Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Before I get to heavy into this story, I want you to know that it is a happy story.  Parts of it are sad, and the waterworks were full blast this past weekend, but the tears were all happy tears.

So let me tell you an amazing story.

My cousins in Virginia are the cousins I am closest to.  Our moms are sisters, and even though we lived two states away, we saw each other every summer growing up.  There are 4 of them, and their family is the best possible way.  They are laid back, welcoming, and above anything else, they go with the flow, or as some would say, roll with the punches.  All four of my cousins have distinct personalities, and this story is about the youngest of the group, Raleigh.  Her personality is the most laid back of them all, and I'll be honest and say that she is the most normal,grounded, and toughest of them all. (She was dropped & stepped by her siblings more than a few times as a child.)

When the oldest of the four cousins got married, Raleigh was introduced to a cousin of the groom, a special guy by the name of Lon.  He knew then that he was going to marry Raleigh.  Never mind that he was 28 with a girlfriend, and Raleigh was 17.  Lon has always been a very class act, so as fate would have it, his relationship did not last much longer, and he waited. Then, on Raleigh's 18th birthday he asked her father if it would be ok to date his daughter. He was polite and respectful, and my uncle said yes.  And as it says on their wedding website, they have been inseperable ever since.

Here's where the tears start.

**I'm going to preface this by saying my details may not be 100% accurate.  This is the version of events that I choose to keep in my mind. The only detail that really matters to me is that Lon & Raleigh got married this weekend.**

Twenty six months ago Lon was working and involved in an explosion.  He was in rural Virginia, in a place where there is normally no cell phone reception.  This is where the miracles start happening.

So somehow, someone was able to call 911, somehow there was a clearing in the woods close for helicopters to land, somehow there was morphine available very quickly, and somehow Lon was sent to the AMAZING burn unit in Richmond, where he would become a semi permanent fixture.  I can't imagine what that day was like.  A friend of a friend was working at the hospital when Lon came in, and all I've been told was that it was bad.  I'm not sure of the exact percentage, but Lon was burned over 90+% of his body.  He was wearing a welding helmet & boots, so his face & feet were the least burned.  It takes an amazing person, and an amazing team to survive that. Somehow that is exactly the group of people that gathered in Richmond. Somehow he survived.

I'm not going to talk much about the next 20 or so months.  All that matters is that Lon got the nickname Superman, his dog Cassie passed the therapy/service dog exam with flying colors, Raleigh graduated Suma Cum Laude from Virginia Tech, two families came together (and added A LOT of extended family), and Lon proposed to Raleigh. (That would be #tearfest2012 if anyone ever wants to hear that story.)

Fast forward to this past weekend.  Lon & Raleigh got married, and I don't think I have ever seen a happier couple.

Everything was perfect.  The weather, the well placed shade, the breeze.  

Lon has always been a quiet guy, but his face lights up when Raleigh is in the room.  This weekend , he was more animated that I have ever known him to be.  They were both so happy and excited, and I can't imagine ever being part of a more joyful celebration. in a more perfect setting.

The seated ceremony was performed by the chaplain who was on duty when Lon arrived at the hospital after his accident.  She met Raleigh that night, came to know Lon through her eyes, and was able to see their love firsthand as Lon began his recovery. There was not a dry eye anywhere near the ceremony.  Their vows were powerful, and included enough humor to keep the tears to a steady stream and not a noisy flood. 

After the ceremony, the bridal party came forward and formed a half circle in front of the newly weds.  A pair of silver Nike's had been discretely placed behind Lon's chair before the ceremony. Before they were even dating, Lon had been looking forward to the day that they would walk down the isle together as husband and wife.  After his accident, there was no question that they would become husband and wife, but no one knew if the whole part of the dream would come true....It did, and it was amazing.

Raleigh had her dress altered so that the skirt detached, and  the two of them received a standing ovation as they took their first steps, together and on their own, as husband & wife.  Again, not a dry eye anywhere close to the ceremony.  You could not help but feel the love and support of everyone present. 

The reception was a celebration, and merely a formality of joining two families that had already become one. The family present also included Lon's doctors and nurses from the hospital in Richmond, as well as the rehab facility he spent time in.

The best part about the reception was how perfectly normal it was.  For me, having not spent much time with Lon & Raleigh in the past two years, this fact made me exceedingly happy.  I didn't know what to expect, and what I saw was exactly what you want to see for your cousin - a couple undeniably in love, surrounded by people who will help them move mountains.

So the reception had the typical toasts and tears. There was the traditional cake cutting & face stuffing of cake.

The first dance was a mash up of Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You" & a slow country song that was also ridiculously appropriate...everybody cried.

The father daughter & mother son dances bought even more tears.

I even cried happy tears as Lon removed Raleigh's garter.  When one of my cousins started calling this wedding #tearfest2013, he wasn't kidding...but they were all tears of joy and celebration.

One of the coolest things about this wedding, more so than any other that I have been to, was the clarity of the foundation that was laid.  I have never been witness to a stronger foundation for a marriage, or two lives going forward.

So yeah, I cried like a little girl, but can you blame me?

Photo credit: the pictures are all iphone pictures, some are my own, and some are from my sister, the good one's are my sister's.


  1. Such an amazing story! Thanks for sharing this Emily!

  2. A beautiful love story!
    Lea's Menagerie

  3. I think I have something in my eye...

  4. oh my god. I cried too. THis is such a lovely story. I'm sure they will enjoy a lifetime of happiness together!!!


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