Our only daughter, Melody McNutt (Peanut to us) got married Friday night to a wonderful and heroic soldier, Thomas Kappler. It was truly a magical experience to watch someone you deeply adore begin a life within someone you trust to keep her safe and joyfully moving forward. (Which of course can only mean one thing to me…grandchildren one day!) It was a very small affair. She is a high “C” (Calculator for those of you familiar with the DISC profile) so the thought of a hundred people to have to interact with for 5 hours truly terrified her. She agreed that 50 would be the best number with most being in her age group.
Allen gave a speech I am posting here because it was one of the highlights of the evening. It is rare that a father is able to articulate his feelings as clearly, authentically, and lovingly as he did that evening to our daughter. If you are raising a daughter, and are her stepdad, you may be inspired by his tale as he tells it.
Coupled with the joy and almost frantic pace a wedding brings the week before it, was the worry about our wedding planner, Caroline Hammond’s daughter, Sarabeth missing last Wednesday night. When I found out on Thursday I hurried to alert my friends in TV and radio to see if they had been able to broadcast it yet. We went into the rehearsal dinner sure that she would turn up by morning. She didn’t. We started the wedding day checking Facebook, which I hadn’t done in more than 5 years, to see if there was any news. Nothing.
We focused on the wedding. Praying. Finding joy in the customary moments that joining together as girls brings and being present for a very special day. It all unfolded as we had planned with Caroline. She had been with us the whole time to be sure that the experience Melody wanted for her day would occur. Perfectly orchestrated.
Caroline is the one that planned Allen and I’s marriage more than 17 years ago. She was pregnant with Sarabeth at the time, sitting in a red dress in the front row, smiling widely, beautifully, at the amazing day she had planned for us.We went to bed late, after Melody and Thomas’ wedding. Basking in the wonderment of having a new son and being so proud of a daughter who acted with such grace through the twist and turns that are inevitable in everyone’s wedding day.
The next day was a late start. Sniffles from a cold. Tired bones. Saying goodbye to loved ones that had come into town. Checking my text messages to be sure that all was well with Melody and Thomas as they left for Snowshoe. They were fine. Then the text message from the owner of where the wedding took place, The Kyle House, who sent me a note. “I am sure you heard about Sarabeth.” “No,” I replied.
The unthinkable. The unimaginable. Tears. Painful tears. Sarabeth found dead? How is that possible? How can a mother cope with loosing her daughter? How does a mother breathe when she hears that news after 4 days of searching? A car accident over Bent Mountain? What? It’s not computing. Tears. Sorrow. Reaching out to issue condolences. Sharing news with friends. Tears. Sorrow.
My friend Samantha Steidle sends me a note. “Maybe Sarabeth was watching over us last night.” Maybe so. Maybe the energy and beautiful person that she was while she walked this earth immediately became an ever-present spirit that was shining her light on anyone who was open and accepting of it. That could make sense, right?
Gratitude. Tears of gratitude. For every single moment, I have had with my daughter. For being spared the complete devastation that Caroline will be experiencing over the loss of Sarabeth. Appreciation for the loving and kind spirit that Caroline put into every aspect of making Melody feel special and the direction she gave her staff so that our time would not be effected by what was happening that none of us could control…or we would have.
I wish I could take a piece of the pain. I know every mother that has heard about Sarabeth wishes she could disperse Caroline’s pain among us all to relieve her of what has to feel emotionally torturous. I wish I had known Sarabeth in the way so many did. This person whose spirit has been a part of such important moments in our family’s life I have only known of and heard about. I missed out on really knowing her. Her courageous battle with lyme disease. Her adventurous spirit.
So many of you have experienced profound loss and intense joy with loved ones. I have shared both with you in our time together. In 2017, may we continue to live through both in a way that will inspire others to spread joy and find ways to comfort those who have or are experiencing loss. May God find use in both.
Dan Smith announced on Saturday that the Writer’s Scholarship Fund founded by the Roanoke Regional Conference will be renamed the Sarabeth Hammond Memorial Scholarship Fund. Many have asked how they can donate. Here’s how.
Thank you for being a part of my life in 2016. You helped enrich my experience in ways I am truly grateful for. I appreciate your support and wish you and your family, at home and work, a very happy new year.