My niece, Abigail Rachel Tohline, is getting married tomorrow, in Indianapolis, to Keaton Wooden. Sadly for me, I will be absent in body from the proceedings, but in joyful spirit I will be there. . .with bells on. (I should add that even in spirit, I will also be dressed appropriately, as I do not have enough bells on hand to cover all of me, or at least the most strategic parts.)
Abby and I have developed a very close relationship, even though we could probably count on our hands how many times we have seen each other in the flesh. Mainly because our families have never lived in the same state, let alone the same city. We have become such a mobile society in the USA, (and most places, I imagine), that the structure of family relationships has changed a great deal since I was a girl. Until I was 12 years old, I lived in the same city with two of my aunts and their families, and within easy driving distance of my other aunts, uncles, and cousins. My parents never had to find or pay a babysitter. The extended family was a very large part of my life. None of my nieces or nephews have had that privilege. However, the physical distance from each other never dampened our feelings for each other, or severed the family ties that bind. We have always kept close contact with one another. I dearly love my sisters-in-love, and, I love my nieces and nephews as if they were my own children, and have often wondered how my brothers could have managed to do so well in the mate-finding and parenting departments. (I had to put that in. They expect it of me 😆 )
Abby is our youngest niece, and she is, like all her cousins, uniquely special and lovable. I remember the day she was born, (but never the exact date. . .odd. . .it was either December 2nd or 3rd, I think, and the year escapes me – some year in the 80’s I’m pretty sure), and the joy that mixed with deep concern when we were told about her birth defects. She was fortunate (therefore so are we) to be born in a hospital and in a city where so many wonderful neonatologists and pediatric physicians and surgeons were located. Her defects were physical, and not worth going into detail about because, quite frankly you would never know today she had suffered through such a long and painful journey through childhood. With the help of extraordinary parenting, a super older brother, and a host of prayers from family and friends, Abby is, quite simply, one of the most unaffected, open, friendly, loving, and beautiful women, inside and out, that I have ever been blessed to know.
A few years back, since she reached adulthood, I encouraged Abby to call me Paula, instead of feeling obligated to precede it with the title “Aunt.” She has never been able to bring herself to do it, but she did something of her own creation. She calls me “A.P.” Consequently, I call her “N.A.” If you can’t decipher our code, well. . .oh, come on! We have shared confidences, laughter, and a few tears over the years of our relationship, and since my brothers have always referred to me as the family’s story repository, she has been on the receiving end of tales of her Dad’s family. Since she is also supremely intelligent, she has failed to be surprised by any of them. She got her Dad’s number a LONG time ago.
I mailed off via express, a package to Abby this week. Enclosed was an “Indian gift.” I sent her one thing that is old, borrowed, and blue. It is a bracelet of cabuchon lapis lazuli, and sterling silver that belonged to her Granny, my mother. I won’t be the only one attending her wedding in spirit. Her grandparents, great grandparents, and a host of other family and friends no longer on this side of heaven will be crowded in around her and Keaton, smiling, laughing, and enjoying the constant spectacle that is “family,” and loving them unconditionally. I so wish I could be there in body, but I am happy to know I will have such illustrious company with me.
BTW, I did send her some things she is not required to return. However, the bracelet must come back immediately, as our eldest son, Joshua, will be getting married next Saturday, May 3rd, and his beautiful bride, my daughter-in-love, Sarah, will also be wearing the bracelet, which I also require her to return. It’s not that I am so awfully selfish or possessive, but only that they each must have something “borrowed,” right?
I wrote and sang a song for her parents, Dick and Starla, on their wedding day. So, I have written something for Abby, too. I won’t be there to sing it, and I haven’t put it to music, anyway – yet, that is – but in the package for Abby was also a copy of this song:
I remember very well the day I heard that you were born,
and the joy I felt at first, that turned to worry and concern.
But prayer and praise that you had come left me no time to mourn,
and I realized that God had plans for you beyond my dreams
and taught me that the vision of a fragile life that seems
so hard, is just a barrier I’d created, that God would burn.
And soon I learned that your eyes focused only on the now,
and overcame the trials that were ahead, just as they came.n j
And the constant love that grew like fruit upon the bough –
the gift of friends and family yielded more than could be measured,
your life filled up with blessings that forever will be treasured,
and none of us who love you could ever be the same.
I will always lift my heart by faith in joy and gratitude
to our God who makes all broken and damaged things brand new.
Yet my thoughts are fixed upon you, grown with God’s Grace imbued –
and when I see the sunlight prismed in dewdrops on a rose,
all the glory that surrounds us that God so freely shows –
held close within my heart, this song’s for you.
You were the little one who amazed me,
who would choose laughter over tears;
the strong youth who can swim the wildest river to the sea;
the woman who will always be the daughter of my heart,
who has kindled the brightest pride in you from the start.
Our bond has been forged to last, hold fast through all our years.
So I thank God for your sweet soul, offering praise where it is due,
but in this special moment, as your life begins anew,
remember I am always near, encircling you with love,
and for now, and always,
this song’s for you.
To all my Gentle readers, may your lives be complete with the abundance of enough. . .,
(P.S.: I love you, Abby and Keaton!)