Judy’s short story about our first meeting with God’s surprising twist:
A Change of Heart*
Two hundred eyes watched the dark oak swinging doors soon to open. “Here Comes the Bride” was surely the next number in the humble piano’s prenuptial medley in this little country church in America’s heartland of rural Illinois.
Pestering the eager expectancy, like the summer fly that whizzed from pew to pew, was a latecomer. Definitely not the bride. Trying to look inconspicuous, in hustled, the preacher’s daughter. Aided by metal-stilt braces, to give height to her midget-size stature, the seven year old stood tall, sort of. But the entire church knew the unhideable truth. Under the pink dotted swiss dress were malformed legs and feet with five toes instead of ten and inside the white cotton gloves were eight fingers.
“She was born that way,” is what they said.
Yet, as always, JudyAnn’s confident countenance, belying her buck teeth, begot a sanctuary full of honest-to-God smiles. Bittersweet smiles. Twas the freckled-faced boy with aquamarine eyes who, with the voice of silence, thought the truth that no one dared to utter: “Pity the man who marries her.”
“God Bless the Bride. God Bless the Groom,” chimed the bell from high up in the white clapboard belfry that joyfilled day in June, 1952.
Many a bride came and many a bride went through that vintage oak frame doorway during the lifetime of the little white country church. But the bells pealed their loudest and proudest in June, 1968, as folks from as far east as New York and as far west as California gathered to witness the wedding of the preacher’s daughter.
Standing tall in her “they look so real” artificial limbs, she resembled a princess bride in her white dotted swiss gown with its six- foot-long train. Radiating from behind the European lace veil was her perfect smile. Teardrops of wonder dampened cheeks, and souls clapped their hands as two hundred eyes followed the bride, step by step, down the starched ivory wedding carpet. With one pearl-sequined glove secure on her preacher-father’s strong arm, Judy Ann leaned her other hand on her daisy-decked cane. Arm in arm, father and daughter threw invisible kisses to a thankful mother in the front pew.
As the “Wedding March” ended, two hundred eyes contemplated the venerable groom, now a grown lad whose freckles were no more. But his aquamarine eyes were riveted on his bride and his heart, with a change of tune, subvocally sang this new song: “There are many fine women in this world but you,my love, are the best of all.”
*A slightly modified version of Judy’s story was recently published in the book A Cup of Comfort for Weddings – Something Old, Something New under the title “The Best of All”. See other books in the “Cup of Comfort” Series