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Posted By Debra Shiveley Welch
Last night I opened a box.   Taped, tied with string and lovingly put away, it lived in an attic for 68 years.  On the lower right corner, “HIGBEE’S” was stamped.  In the center of the lid, a date:  “August 8, 1942.”  Above it, big letters scrawled in pen announced “Betty’s Wedding Dress.” 

I slowly untied the yellowed string and picked away the now brittle masking tape.  The box began to fall apart, its long vigil ended.  The lid came off in pieces, revealing tissue paper.  I lifted a paper-cocooned bundle and slowly, reverently, peeled the layers away.  For the first time in over half a century, the dress gave pleasure to admiring eyes.

Now aged to the color of cream, I could still appreciate its beauty.  A cap-sleeved lace bodice flowed into a floor length skirt of chiffon under which a crystal satin underskirt shimmered in golden lamplight.  A band of lace near the waist of the A-line skirt echoed the bodice.  I turned the dress around.  The Sabrina or Boat neckline dipped demurely into a V-shaped bottom edge.  Running from the V was a series of lace-covered buttons.  The dress was stunningly simple and magnificently elegant.

How like my mother-in-law this dress is, I thought to myself.  Mom was never ostentatious and her simple way of dressing gave her a panache that few women achieve.

I held her dress carefully to me.  In my mind’s eye, I saw her rush to the door of her mother’s house.  I heard her cry of excitement as she accepted a brown, rectangular box, her giggle as she signed her name, Betty Harr, realizing that it was probably the last time she would sign her name so.

I could see her dressing for her wedding, twirling in front of her childhood mirror – the last time she would gaze into it as an unmarried woman. 

I could almost hear the peal of an ancient organ as it rung out Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.  I could see her smile as she placed the wedding ring upon the finger of her groom, feel her excitement as they left the church and began their lives as husband and wife.

Later, she would take her lovely gown and wrap it in tissue paper, smiling as she remembered her wedding, happy with the new life she was beginning with her husband.

The box would lie safely in an attic until, 68-years later, a devoted daughter-in-law would once again appreciate the beauty of the keepsake protected within its crumbling nest.

I carefully rewrapped the gown, pondering on the promise it held, thinking of the bride who wore it.  Young and vibrant, her entire life before her, she could but imagine the happiness she would find with her groom which would last for over 50 years.  She would bear three sons, each successful in their chosen careers, happily married to loving women who gave them daughters and sons to fill their hearts with joy and pride – happy lives, good productive lives.  She could only envision the six grandchildren she would know and the great-grandchildren who awaited her in the future. She could but imagine the birthdays and christenings, the Thanksgivings and Christmases…the Mother’s Day celebrations.  Mom would have a rich life, a good life, a useful life and at her passing, would be mourned completely, lovingly, leaving precious memories of her sojourn upon this earth. 

I replaced the crumbled lid of the box, covering the gown until I could find a better receptacle for its priceless treasure.  Perhaps, someday, my future daughter would wear this beautiful gown – this stunningly simply, magnificently elegant wedding dress of love fulfilled.

 
Posted By Debra Shiveley Welch

Chris sailed through his fifth and final surgery this last Monday.  The first night was rough but he stuck it out with calm and bravado.

They opened his nose completely, broke it, aligned the septum after removing part of it, used the excess to replace missing cartilage, lined up his septum, which was slung to the left, centered his nose with his cupid's bow and sewed it into place.
 
The staff in Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio was beyond fantastic in their care of my 18-year-old boy.  In fact, each and every one asked for information to come and see him play at a local restaurant near where we live.

Today he took a walk around our lake, made himself a tasty lunch and is now watching the Toy Story special on ABC Family Channel.  He is out of pain, his nose looks beautiful and he is anticipating returning to the restaurant where he plays backup for a talented singer/song writer and beginning his job with an upscale Japanese restaurant where he will be personally trained by the owner.  Life is good.
 
It's funny how Children's Hospital has been a part of a major portion of my life.  At two months and then at four, I was admitted with a fractured skull, age four years found me again admitted with fourth degree burns and age nine for neurological study.  Age 15 found me practically living there with my friend, Patsy, one of the few female hemophiliacs at that time and age 16 saw me visiting her the final time a few days before she died.
 
That last evening, as I was leaving the hospital, a sound made me glance to my left.  In a small room sat a nurse feeding a baby.  What caught my eye was the fact that the baby was sitting upright.  I looked again.  The infant, hungrily eating, had a hole where his or her mouth should have been.  I remember saying a quick prayer and thinking I hope that baby has a mother who loves it.  Now I realize that what I had witnessed was a nurse feeding a baby born with cleft lip and palate.  God had given me a glance into my future.
 
It is odd when I reflect back on my 50 plus years journey with Children’s hospital.  It began with my healing, followed by the death of my friend.  Within the tragedy of losing Patsy lay a promise: a promise of a sweet babe who would need a home.

We seldom realize that we are witnessing what is to come.   It wasn’t until we got the call that a beautiful baby boy, born with cleft lip and palate, was looking for a family, that I realized my blessing and I knew, I just knew that he was meant to be mine.  I knew that it was destiny that made me visit Children’s that last, fateful night:  I was meant to say goodbye to my dear friend who I thought would be a part of my life for many years to come and I was meant to witness something that would help me a full 24 years later.
 
Perchance my odyssey with Children's ends here:  Chris' final surgery.  An era has passed; a chapter has closed.  Perhaps, when my sweet son moves on to make his own life and create his own family, I will return to Children’s…this time as a volunteer instead of a patient, visitor, or parent.  Life is good.


 

 

 
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