“Mom, what would you say if Scott asked your permission to marry me?” Emily asked, as she placed two teacups on the kitchen table.
I stopped pouring the hot water into the teapot, put the kettle down, and turned to her.
“I would ask him if he loved the Lord, his God, with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength—and if he loved you enough to grow very old with you.”
Four years ago, Emily had asked me, “What will happen when I get married?”
Now that question needed an answer.
But we didn’t try to answer it right away.
For weeks, we focused on selecting the date, the dress, the bridesmaids, the church, and the location for the reception.
Finally, one day I got brave enough to voice the question I knew we both had been asking ourselves.
“Emily, who do you want to walk you down the aisle?”
“I am going to do that thing you told me about.”
“The wedding I saw on TV?”
“Yes, the one where the bride started at the back of the church with no flowers, then had different men who had been father figures in her life hand her flowers as she came down the aisle. And then you can tie all the flowers together with a ribbon.”
“Who are you thinking of asking?”
“Definitely Poppy, and I’m still figuring out the others.”
She eventually asked my dad (Poppy), her three uncles—James, Arend, and Ken—as well as two friend uncles, Doug and Tony.
We referred to them as the “flower men.”
As the date for the wedding approached, we thought better of calling them the flower men in the worship folder. We set out to find a proper term. After investigating various words, we chose escort. The true definition of the word escort was ideal: one or more persons accompanying another to guide, protect, or show honor.
We included the definition, and a beautiful piece Scott had written, in the worship folder which served a double purpose. It identified the escorts and their significance—and also addressed the elephant in the room.
“In honor of the memory of Bruce Van Hine, the father of the bride, we acknowledge the fact that, while Bruce could never be replaced, God in His grace has provided Emily with men who could stand beside her in love to honor, protect, and guide her in place of where her father would have stood. That is why they stand here today: to, in some small way, point to Love’s ability to leak into the cracks and lead us from a brokenness we were never meant to endure toward wholeness.”
* * *
Each man stood in the aisle holding two white calla lilies which they gave to Emily as she walked forward. The only thing we hadn’t anticipated was they would want to hug her which caused her veil to fall off before she had even made it halfway down the aisle. But it didn’t matter.
When Emily reached the front, I tied her flowers with a ribbon, hugged her, and then kissed her on the cheek. It was beautiful, symbolic, and perfect. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church.
Any tears I wept that day weren’t out of sadness but out of pride for who Emily and Scott were, and gratitude that God had supplied a way when there seemed to be no way. The ceremony and reception were all Emily and Scott hoped it would be.
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