Sunday, November 29
Steve and I became engaged in July of 1982 and planned a fall wedding. I knew I wanted to be married at First Baptist because it was the church I had grown up in and it had special meaning to me. My mother was originally from Savannah and attended the Methodist church and my father was a Guyton native who was a member of that town’s New Providence Church. They were married at Epworth Methodist Church in Savannah but began attending First Baptist after World War II.
My three older sisters and my brother and I all attended Sunday School at First Baptist, often studying the weekly lesson on Sunday morning as we were riding downtown in the family car. We went to Ridgecrest and attended overnight retreats at Honey Ridge, making treasured friends along the way.
It seemed only natural that I would be married at "my" church. Steve and I looked at various dates and decided on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, partly because the church would be decorated for Advent, which meant the appearance of the beautiful Chrismon trees. I’m not certain when the Chrismon trees first graced our handsome sanctuary but, with their lovely handmade ornaments, they add simple dignity and meaning to our celebration of the Christmas season.
Steve and I appreciate simple things. In fact, some of our fellow church members who know Steve and his antics may describe him as simple-minded, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.
But I digress.
Just 10 days before our November 27th wedding ceremony, the little white lights and the ornaments that decorate the Chrismon trees came to symbolize more than the Christmas season. On November 17, 1982, I was a reporter conducting an interview for the Savannah Morning News. On that particular afternoon, I was shot in the face by a stray bullet, which entered my left cheek, traveled through my sinus passages, and exited behind my right ear, breaking my jaw.
After a couple of days in the hospital, I was released with my jaw wired and a few stitches on both sides of my face. My face was partially paralyzed making a smile impossible. (Fortunately the paralysis was temporary.)
What to do about the wedding, I fretted?
It was the support of many friends, family members, and caring strangers that helped us to decide to carry on with the ceremony, which by that time, was less than a week away.
I remember standing arm and arm with Daddy in the narthex listening to James play the organ as we waited for our cue. Finally it was time to walk down the aisle. The doors opened and Daddy and I took our first steps as the congregation arose. The church was extremely dark, save for candles in the windows, the light around the altar, and the tiny white bulbs on the Chrismon trees.
Those lights became symbolic for me. They led the way for me to go take Steve’s hand in marriage. They also meant something else. When all the world seems dark and we wonder why something bad has happened, we need to trust in God and realize that he is the light and the way.
And he makes miracles happen because I am living proof.
Today that moment reminds me of the Bible verse that my grandmother wrote in my father's Bible before he went overseas during World War II. Matthew 5:16 says to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
John Finley read that verse at Daddy’s funeral in June.
We should all consider that scripture, not just at Christmas when the Chrismon trees are lit, but all year round when the little things we do can make a difference in this sometimes dark world.
- Polly Powers Stramm