The tears began to well in my eyes as the thick silky white fabric took its shape on my best friend’s frame. And there was nothing I could do to stop them, stop it, stop anything. I didn’t want to, or at least I didn’t think I wanted to. It was just all so sudden; so unexpected for all of us, I thought, as I watched her mom finish lacing up the back of the dress.
We were in a back room at Gail’s house. Gail had tailored Kacie’s dress on short notice for no charge—the least she could do under the circumstances, she’d said. The dress fit Kacie perfectly—as perfectly as a child’s hand in her father’s, as her hand in Ben’s. Her mom said a couple of days ago, when she’d first tried it on it had been too big and she’d cried, thinking this was a problem that couldn’t be fixed—one she’d just have to live with, under the circumstances. Lorrie said it was the only time she’d seen K break down over the course of the five days—well three, really, by the time I’d flown in from Las Vegas and Lorrie told me of the small incident. But it was a small town, and many knew of and understood the circumstances. They all wanted to help, Gail included.
Kacie didn’t break down again. She had started to worry a bit Thursday night when she still hadn’t picked out music for the ceremony, but we pulled out my Macbook and took care of the matter rather easily, actually. Or—it almost seemed—God did. Her mom began to cry as she imagined Kacie walking down to the joyous ballad: 60B by Nancy Wilson, from the Elizabethtown soundtrack. We’d discovered the perfect song, a song that said “this is, indeed, a beautiful, almost frozen moment in time, but still only a moment in time,” for her to walk down the aisle to.
Now it was Friday, and the dress fit, and Gail said “no charge,” and we all said thank you, thank you, thank you Gail. It means so much. We so appreciate you; oh, it looks perfect Gail. She smiled. Lorrie thanked Gail’s husband for giving up the time and company of his wife, that she might make the alterations on the dress. He smiled—his eyes smiled—and he said, that’s okay, but our wheels are holding hands. We looked at one another with confused smiles. He told his joke again, explaining further that Lorrie’s jeep was parked front driver’s side wheel to the front driver’s side wheel of his jeep. We got it. We giggled. Reminds me of a time when a Biola boy told me, on our way into In N’ Out one night after Brown Bag Ministry, that the palm trees in front of the beloved West Coast burger joint were in love. They had grown tall twisting around one another. It was a sweet—albeit cheesy—moment.
The rehearsal and pre-wedding hurrah (bachelor and bachelorette parties) came and went and before we knew it we were at a tres chic hair salon named Panache—meaning “flamboyant confidence of style or manner,” something we all had acquired, in the best sense, by the time we walked out the door into a drizzly afternoon. The owner let us take over for the better part of the morning, and two friends Kacie had made after getting involved in the Grass Valley chapter of Campus Life—a Christian ministry for high school students she and Ben both serve as leaders in—let us use their hands and creative minds to spruce up our hair and faces for the 3 o’clock ceremony. Albeit professionals, “No charge,” Kayce and Stephanie insisted. “Let me do this,” Kayce had emphatically insisted to Lorrie before we sat down for the bachelorette party dinner the night before. “I want to do this. Let me do this.” Overwhelmed to the brink of discomfort at this point with the extent of generosity she’d encountered over the course of a couple of days, Lorrie sighed and smiled.
“Goin’ to the chapel, and we’re gonna get ma-ar-ar-ried,” K, Lorrie, and I sang as Lorrie parked the car, and we jumped out, intent on getting inside the church before the drizzle became more than a drizzle. But Eric needed to take a quick photo with his iPhone. We smiled hurriedly and then made our way to the white-paneled Episcopal chapel. I quickly glanced at the long stained glass windows, grateful there were stained glass windows; grateful they had been able to secure a church to hold the ceremony in on such short notice; grateful my best friend was marrying a man who, in addition to pouring himself into his job as a 6th grade teacher, a volleyball coach, a Campus Life leader, is also a youth pastor at this Episcopal church. Perhaps he is a bit—committed—to a lot of people and activities, but the purpose of these commitments speaks of fine character.
We were directed upstairs to a Sunday school room. Dresses, nylons, last-minute bobbypins, pictures—ones of K and her mom and one of the reflection of the two of them in the mirror. Outside, ones of K and me. Jesse took photos of our upper halves, I secretly held up her train so it didn’t touch the wet ground. (I may as well mention Jesse and Zack, the two photographers, had caught the “flu of free” too. They would only charge for the photos; their time was “on the house.”) Ones of K and both her almost sister-in-laws, and of all of us, and of all of us with the flower girls, and of K and the flower girls separately. Then K and her mom, K and her Grandma Shirley—I adore Grandma Shirley—then K, her mom, and her Grandma Shirley together, then it was much too cold as moderately covered as we were in our dresses, and the drizzle was quickly turning into real rain. K and I, her train in my grasp, scurried under the shelter of the awning and made our way—per the decided direction of the wedding coordinator—to the foyer, to the foyer, to the foyer. The foyer is the place you go before you walk down the aisle. Her hand was in mine. I squeezed hers. She squeezed mine. I, too sentimentally, reminded her I love her—as if this was the end, or some such silly notion. She, of course, told me she loved me back, her heart beating through the hand holding mine. She held up her dress with the other so she didn’t get it wet or dirty as she carefully climbed the cement steps toward the front doors of the church and into the foyer.
“The Same in Any Lingo,” also by Nancy Wilson, started to play. That meant the family had been successfully seated (to “River Road” by Nancy Wilson) and it was the wedding parties turn to make the trek down the aisle. Perhaps I should have slid, or sailed, or floated down the aisle, but I was walking alone, and it definitely felt more like an awkward trek. No stable arm to prop me up I sort of stumbled along in my one-ish inch heels. At least I felt I was stumbling. Nonetheless, I also felt my smile stretching to my ears and the tears—the ones that had welled up at the fitting and continued to well throughout the rest of the weekend—were welling once again. I made it safely to my place beside where the bride would stand and say her vows.
The intro of 60B must have lifted every heart in that chapel the way it did my own. We stood and waited and she entered, smiling, content, holding her dad’s arm, a dogwood flower fixed to the right side of her veil (a display veil, actually, borrowed from David’s Bridal because hers hadn’t yet arrived; though, ironically, divinely, her dress had arrived a month early and just in time). Three pastors later (Ben wanted all three, each with whom he has a special connection, to officiate), they were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Ben Mills for the very first time. I glanced over at Ben’s dad. His smile stretched undeniably wider than my own. Though the doctors had given him only three weeks, at most, to live, Jim had survived the ceremony. The cancer had spread and Ben, Kacie, their families, their friends, the town adjusted to the circumstances. And, in an unexpected turn of events for all, this past Saturday, December 4, 2010, Kacie Fredrickson became Kacie Mills; she was made Ben’s wife.