A Strong Faith
*******For those of you who have read my short story titled Greater Love this is the story told by Jonathan. He goes into much more detail about things that went on, but then again he had more to tell. :)*******
My parents were killed in a car accident when I was sixteen, so I moved in with my uncle. When I was eighteen I got a job at a lumber yard, and that is where I met my best friend, David. Not very long after that my uncle had a heart attack and died, leaving me alone with no relatives. I felt really lonely in my uncles big house (he had left it to me since I was his nearest relative) so I sold it and moved into a small apartment. I was still pretty lonely but at least I didn't feel like I was being swallowed up by the emptiness of that big house. I really missed having a family, and I think that David knew that because he would tell me all about his. He talked the most about his little sister, Laura, and about how close they were. He said that when they were little they would get into trouble for playing tricks on their older sisters, Judy and Amanda. Apparently they didn't have the same appreciation for jokes and teasing as David and Laura did.
David tried several times to have me over for dinner, but I was taking collage classes online after work so I never had time to, even on the weekends, and then I had an attack of Chronic Bronchitis. When I finally got mostly over the bronchitis and finished my classes I went home with David for dinner one evening.
Laura wasn't there because her older sister had just had a baby boy, and Laura was staying with her to help take care of her little neices and nephews. I was really disappointed since I had heard so much about her, and I had really been looking forward to meeting her. David must have seen how disappointed I was because when I left he walked me out to my car and said "Don't worry, she's coming home next Tuesday and I'm planning on having Mom invite you back for dinner next weekend." He gave me one of his big bear hugs and then I went home to my apartment. It felt so lonely after being with his family, and my apartment didn't feel very homey.
On Wednesday when I went to work David met me with a note from his mom, and it was an invitation to eat dinner with them on Friday. I looked at David, and he laughed at me. "She'll be there," he said, "And she's cooking. You are in for a real southern meal. Don't tell my mom that I said this, but Laura's fried chicken is way better than Mom's."
I sent a note home with David after work to tell his mom that I would be there Friday evening. I couldn't wait! It felt like the days would never go by before Friday came around. On Thursday David told me that his two older sisters were going to be there on Friday, too, so I would get to meet the whole family. That made me a little bit nervous, but I wouldn't have admitted that to David for the world. He definitely would have teased me about that.
The next morning when I woke up it was Friday, but of course that makes sense since the day before was Thursday. I was really excited and extremely nervous. Why am I so nervous??? I kept thinking to myself. This is ridiculous.
I pulled into the driveway and put my car in park. I craned my neck, trying to look at my hair in the rear view mirror. I couldn't get that one little curl on my forehead to comb back. It looked ridiculous. I realized that they were probably wondering what was taking me so long to get out of the car, so I pulled my seat belt off and opened my door. I really hoped that David or his mom would come to the door because if anyone else did (anyone else as in Laura) it would be awkward. I walked up the porch steps and across the deck of the two story house, but before I could knock the door was thrown open and Laura was standing there. She smiled at me, and it made me not feel as nervous anymore. I smiled back and said, "You must be Laura."
"Yes, how did you know?"
"David talks about you all the time, and he told me what you look like."
She grinned at me while she quoted David, "Wild curly red hair and a lop-sided grin?"
"Yep," I laughed, "And he said that your eyes are always sparkling as if you have a beautiful surprise in store for the person you are talking to."
At that she looked slightly embarrassed, and I felt kind of silly. Then David came in and gave me one of his bear hugs. “How's your throat?” He asked me.
“It feels a little bit better, but it sure seems to be taking it's time at getting over that attack of Bronchitis I had last month.”
David's mom called something from the kitchen, and Laura asked me what I wanted to drink. I got some sweet tea and then we joined the rest of the family, and I was introduced to the sisters and their families.
Tha fellowship that night was wonderful, and it was so hard to tare myself away. I finally got up to leave at about 12:30, but they wouldn't let me go 'til I had promised to come back whenever I wanted. I made the promise and everybody seemed happy about it. David walked me out to my car, and Laura waved from the kitchen window. I waved back. David looked at me and said, "Well, what do you think about her?"
"I like her," I said.
"Is that all, 'I like her'?"
"Well, I like her a lot. I think she's great!"
"That's better," he teased, "when are you going to talk to Dad?"
I laughed. "I figured that you would understand. I am going to wait until I know your family a little better before I talk to him."
