“Their lives have been blessed by their love for each other and by their faith in the Lord. Christina Marie Nichols and Stephen James Cilento together with their parents invite you to witness the vows that will join them as one on Friday, the thirtieth of April nineteen hundred and ninety-nine at half past seven in the evening. Baltimore First Church of the Nazarene 2750 Rogers Avenue Ellicott City, Maryland.”
My dearest Christina. It’s been eighteen years since we stood at the front of the sanctuary of Baltimore First Church of the Nazarene and pledged out lives to each other. It’s hard to believe that you’ve been gone for five of them.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. As I sit here and peruse our wedding album, I’m overwhelmed with memories. I smiled as I saw the pictures of our rehearsal. I was wearing my cowboy boots. I chuckle now because I know how much you disliked them. You’re probably shaking your head and rolling your eyes now because, since you’ve been gone, I wear them all the time. I sang “You are my sunshine” as we were supposed to be leaving for dinner. You smiled and rolled your eyes. The world saw “ugh, really?” But I saw “I love you.”
We went to Old Country Buffet for our rehearsal dinner. We used to go there with friends every Sunday after church. I cringe now and wonder “why did we do that?” I remember it being more of a hassle than a good time. But we managed to salvage the evening and enjoy ourselves.
I was a nervous wreck on the day of our wedding. I had gotten a phone call that morning from the limousine company saying they wouldn’t be able to pick us up afterwards. I had to call in a favor to make sure we had transportation to our hotel.
When I got to the church, I had no idea what was supposed to be happening. Didn’t know which room I would be using to change. I think I ran around the church three or four times looking for someone who knew what was going on. Never did find anyone, so I just picked a room and gathered my wedding party there. My Mom arrived shortly after I changed and made sure she was there to put my boutonniere on my lapel.
So many memories from that day. None of which compared to the moment the doors opened in the sanctuary and I saw you standing there with your Dad. You were so beautiful. My heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. It was happening. We were about to say, “I do.”
As you walked down the aisle I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I was the luckiest man in the world. We kept our eyes locked on each other. You had a huge smile on your face. I’m sure I did too. We had several conversations during the ceremony. I still wonder if anyone saw us talking to each other. I tried to put your ring on the wrong hand. Thought the pastor forgot to give me permission to “kiss the bride.” The whole time you kept reassuring me and smiling at me. Telling me to stop fussing. Sigh. I remember it all like it was yesterday.
On that day, I fully expected to be spending this anniversary next to you. But here I sit, eighteen years later. Alone in our living room. Tears running down my face. Remembering what it was like to have you next to me. To hold your hand. To feel your body leaning into mine. Your eyes gazing at me. I would likely be stealing a kiss at this very moment. I miss you so much Christina. I miss being, “us.”
The kids and I will do something to celebrate. But it will never be the same without you here. Enjoy our day in heaven. Don’t worry about me. The kids will work their magic and cheer me up. I’ll be greeted with hugs in the morning, and we’ll do as we always do. Smile, blow you a kiss, and keep moving forward. Give Jesus a hug for me, and I’ll give the kids a hug for you. I love you Christina. And knowing what I know now, I would still have said “I do” eighteen years ago. Happy Anniversary.