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A December to remember

“On a rainy night in Uijeongbu (pronounced wee-shong-boo), I proposed to Rose.”

I thought at the time, this reads like the first line in a novel and the story just gets better.

His words sounded crisp and clear as if he were phoning me from across town.

In reality, our Army-strong son was calling me from Camp Stanley in South Korea to let me know that he had decided to propose to a young Philippina girl that he had met while stationed there.

It was springtime of 2011 and within weeks he would be briefly returning home only to leave on Mother's Day for Fort Drum in New York, his new duty station.

His plans were to work through the paperwork of bringing his future bride to the United States where they would be married.

I listened but part of me did not hear.

A marriage? A new daughter-in-law? My Douglas – still a small boy in my mind and not the young man he had now become – getting married?

As the weeks and months passed, we would hear off and on about Doug's progress in getting Rose's paperwork in order and then a phone call in early December of last year set my world spinning.

They would both be arriving – Doug from Fort Drum in New York and Rose from South Korea within a day of each other. He would have about two weeks home and then back to Fort Drum.

Oh...and could I arrange a wedding during that time frame...with a priest...in a church...and there was some question whether her dress would arrive.
To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement.

This was December – probably the most frenetic time of the year despite the images of warm fires, cozy couches and fully decorated and lit trees majestically sitting in a corner with perfectly wrapped gifts underneath.

This was December where the calendar was already filled with cookie exchanges, shopping trips, and secret Santas...and now a wedding.

Normally not held during the Advent season, the priests (at the time) at St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton (both of them former Army chaplains) calmly smiled as I poured out my situation. No worries. They would make it happen.

One morning had me dashing from our newspaper offices on Culpeper street to meet Father Tom Hayes who had been entrusted with performing the service.

Admittedly I was teetering on hysteria with 'to do' lists. Father Tom, who normally requires several months of marriage counseling before he is comfortable giving his blessing, was my savior. He told me that after his decades of performing marriages that there was no preparatory formula for ensuring that they would last. He had gotten more relaxed over the years. And, he was elated to tell me that he had recently married a couple in their 70s.

“The important thing is that they love each other,” he said. “The rest of it is window dressing.”

He also told me that sometimes we just have to give it back to the Lord when we think we can't handle something.

“Give it back to Him,” Father Tom told me, “let Him take care of it.”

And He did.

A serendipitous stop at Harris Teeter one afternoon and the flowers were arranged.

The church organist agreed to play and within a short period of time, we had the musical selections chosen.

My cousin knows a bakery chef and the cake was ordered.

My daughter picked out the cake topper.

As the days to Dec. 20 neared, the 'to do' list got done and I remained vertical and somehow at peace.

It had been decided that it would be a family affair only with no invited guests. There was little time and the young couple wanted a private service particularly when no members of her family would be able to attend.

When Rose arrived at the airport, it was the first time that my husband and I laid eyes on our new daughter-in-law. Here was this petite, pretty young girl with a broad smile whose arms were wrapped around our son – her lifeline to a new life in America.

Her dress did arrive...only a day or two before the service and as I unwrapped it gently, I quietly wept. This lovely, meticulously made-by -hand dress, would not be seen by a young girl's mother far away in the Philippines.

It was stunning.

The church was decorated for Christmas. The altar was bathed in bright red poinsettias.

My son stood at the front of the church and gazed down the aisle at his young bride who was escorted to the alter by my husband Don.

Part of me wanted that church filled with friends and families to witness their union.

Yet, as Pachabel's Canon Suite in D played and Doug's sister, brother and his closest friend looked on, it could not have been more perfect.

It will be a December we never forget.

It will be the December that we were given the gift of a daughter-in-law named Rose.

And it was a December where I was given a very special gift – a loving reminder of why we celebrate this season.

Anita L. Sherman is the managing editor of the Culpeper Times. Spec. Douglas A. Sherman is a 2006 graduate of Liberty High School.
Anita Sherman may be reached at asherman@timespapers.com

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