David sighed. "I guess that is a good plan. I hope everything works out! I really want the right to call you brother."
I knew I could trust David not to say anything about our conversation to anyone.
I got in the car and headed back to my apartment. It filt kind of lonely there after being part of a family for several hours. I sighed. "David was right; it is wise to wait a while..." I read my Bible and prayed for an hour before going to bed. I asked God to give me wisdom, and asked Him to help me know for sure if Laura was the one for me. I also asked that if she wasn't God would help me to be content, and ended as always with "Thy will be done."
Two or three weeks after I met Laura David invited me to gohome with him after work on Thursday, and stay 'til Monday morning when we went back to work. I was thrilled with the offer so I accepted. It was such a special time, just getting to know Laura and her parents better, and growing even closer to David. I started spending every other weekend with them like that, and after praying a lot I made the decision to join their reformed family-intigrated church. I even started calling Mr. and Mrs. Shey "dad" and "mom". By this time I really felt like Laura was the one for me, but I hadn't talked to her father yet. For some reason I felt kind of nervous. I finally decided to buck up and do it so on Friday, the 18th of August, I asked her dad if I could talk to him after dinner. I was so nervous that I was sweating really bad and I felt like I would buckle over when I stood up. "Dad?"
"What is it, Son?"
Man! It felt so good to hear him call me "Son". I had missed having a dad for nearly five years until I adopted Mr. Shey.
"Well, Sir, I wanted to, uh, talk to you about, about,"
"Yes?" His eyes were twinkling, and I could tell that he knew what I was trying to ask.
"Sir, I would like to ask your permission to court your daughter, Laura." It felt good to have it out. He laughed at me and said, "Her mother and I have known that this would come up sooner or later, and we are perfectly willing, as long as she is. I'll ask her about it after you go to work on Monday, and we'll make sure you know what the answer is when you come back Friday after next."
"I don't know how to thank you, Dad!"
He gave me a bear hug, and I knew then that was where Jonathan got the habit. It was a good habit to have. It felt like years between then and the Friday after next! I spent a lot of time on my knees, asking God to give me grace, strength, and peace.
It was Wednesday, two days before I would go home with David and "learn my fate" so to speak. I was feeling pretty tired and my cough seemed to have gotten worse. I was starting to get irritated about it because since my attack of Chronich Bronchitis nearly two months ago I hadn't stopped coughing. I was in the middle of a coughing fit right before lunch break when David walked up to me. "Jonathan," he said "the boss just anounced that we get to go home early. It's his anniversary tomorrow so we don't have to be back 'til Monday."
"Oh, okay. Do you still want me to come over on Friday?"
"No, actually, I was hoping that you would go ahead and come today."
"I will if you call your dad and make sure that it's fine with him. But wait, before we do that we can go to my place and eat lunch. I think I have a couple of frozen pizzas in the freezer that we can have, if that sounds good to you."
He liked the idea so we took my car and drove to my apartment. While I put the pizzas in the oven David called his dad. He came into the kitchen after he hung up. "He said of course you could come on over, and it was silly to think that you would be in the way or anything. You are just like family! He also said that Laura and Mom are excited about the extra time that they will get to spend with us. So I'll watch the pizzas while you go pack your bag."
I gave David one of his bear hugs and ran into my room to pack my duffel bag. Every couple of minutes I peeped into the kitchen to make sure that David wasn't burning the pizzas. I finished packing right when the timer I had set for them went off.
"Let's eat," David yelled at me, "lunch is ready!"
We ate pretty quickly and then headed home to David's house. I was feeling a little nervous about what Laura's answer would be, and I think David knew because he kept up a stream of lively banter until we pulled into the driveway, and then he punched me in the arm and said, "Don't ever forget that God has a plan to be worked out in everything. Everything."
"Thanks," I said, "I really needed to hear that."
We made our way up to the porch. Laura opened the door as usual and said, "Welcome, Jonathan! Hey David! Mom and I were thinking that we should celebrate the early holiday tonight."
David cocked his head to one side. "What do you have in mind?"
"How does bowling sound?" She looked from me to David, and from David to me. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me. "I'll take that as a yes?"
David and I shouted a "Yeah!" at the same time, and we all laughed together.
After we went inside to get ready for the outing I went to her dad and said, "Well?"
"She said yes. I knew she would because of everything that David had told us about you. He's completely on your side."
