my dad, taking toys to show him and being generally interruptive throughout the ceremony. Dad goes through the usual no bells and whistles ritual and notices that groom and bride both look awkward and uncomfortable around each other. 

When it comes time for the bride and groom to kiss, they don't.  Dad prods them several times, and finally the groom quickly kisses the very awkward bride on the cheek.  At this point dad is getting a little nervous.  He is not sure, perhaps there is something nefarious going on here.

After the wedding was over and the paperwork was signed, the groom walks out the door and goes into another apartment a few doors down.  Dad doesn't see him again.  In a few minutes there are only 4 or 5 people left, all family of the bride.  They hand dad a tip in addition to his normal $150.00 wedding fee, which is notable in itself because more than half of the weddings dad does are for the elite in extravagant settings. The few times dad has ever been offered a tip it has been after doing a wedding for the other half.

The small cohort that remains begins drinking and dad chats up the grandmother of the bride.  She, a world weary early 60s-ish lady who tells dad that she owns her own laundromat, has a long cigarette hanging from her lips and is more than a few drinks into the day herself.  Long-cig Grandma gives dad a careful looking over and then tells him what it was all about.  

The bride has stage four non-hodgkin's lymphoma.  She has no insurance.  The apartment complex did a little BBQ fundraiser for her and it only raised a few hundred dollars.  The 50 something neighbor, a loner who doesn't talk much, was at that event.  Afterwards, when they were cleaning up the paper plates and empty beer cans, the man approached the mother and grandmother of the sick girl.  He works at the railroad and has excellent insurance.  He says that he knows that he will never marry again, meaning not under normal circumstances.  He offers to get legally married to the girl so that she gets insurance - no questions asked, no expectations, he said any bills sent to him wouldn't be much and he would take care of them - no relationship or sex or money or anything else in return. 

Long-cig grandma says that upon hearing this they thought it was too good to be true, surely he is after something, and if not he is crazy to take the risk (as dad put it "in her world this act was not only unfamiliar, but insane" - no one gives without expecting something in return), but the family checks him out, verifies that all that he said was indeed the case, gets the sense that he is not crazy and that he is telling the truth, and approves the marriage.  Long-cig grandma finishes telling this to dad with a chuckle to the craziness of life, and perhaps realizing that "telling" was not on the program for the day, she asks dad if he has a problem with that.  Dad responds "Ma'am, you got the right pastor today."  He hands back the envelope with the tip, saying that he can't take it.

This town is such a bitch and a whore most of the time.  But this reminds me of the line from the old Buddy & Julie Miller song,  "Letters to Emily" –

 Well, I've gone wrong, but still I know sometimes God serves the best wine up right from a paper cup. 

May that man's love toward that woman be rewarded at the table where Abraham sits.

                                                             

17 comments:

Fr Allan said...

LOVE it!!! Thanks for sharing. I'm passing it along.

discourse said...

Lovely.

David T said...

I'm speechless. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Maxine said...

Lovely, and may God bless this wonderful man. But. Infuriating that this is what it takes for her to get the health care she needs.

Matushka Anna said...

So many things like this happen on the fringes where no one sees or no one has eyes to see.

todd said...

Fortunately, this man is an Icon.

Anam Cara said...

This reminds me of CS Lewis married Joy Gresham, who was 17 years younger than he, to keep her from being deported from England after her husband abandoned her and their sons, and she was discovered to have cancer.

God bless this man for the wonderful thing he has done for this young woman. I wonder if in time he will grow to care for his three-year old step-daughter and also help support her when her mother is gone (as CS Lewis raised his step-sons).

While we will all not be called to marry someone to help provide for them in an illness, each of us is called to do what we can to alleviate suffering. This man is an example for the rest of us.

Drewster2000 said...

Yes, wonderful reminder of the good that still exists in this world. Thanks for harvesting these excellent gems.

ofgrace said...

Okay, well, that makes the tears well up! Thanks, Steve.

Ian Climacus said...

Thank you for sharing this. May God bless all the saints in the world who do so much, unseen and without fanfare.

Noël Joy Plourde said...

OK, man, you've earned your tip today.

V and E said...

Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

PS: I've missed you on FB!

Anonymous said...

Wow.

j w said...

this story reminds us that there are Saints outside the known walls of the Church

Dixie said...

By far your best "How to do Lent" example. Thanks for this.

JimmyGilley said...

This is so beautiful.. Just think if only all Christians could Love just half that much how different our world could be..

http://tayaradio.com/blog/index.php/love/tangible-love-thats-for-the-missionaries/

Brent said...

I am on one of those journies . . . a journey into Orthodoxy. I was responding to a post at Experimental Theology this past week and someone told me to seed out your blog. I read Father Stephen's blog and find that your blog is a good addition for balance. Anyway . . . I really like your blog . . . and I really like this posting. Oh yea . . . and you're crazy man! Crazy!! And I love it!