By: Michele Wallace Campanelli
#1 New York Times Best-selling Author –
Melisa and I have known each other since we were young teens in the United Methodist Youth Group. She was a big time player on a local junior high softball team and very popular. Even though we didnt have much in common (Im not a bit athletic and younger), she took me under her wing.
We grew up together. Years passed quickly and when Melisa got married, I served as one of her bridesmaids. After her wedding, Melisa moved to Kentucky and traveled on the road with her trucker husband. Not a month would pass that I didnt receive a letter or phone call from Melisa telling me about the breathtaking sights across America. Through her travels, we remained very close.
Then one day the phone rang. From the tremor in her voice, I could tell something was terribly wrong.
I just came from the doctors office, Melisas voice quivered. Remember when I told you about all those headaches and how my vision sometimes got dark? My neurologist ran a CAT scan. At first he thought it was macular degeneration and told me to go to an eye specialist. But after the eye doctor ran tests, he informed me it was much more serious. I have a disease which will cause me to go 85% completely blind in as little as two years. Its called retinitis pigmentosia. He recommended that I stop trucking and attend school for the blind in order to learn Braille quickly before my
eyesight gets drastically worse.
Since Melisa was just 23, I was totally shocked. I didnt realize anyone so young could lose her sight. Not knowing how to comfort her, I told her I would keep her situation in my prayers.
As time went on, the letters I sent to Melisa went unanswered. When I called, Melisas voice didnt sound the same; she seemed depressed and overwhelmed. She let me know that our church friends stopped writing her and even her cousin seemed unable to deal with her situation and stopped dropping by. Please make your print larger, she asked me, so I can read your letters. If you write small, everything becomes one large blob. Use black ink on white paper and perhaps if you typed in a very large font it might be easier for me to read than cursive. Its hard to make out the letters otherwise, she advised.
I continued reaching out, typing out my letters in twenty size font so Melisa could read them. My typing improved over those weeks but her writing got increasingly more scribbled and illegible. After months of exchanges, I noticed Melisa opening up more about her feelings for the school for the blind. Learning how to use a cane, to command a guide dog and to read Braille was taking its toll. It wasnt easy and the reality that it was only a matter of a short while until she would have to depend on these strategies permanently was sinking in. Depression overwhelmed her, she reported. She didnt leave the house and spent hours every day crying. I didnt know what to
Louis and I had finally set the date for our wedding. I wanted to ask her to be my matron of honor, but questions kept coming up in my mind. Would she be willing to stand up for me with all that shes going through? Would it depress her more when she remembered her wedding in which she could see so perfectly?
A part of me didnt even think I should ask. But then, it didnt seem right asking anyone else. No one else had meant so much to me.
I have a question for you. But I want you to know if you say no, I will understand, I broached the subject to her on the phone.
Sure, what is it?
Im getting married in a few months and I was wondering if you would be my matron of honor?
No, she immediately replied without a second of hestation.
I tried to sound fine with her decision and hide my disappointment. I understand. So what did you learn in school today?
Our conversation continued with her telling me about a stove which spoke the temperature it was warming to and also which burner was on. Although tears came to my eyes, I tried to be as supportive a friend as I could. Before hanging up, Melisa stopped me.
Her voice trembled. Im sorry I cant be your matron of honor, she said. I wouldnt want to trip down the aisle and embarrass you. Nobody would forget that terrible scene.
I gasped, Mel, you could never embarrass me, ever! Do you understand me? Ever! I am so proud to have you as my friend. If anyone even says anything negative about your walking, they can leave my wedding and not come back!
But I wouldnt be able to find where to stand, Melisa continued. Its so dark in that church.
Well, let me know if you change your mind, but I could have a groomsman walk you down the aisle and bring you directly to the spot. Either way, Id love for you and your husband to attend even if you dont feel up to being a part.
During those ensuing months, she would not confirm that she would take part, but any time I got worried about arrangements, Melisa would be the person I would call to calm me down. She helped me plan everything. Even though she couldnt see the designs on the invitations or on the napkins, she gave opinions concerning what she believed I would like. Knowing me so well,
she suggested just the right designs, table decorations, and linens.
On the day of the wedding I was never more thrilled to discover Melisa waiting for me in the dressing room in her very becoming turquoise dress. Melisas courage brought tears to my eyes as she rose to help me into my wedding gown. When she tried to help me fasten the buttons on my wedding dress, her fingers couldnt manage the intricate task, but together we lifted the pearl veil to my head and she lowered the lace over my eyes.
When it came time for her to walk down the aisle, I watched her and the groomsman proceed arm in arm. My heart pounded into my throat as I feared that she would fall or trip. Not because I would be embarrassed, but because I knew she wanted to perform perfectly for me.
Steadily Melisa strolled on the arm of the groomsman, was directed to her spot at the altar, and slowly turned around as if she had done it a million times before.
As I strolled down the aisle to the traditional wedding march, I saw Melisa squinting as if wanting desperately to see me. The tears and smile that spread across her face matched my own.
That day became one of the most beautiful of my life. It wasnt just because I was marrying someone so special, but because my matron of honor was Melisa, my friend, whom Ive shared so many ups and downs with over the years. I knew that together, wed make it through any challenge that we met with dignity and courage.
Melisa may be vision impaired now, but I wouldnt have wanted any other person as my matron of honor. I do honor, admire, respect, care, and cherish her and our strong bond. We may not physically see each other in the same way, but our friendship is evident directly from somewhere far more precious, the heart.
By: Michele Wallace Campanelli
#1 New York Times Best-selling Author