"Yeah, he's been really encouraging to me. Thanks, Dad. Are you going to go bowling with us this evening?"
"Of course!" he laughed, "I love bowling. That's how my wife and I met."
"Really?" I was hinting around that I wanted to hear the story.
"I'll have to tell you that story some time. You and I had better go get ready."
I agreed with him so we went out of his office. I went into David's room and saw that he had a surprise for me.
"Do you like it?" He asked. "Laura and I thought of it."
They had put in a bunk bed instead of David's queen sized bed that we used to share.
"Yeah, I like it! That's great, David. Now I don't have to worry about you punching me in the middle of the night when you're having a nightmare."
"Hey man, I only did that once or twice."
We laughed and joked around with eachother while we changed out of our work clothes and into something a little nicer for the outing. Laura had decided that we would go to her favorite Chinese restaurant for supper, wich made the rest of us happy because it was also our favorite restaurant. David and I were secretly glad that she hadn't picked a pizza place since we had just had pizza for lunch.
At the bowling place Laura, David, and I were on a team against Dad and Mom, and after a pretty rough competition we beat them by three points. It was a really fun game, packed full of memories.
At the restaurant we all sat together in a booth, and Laura and I started some of our questions that we had for eachother. We already new that we had the same doctrine, so our questions for eachother were mostly about things like homeschooling, women working in the home, modesty, and what the marriage vows mean.
We agreed that children are a blessing from God, and that using birth control is a sin. God comanded us to "be fruitful, and multiply" not to "have one or two kids and then stop". Lots of people I knew in our own church didn't agree with me on that subject, so I was glad to know that all of the Sheys did.
So our courtship moved on pretty quickly and about two months later on the 17th of October I talked to David and said, "Hey David, you know the kind of stuff that Laura likes, right?"
He looked puzled for a minute. "Well yeah, mostly."
"Then can you help me pick out the engagement ring tomorrow?" I think I must have been a litttle bit worried about asking him to help me, but his answer swiped all of my fears away.
"Sure I can! I had a feeling that you would want my help so I got onto Laura's Pinterest account and looked at her 'ring' board. I memorized all of the ones that she liked the most. Thankfully she had them listed favorite to least favorite."
"Great!" I said, "You don't know how worried I was about finding the right one. Now I don't have to worry very much about that anymore. I am planning on asking her tomorrow evening while we are all out walking."
"Okay. I'll make sure that we walk a little bit too fast for y'all or something. Do you want me to clue Mom and Dad in?"
"Yeah you can tell them tonight. And about tomorrow, we better go early in the morning and say that I'm looking at a car and need your advice."
"That's a good idea since you really do need to be getting a new car. Yours is pretty worn out."
"Yeah," I said, "Maybe I should look at one or two while we're in town."
After a short pause he looked at me and said, "How are you gonna ask her?"
"Well," I said, "I haven't really thought about it yet."
"Are you nervous?" He asked.
"Yeah. A little." I think that was a lie. I was a little more than a little nervous.
"You shouldn't be. I'm sure that she'll say yes."
"Yeah, me too, but I really don't want to seem nervous or look stupid."
"You won't, Jonathan," he said, "God will give you the words, and I'll be praying for you."
"Thanks David. That really means a lot to me, brother."
The next morning we got up at seven and ate a quick breakfast of Laura's homemade granola, and then headed off to the mall to start the search for the perfect engagement ring. We went to the stores in order of which one opened the earliest, and after five stores and nearly three hours of looking at rings without finding the right one, I was about ready to give up. I knew that having the "perfect ring" wasn't the most important part of having a "perfect marriage" (being a marriage founded on Christ) but I wanted to get the one she wanted. We had one more store that we could look in before we would have to go to a different city, so David and I started praying that we would find the perfect ring in this store.
"That's the one!" David pointed at a poster that was on the back wall of the store. Excited, I hurried over to the counter to ask the salesman if they had any of those rings in stock.
"No," he said, "the guy that went out right when y'all came in just bought the last one I am not allowed to sell the one that's on display."
I felt like shouting at him for selling the last one right before I got there, but I knew that he would probably think I was a lunatic, and I also knew that it wasn't his fault, so I decided not to.
"Do you have any other stores that carry the same ring?" David was always the one that could think rationally in situations like this. But then, he wasn't the one planning on asking someone to marry him in a couple of hours.
