On Saturday morning, running late as usual, we rushed to get dressed in church-appropriate clothes and, unable to find any dress shoes that fit the girls, decided that flip flops would have to do.
M's teacher - a wonderful, enthusiastic and kind lady - was getting married at 11:00 on this beautiful, picture-perfect September day, and had thoughtfully invited her students to attend the ceremony. She'd spent much of the first quarter of school talking about her fiancee, weaving her own experiences into her writing lessons, and the class had even thrown a small party for her before track-out. We'd decided weeks before that it would be something special for the girls to attend and so on we went, getting out of the house at a respectable 10:20 - plenty of time, I assured my husband, to get downtown and park.
At 10:45 we found a space, parked, and walked across the street to the stone, Catholic church where other guests were waiting. One of Morgan's school friends was there with her mother. A woman in a pale yellow dress approached us and asked us if we were there for the wedding, to which we cheerfully replied "yes!" ... and were then met with the saddest news I have truly ever heard.
By now, many people may have heard about the Raleigh groom who was killed hours before his wedding. After all, it made national news. It is the kind of story that makes us all stop and shake our heads for the sheer senselessness of it.
Sadly, M's teacher was the bride.
How do you explain to a four- and a six-year-old who, just moments before were expecting to attend a wedding, that it was not to be? How does anyone react to this unbelievable, unthinkable news?
My husband, upon seeing that poor Ms. Taylor was there outside the church, took the girls around the corner to try to explain to them what had happened. He did not want them to see Ms. T, to say anything upsetting, or to remember her so sad. I attempted to compose myself, for all of us were crying now, to make some sense of what we had just been told, and at some point, found Ms. T and hugged her tightly, and then again. I will never forget the look on her face, the shock, the disbelief.
There was to be a memorial service, in place of the wedding ceremony. We learned later that Ms. T. had gallantly managed to speak to the crowd. We did not attend for the sake of the girls, for the sake of Ms. T. I recall seeing the teachers from school on the sidewalk in the distance - M's kindergarten teacher was there, as was the other track 1 first grade teacher who had the classroom right next door. And then they were gone, disappeared inside the church, and we walked back across the street to our car, numb from the sadness we all felt and still feel.
It is easy to dismiss the tabloidish headline news that CNN regularly posts to its site - the twice-convicted criminal whose bad deeds finally caught up with him, or the elderly person whose time had come in due course.
But it is nearly impossible to understand the terrible things that happen to the best people, and to continue to have faith. Our own faith has been tested many times through the years - family members that have met with tragic circumstances, good people left to deal with unfair things. It is the hardest thing about becoming an adult - learning that bad things happen to anyone, that none of us are immune.
My thoughts and, yes, my prayers, go out to Ms. T., and to her family, and her groom's family. I hope she heals, that this doesn't break her spirit. I hope God truly does have a plan, even in His apparent randomness. Perhaps it's in the lessons brought after the fact - the outpouring of human kindness from one person's sacrifice, for her story has touched so many of us here in the community, and has brought so many of us closer.