Erica and Christopher’s love story is powerful. It is a real-life tale of love, hope, loss, grief, and supernatural joy in the midst of unimaginable suffering.
When they first met over ten years ago, Erica did not know the ending of their story, or that God would use their love to show, in the most radical way, that even “through death there is joy in the resurrection.”
This was the reflection their wedding photographer had Erica and Christopher answer in their couple questionnaire. Erica remembers asking him to go on a date night to work through the questions together. Their response is below, and it is followed by, in Erica’s words, how Christ continued to be the center in Christopher’s remaining moments:
“After Christopher and I met in 2007, we kept in touch long-distance between Indiana and North Carolina. We spent many long hours on the phone and visited each other a couple times. At this point, Christ was not yet a central part of our relationship.
After ending our relationship in 2008, we each dated other people, but we kept in touch and saw each other a few times in those in-between years. In 2016 we reconnected over the internet and became friends, but I was adamant we would remain only friends. I was not interested in entering a relationship while I was trying to “find myself” and improve my spiritual and emotional life.
But alas, when we saw each other at Christopher’s birthday in 2016, I knew I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. I prayed about moving, and everything for my move seemed to fall into place. So I left Indiana to be in Raleigh with him in February 2017. Best decision we ever made--besides our later decision to make going to church and prayer part of our lives.
We have definitely grown in our relationship with God as a couple and as individuals. St. John Paul II is the patron saint of our relationship. When things began to get serious last year, Christopher started the annulment process. So we lit a candle in our parish asking for St. John Paul II’s intercession to help us with patience, chastity, guidance, and healing as we moved through this time. And we asked people to continue praying for JPII’s intercession in our marriage by including prayer cards in our wedding invitations.”
From the Bride: After Christopher was diagnosed in the emergency room with cancer, the only thing I could think to do was pray. I prayed with him and for him continuously over the less than 48 hours between his diagnosis and his eventual passing. I prayed myself to sleep the second night and awoke in prayer the next morning.
The foundation we had built, as well as my devotion to Mary, gave me the strength to get through those unfathomable times. I knew Christopher was going to be okay, and I continuously repeated that to everyone. I knew whether he lived on this earth or continued his life in Heaven, he would be okay.
Mary showed me that in her sorrow the greatest joy she received was in her son’s resurrection. I held on to that then and still do today.
The day of our wedding came after Christopher passed, and it was one of the most beautiful and spiritual experiences I have ever had. My hope for the day was to honor the love that Christopher and I shared, that we could be a witness of deep, genuine love for all who were in attendance, and how special we were to one another.
Getting ready with my mom, sisters, and bridesmaids, taking photos in the sanctuary, praying a decade of the rosary with our photographer in the Marian chapel, and the time before Mass really set the tone for the day. It truly honored the love shared between Christopher and I--the love that had been given to us by the Lord.
Every moment of picking out our wedding details was a whirlwind, but we were very intentional. Christopher and I wanted our day to be about the sacrament and joining our lives together as husband and wife, with God as our witness. For us, it wasn’t about a big party or “glitz and glam.” It was about being together “until death do us part”.
We chose every vendor because they were the best reviewed and the first to respond, except our florist and photographer. I knew hiring people who understood the beauty of the Mass and the sacrament was imperative. In the end, we could not have chosen better, because each of these vendors showed up for me in more ways than I ever could have asked for. Not only did they provide great products, but they prayed with me, talked with me, and shared in my sorrow too.
I remember when I picked out my dress (the day after I got engaged!), and I knew it was going to be perfect. The gown was full but fitted with an off-the-shoulder detail that Christopher would have loved. When I chose it as my dress at the store, I closed my eyes, imagining his face when he would see me walking down the aisle for the first time, and it brought tears to my eyes.
It took me months to put the dress back on. My sister was sweet enough to call the store and tell them what had happened, asking if they would contact her when the dress came in. After I picked it up, it took a good three months to put it on. I knew I would have to have special strength on that day, but I would know when the time was right, just as I always have when hard trials come along.
Wearing it on our wedding day was bittersweet, but I felt beautiful.
All day long on our wedding day, I felt closer to Christopher than I have in a long time. He was there, arms wrapped tight around me, keeping me strong as I prayed for him and celebrated our love.
I had asked our photographer if it would be okay for us to take photos of me in his suit jacket. I wanted to have a part of him physically there, and I couldn’t think of a better way. His hands had touched that fabric, and he always looked so handsome when he wore it!
My mom helped me put his jacket on, and I felt an instant, overwhelming happiness which our photographer captured perfectly. Because he was so tall (6’5”), the jacket was huge on me, but that made the moment even better. We could laugh and remember him. The longer I had it on, the more I did not want to take it off.
To be honest, I remember feeling like I wanted to collapse on the ground and wrap the jacket around me tighter. I didn’t, but I know it would have been totally acceptable, and everyone there would have loved me through the moment, just like they did the whole day.
I wish I had the exact transcript of father’s homily, because it was perfect. I requested that Fr. Danda make the day about happiness and love instead of focusing on sadness and loss. He chose to do a Mass to St. Joseph and spoke about the love of the Holy Family and how we should live that love in our lives.
Our wedding could have become a day of sadness, but with the love and support of my family, it turned into a day of joy and celebration. I will remember it forever and hold it close to my heart. The validation of love and the close moments that have come from the event mean so much to me.
I looked out that day from the pulpit while proclaiming the second reading and felt an overwhelming sense of love. I could not have asked for more. But none of it would have been possible except through faith. My faith has kept me strong and has reminded me that through death there is joy in the resurrection which we celebrate each weekend at Mass--or daily if we choose. Keeping Christ the center of my life and building community has been the rock I never knew I was going to need so desperately.
Photography: Soul Creations Photography, Spoken Bride Vendor | Church: St. Malachy Catholic Church, Brownsburg, IN | Wedding Reception: The Alexander Hotel, Indianapolis, IN | Rings: Bailey Box | Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridal Gown: Marie Gabriel Couture | Bridesmaid Dresses: Amazon | Stationary / Invitations: Zola | Florist: Graceful Hands Floral Design | Hairstylist, Makeup Artist: B.Buttler Styles