"Yeah," the salesman said, "We have another store in Leicester. Do you want me to call them and make sure that they have one in stock before you get there?"
"Yes, that would be great."
The salesman made the call and figured out that they did have seven left in stock, so I gave them my name and told them to hold one for me.
It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get from Tryon to Leicester, but it was worth it to me to make sure that I got the engagement ring that was perfect for Laura. We got the ring and then headed back to Tryon to eat lunch, and on the way we stopped at a park-n-sell to look at a couple of cars. I didn't find one that I liked, so we headed back to the house. Laura came out on the porch to meet us and ask if I had found a car that I liked. I told her no and tried to act a little bit discouraged. I guess it worked 'cause she said she was sorry and ran inside to get me some sweet tea.
While I was drinking my sweet tea we (we as in David Laura and I) decided that we should play cards while waiting gor Mom and Dad to be ready to go on a walk. We played Uno attack for about forty-five minutes and the they were ready, so we headed off into the backyard to walk through the pines. Mom and Dad walked ahead of us until they were pretty far ahead. David Laura and I walked to gether until David ran ahead to look at "something". I'm not sure what the "something" was, but I'm pretty sure that it was fictional. Laura and I talked for a minute or two and then paused. It felt awkward for a minute or two, and then I said, " Laura, our courtship has gone really well, and so far we have been on the same page in all of our questions. Do you have any more questions for me?"
She thought for a minute and then shook her head. "No, Jonathan, I can't think of anything else. Do you have any more questions?"
"Yes, I have one more: will you marry me, Laura Elise Shey?"
"Yes. Yes, Jonathan, I will."
I remember thinking how beautiful she was while I put the diamond ring on her finger; beautiful on the inside and on the outside. We stood still for a moment while I prayed and asked God to bless our relationship together, and I asked that He would be glorified through our marriage. After I prayed Laura prayed and thanked God for bringing us together and asked Him to help all of the wedding plans to go smoothly.
After we finished praying we ran to catch up with the others and tel them the news, which wasn't really news to them since David had already clued them in. Everybody was really happy, and Laura and Mom were crying, but Laura said it was happy tears. Dad asked me if I knew where we were walking to, and when I said no, I didn't, he said, "We are walking over to your new place, if you and Laura are willing to take it as an engagement gift from your dad."
We were both very willing, and glad to have a place near Mom and Dad. We spent an hour or two walking around and talking about plans for the house, and then we headed back home.
The next day was a Saturday, so we decided to go out for pizza and ice cream, and then of course the next day was Sunday so we had church. We anounced our engagement right after the service, and everybody seemed really happy for us.
Monday morning David and I left for work. On Thursday right before we got off of work Laura called and said that if I agreed, she and her parents thought that I should go home with David every weekend now instead of every other weekend so that we could work on wedding plans and house plans. I agreed that that would be wise, so before we headed home, David and I went to my apartment so I could pack a bag. On the way home I stopped at a flower shop and bought Laura a bouquet of red roses. Thankfully David didn't see anything about that to tease me for, although he did grin at me when I pulled up to the shop.
Laura really liked the roses, and ran to put them in water right away. In the evening we started calling building contractors, and then we called some more on Friday. We finally called a friend from church that had built his own house and had planned a couple other houses. He came over Saturday afternoon and we started some plans for the house. It took us about two or three weeks to get the house plans the way that we wanted them, and then we hired a building contractor to start the work. While we were working on the house I noticed that my cough was getting worse and I was starting to have chest pains a lot. I was also getting really tired and out of breath a lot, even when I was taking it easy. I was getting pretty concerned about it so I told Mom and asked her what I should do. She suggested that I go to a doctor and get my lungs checked, so I got an appointment on the upcoming Tuesday. I called my boss to ask for a half day off for the appointment, and he said that that was fine.
At the appointment the doctor did some tests and asked me a lot of questions and decided to do a CT scan of my lungs. He told me to come back the next Tuesday for the results, and then I went to work. My boss said I could have the next Tuesday. On Tuesday morning I went back to the doctors office to get the results from the CT scan. The doctor looked really serious when I sat down in his office.
"Mr. Howard," he said, "you have lung cancer." He told me that the cancer had spread outside of my lungs. He also told me a bunch of other stuff about what type I had, and what my life expectancy was, and then he gave me some papers before I left. I remember feeling like I was in a daze and I couldn't really think straight for a few minutes. I got into my car and drove to a park so that I could walk around for awhile and try to clear my brain. I did a lot of thinking and praying, and then I went home to the Sheys to tell Mom what the results were. I talked to her in the kitchen for a while, and she cried when I had told her everything. She called upstairs to Laura and told her that I needed to talk to her. I remember that as she came down the stairs into the livingroom that she was humming the bridal march and that she looked very happy. She laughed as she came down the last couple of steps and then when she got to me she looked up into my face. I guess that she could tell that something was wrong because she suddenly got serious and said, "What's up, Jonathan?"
"We need to talk," I said, "You wanna take a walk with me?”
She looked at Mom, and Mom nodded.
"Yeah," Laura said, "just let me run upstairs and grab my sweater."
She looked at Mom one more time and ran up the first three steps and then turned around and looked at me.
"I trust you," she said, and then ran the rest of the way up the stairs, two steps at a time.
A minute or two later she came back down wearing her favorite sage-green sweater, and we headed off down the path towards our house.
We walked on side by side for a minute or two in silence while I tried to think of how I should tell her. Finally I decided to just tell her the truth, plain and simple. There really was no way to break it to her easily.
"I have lung cancer."
She gasped, and then drew a deep breath, "Is that all? I thought there for a minute that you changed your mind about marrying me."
"Listen, Laura. You don't understand. I waited too long to go see why I wasn't getting over my attack of Bronchitis and now it has developed into lung cancer. I have a type called bronchoalveolar cell carcinoma, and it's terminal.”
“But if you have that type can't you get a lung transplant?”
“They only do in very special cases, but my cancer was caught too late and it has spread, so no.”
She turned pale and shuddered. "How long do we have?" She asked.
I thought for a minute or two before answering. Then I finally said, "Laura, I'm not going to ask you to go through this with me. I'm letting you out of the engagement."
Now she started crying, sobbing out loud.
After she stopped she lifted her head and looked me in the eye, and I will never forget what she said to me. She said, "No. It took two to make the engagement, and it will take two to break it. I love you. When I said I would marry you, I knew that marriage would be a sacrifice. I didn't necessarily know that it would be this kind of sacrifice, but I knew it would be a sacrifice. Jonathan, even if it's going to be terrible, and I might be scared, I'm not gonna jump and run and leave you to suffer by yourself." She swallowed another sob before she continued. "The Bible says, 'A greater love hath no man than this; that he lay down his life for a friend.' I love you so much, and I would give anything to suffer in your place. Please, Jonathan, please let me do this! You didn't answer my question. How long do we have?"
I had to wipe away a few tears before I could answer. "We have five months at the most."
She thought for a second and then said, "Okay, let's get married this Friday instead of waiting 'til December 21st."
"But Laura, that only gives you three days to get everything ready."
"I know, but I don't want to waste a single minute."
We turned and slowly made our way back to the house. Mom was in the office talking to Dad when we came in.
"Well," Dad looked at both of us. "What did y'all decide?"
I explained that we had decided to get married on Friday instead of waiting. He seemed to understand that it had been Laura's idea because he looked at her with an expression that said "That's my girl!"
Mom had some doubts but Laura cleared them all away by telling her a bunch of the ideas that she had come up with to make things easier. David agreed with us one-hundred percent.
Laura kept on telling some of her plans and asking her parents to call certain people and I was lost in thought until she said "I'm gonna call Judy and Amanda, and maybe their two little girls can be flower girl and ring-bearer."
That really confused me. I said, "I thought that ring-bearers were supposed to be boys!"
"Yeah," she said, "normally they are, Silly, but that doesn't mean that girls can't be ring-bearers. And besides, I don't have any older nephews, only nieces."
I made a silly face at her and we laughed. It was so wonderful to laugh with her after all of the stress that I had been through that day.
"Staying for dinner?" She asked me.
"Yeah, the boss let me off for today 'cause of my doctors appointment."
I sighed when I remembered the outcome of the appointment. She smiled reassuringly at me and said,
"Honey, don't worry about anything. God has a plan for us, and even if we don't see it or don't understand it, it's still perfect for us because it's what God wants for us. He promised not to test us above our abilities, so that means that if it seems too hard it's because we are depending on our own strength instead of God's. So come on! I'll race ya to the mailbox!"
We ran wildly through the door and down the long driveway to the red mailbox. I beat her there by about five seconds, but neither of us could run very fast because I was short of breath and she was laughing like a carefree two-year-old.
We went inside for supper and while we ate we talked over more wedding plans. After dinner we sat around talking for awhile and then I got up to head home. Before I left David came up to me and gave me one of his special bear hugs and said to me, "Jonathan, never choose to bear a burdan alone when there is someone who is more than willing to bear it with you. Laura has a strong faith and a loving nature, but even if she had been willing to let you bear this burdan on your own, I never would have been. I love you, brother, you mean a lot to me. And make sure that you come over good and early on Friday so that I can spend some time with you, too."
I had to choke back some tears before I could answer him. "Thanks, brother," I said, "I love you too. And I'll be sure to be here early on Friday, and if you would like me to, I will take you out to lunch on Friday so that we can have some one-on-one time."
He liked that idea, although I'm sure that Laura would have loved to come too. But I knew that David missed our special times, even if he didn't ever complain about it.
Laura walked out to my car with me, and while we were walking out I said, "Thanks for all of the encouraging words today; it gave me a whole different outlook on everything. Oh and thanks for that other thing, too." I grinned at her, and she looked puzzled.
"What 'other thing'?"
"For calling me 'honey'. I love it!"
"What are you gonna call me in return?"
"How about Pumpkin?"
"Your kidding, right?"
"Of course I am, Dear!" I laughed at her and she shook her head at me, frowning playfully.
"You'd better get outta here and get some sleep, big boy."
"Yeah, I guess so. 'Bye, Dear!"
"'Bye, Honey. I love you bunches!"
"Love you too!"
She waved at me with her left hand, and the moonlight made her engagement ring sparkle. I caught my breath, thinking about how beautiful she was, and remembering what David had said about her: "a strong faith and a loving heart". Yeah, she had faith alright! She had a stronger faith than I had. I was a terrible "doubting Thomas" and I still am, but I think that is why God gave me Laura, because she makes up for my lack of faith with her abundance of faith.
I spent all of my spare time in the next two days packing up my stuff and cleaning out the apartment, and on thursday we decided that I better not try to go to the Sheys as usual so that I could finish packing. I took David out to lunch on Thursday, and he spent the night with me. Before we went to bed I decided to call Laura, and if I remember correctly, this is how the conversation ran:
"Hi! Umm, I wanted to call you and make sure that you aren't going to regret this."
"Regret what? This phone call? 'Cause I will regret it if you waste your time trying to talk me out of marrying you tomorrow. It won't work! I mean, trying to talk me out of marrying you tomorrow won't work. So don't even try it."
"Okay. I sure picked a good one! I mean, I couldn't even get rid of you if I tried."
"Oh, so now you're trying to get rid of me? Seriously, do you think I would ever give up on you?"
"No! No way! You are the most wonderful woman I have ever known. I love you so much that I can't even begin to tell you. No words will explain it. I was just praying and thanking God for you before I called. Why would he pick such a wonderful woman for such a sinner like me? It's just mind-boggling."
"Wow. I had no idea that you thought of me like that. It's so sweet to hear you say that. Hey, I want to apologize to you for being kinda take-over-ish about everything. It's not my place to boss people around, you're the boss."
"Of course I forgive you. But really, there's nothing to forgive. You haven't been bossy at all, except for when you said you would marry me when I tried to let you off, but if you hadn't put your foot down there I don't know what I would have done."
"Jonathan, you're making me cry because you're so sweet. And Honey, that's not a good thing 'cause I'll look terrible tomorrow if I don't stop."
"Are you kidding me? You would look terrible anyway."
She laughed and then we kept on talking for awhile, and didn't hang up until one in the morning. David and I stayed up talking until about three in the morning and then got up at 7:00 and headed over to the house. We got there at 7:30, so Laura and I spent half an hour reading the Bible and praying together before the ceremony. At eight o'clock Dad walked Laura down the staircase and gave her to me, and that was the first time that we held hands. At about 8:30 I kissed Laura for the first time, and then everybody went into the dining room to eat the wedding breakfast.
After the breakfast Laura ran upstairs to put on a different dress, and then she threw her bouquet. A friend of hers from church named Lacey caught it, and I elbowed David in the ribs. "Is that the girl that you told me about last night?"
He grinned. "Yep."
"I thought so."
I hugged David, and then I went to hug Mom and Dad before Laura and I left for our short honeymoon. Because of my work we could only have until Monday morning. We had a wonderful honymoon at a small inn near the lake, and we came back Sunday morning for church. After church we went home to our own little house. While we were gone, David had gotten some friends from church to help with the finishing touches in our home, and when we went in there were gifts for us piled on the kitchen counter. Among them was a card from my boss, giving me the next week off, and a weeks worth of pay. That was probably the best gift that we had received. We felt so loved. All of our friends had remembered us with gifts and special notes, and we both cried over them all. We did a tour of the little house, holding hands the whole time.
We spent that first week together taking long walks, and just talking and laughing. We started a tradition of having someone over for dinner every Friday, and we loved the fellowship. We still do.
After the first week I went back to work, and when I opened up my lunchbox there was a note in there from Laura with a scripture verse and a loving message. She would put little notes in my lunchbox every day, and she still does it now.
Every evening when I got home she would run out the front door shouting "Welcome home!" And she would kiss me and ask me how my day went, and then we would go inside for supper.
One evening when we had been married for two months, she met me at the front door with a white envelope in her hand. After I kissed her I asked her what she had in her hand, and she told me that I would have to catch her to find out. She took off runnimg into the house and I chased her all over it. I finally caught her when she tried to dive over our bed and held her down.
"I caught you," I said, "now you have to let me see whatever it is."
She laughed and taunted me "Not until you pay me for it!"
I kissed her and then she handed the little white envelope to me. I opened it up and inside was a small piece of paper that said, "Happy Father's Day!" on it. I looked at Laura, slightly puzzled. "Is this some kind of a riddle? Or wait... are you trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me?"
She nodded vigorously and then I kissed her again.
"Aren't you excited?" She giggled like a twelve-year-old girl. This was one of the very happiest days of my life. We started planning how we would decorate our baby's room, and painted it together. We had David and her parents over for dinner the next Friday and told them all about it. We were all so happy.
And then I started getting even worse. I started feeling a lot more tired in the evenings, and I got to where I didn't feel like eating much. My favorite thing to do in those next days was to sit on the porch swing with Laura, and hold her in my arms. I went into the hospital on the four-month anniversary of our wedding. Our church friends came to visit me a lot but I liked it best with just Laura, or with Laura and our family. I just wanted to be with the people that I really loved because I knew that I didn't have much longer, and every second counted.
I don't remember a whole lot from when I was in the hospital because I was on a lot of meds and I slept a lot. I do remember that one day I was sleeping and in my dream God told me that He would see me someday, and that He loved me. I thought I was dying so I made myself wake up and tell Laura goodbye. I remember saying to her, "Laura, I love you so much. Never forget: 'a greater love hath no man...'" and then I guess that I fell back asleep.
I don't remember a whole lot from the next day or two after I told Laura goodbye but I do remember that sometime after that they took me in for a CT scan, and then after that I woke up from a nap and heard Laura telling David something about a miracle and crying. I thought that I must have gotten worse, and then I fell asleep. About two weeks later I was rushed off for some type of surgery, I didn't know what because I was to groggy to understand everything that Laura and the doctor were saying to me. I do clearly remember that right before I was rushed off for the surgery Laura kissed me. After the surgery Laura told me that there had been a miracle and that God had taken away the cancer that had been outside of my lungs, and the doctors had thought my case was critical enough for me to be high up on the list of people that were waiting on a lung transplant. She said that another miracle happened because I got a donor so soon after being put on the list. About one month after my surgery our son, Jonathan Russel, was born. Two months later David came into my hospital room and told me that he was engaged to Lacey, and asked me if I would be Best Man. Of course I said yes. I was so excited for him, and Laura was too. Lacey came the next day and asked Laura if she would be her matron of honor and she excepted. David and Lacey were planning on getting married about a month after I got out of the hospital so that I would be rested enough for the festivities.
It was a beautiful wedding. I felt so honored to be standing next to David. Of course, I had always known that he would want me to be his Best man, just like he had always known that I would want him to be my best man.
David and Lacey built a house right next to ours, and we see eachother almost every day. It was a blessing to have our six children grow up alongside their seven, and I don't think that we are quite done counting yet because Laura gave me another little white envelope yesterday evening when I got home from work.
Nearly every day Laura reminds me of our verse, and every day I praise God for giving me a wife with such a strong faith. Now I had better go because I need to tell David that I'm about to catch up with him.