Crystal meets her new congregation and gets a wonderfully warm reception.
|Chapter 10: That Sunday |
Sunday morning arrived, and Erick and Crystal suddenly realized they were both going to get their first exposure to something that had not been an issue since Crystal’s accident. Simply because she hadn’t worn them since then: pantyhose.
”What are we going to do about the extra leg on them, Erick? If we just cut it off, they could get a run in a hurry.” But, as usual, Erick was one step ahead of her.
”I’ve got it, honey. We’ll do better for a permanent answer later, but this will do for now. Be right back.” Soon he re-appeared, carrying the pantyhose, one of his handkerchiefs, a stapler and scissors. Crystal looked at him quizzically, and watched him with curiosity. She admired his creativity and ability to improvise. He’d even solved a few things for her father since they met.
Erick laid the pantyhose over Crystal’s legs, up to her waist, and noticed where the stump of her right leg ended. He marked that point with his finger, took the pantyhose off her legs, and cut that leg of the pantyhose off about ½ inch below the end of her stump.
Folding the heavy handkerchief in half, he used it to line the inside of the cut leg of the pantyhose at the bottom. “This will cushion that tender stump of yours, darling,” he said as he stapled the handkerchief inside the pantyhose leg, effectively sealing the bottom where it had been cut off. “Let’s try this, honey.”
Crystal laid back and lifted her leg for him. Having seen his late wife do it for so many years, Erick rolled the leg of the pantyhose, slipped it over her foot, and unrolled it as he moved up her leg, sliding the shortened leg over the stump of her right leg when he reached it. “Stand up and lean on me, darling,” he said lovingly. Once she was in position, Erick pulled the pantyhose the rest of the way up. “Do they feel OK, honey? Not bunched up anywhere?”
”No, they’re fine, honey. And that cushion of yours feels very soft on my stump. It is still sensitive. I’m glad you thought of that. Thank you,” she said, smiling.
Finally, the task of getting both of them dressed was, for the most part, a speedier process than it had been. They were both learning rapidly, and it showed. Crystal was learning to anticipate the position she’d have to be in for Erick to dress her in certain pieces of clothing, as well as what limited things she could actually do for herself now until she had those new limbs. And Erick was quickly learning how to deal with things like the fact that the buttons on Crystal’s clothes were on the opposite side from his own. He’d known it already, like any guy does, but he’d never given it much thought. Till he had to fasten them. He was quickly reaching the point where he could button her clothes almost as fast as his own shirts.
Arriving at the church about twenty minutes early, Erick wheeled Crystal off the elevator, and around the corridor to the doorway leading to the front of the Sanctuary. “Why aren’t we going in through the main door like everyone else, Erick? This makes me feel ‘different’ again.”
He knelt beside her. “This is a one-time-only deal, darling. Simply because Pastor Markham wants us in the very front so it’s easier when he introduces us. I promise. Starting next week we’ll be fighting the crowds like everyone else. Okay?”
”Thanks, honey. That helps a lot. Really it does.”
”Do you have to go to the bathroom or anything before the service starts, sweetheart?”
”No, honey, I’m fine. Thanks for thinking of it, though. I love you.”
”I love you, too, Crystal,” he said with determination. She laughed.
”Thanks, handsome! I needed to hear that.”
”You’re welcome, my dear. It’s only the total truth, you know.” They laughed together. Then, Erick heard the congregation start to file out. The first service was over. The second service would start in ten minutes. He slowly opened the door, and, making sure the path was clear, wheeled Crystal into the Sanctuary, around the side of the altar area and up next to the end of the front pew in the center section. Crystal looked around her.
”I love this Sanctuary, Erick. It has a simple elegance about it that feels very respectful of the Lord.”
”Thanks, honey. I figured you’d like it. I always have.” A few minutes later, Pastor Markham entered by the same door they’d used.
“Good morning, Crystal,” he said as he walked up and shook her hand. ”Good morning, Erick.” The two men shook hands.
”Good morning, Pastor Markham,” Crystal and Erick said together.
”I’m glad you could make it. I really do believe you will be a major help to us, Crystal.”
”Thanks, Pastor Markham. I’m looking forward to it. It only took that one experience Erick mentioned for us to realize how good it feels to help others in my position, especially the kids.”
”I’m glad to hear you say that, Crystal, because our youth group is rapidly growing and we’ll certainly need your help with that, too, later on. I’ll be introducing you two right before the service starts. By the way. Things are all arranged for your wedding in Sarasota. I’ll fill you in later, but it’s all approved and set up. Every detail we discussed.”
”Thanks, Pastor Markham!” they said together.
”Don’t mention it,” he said, smiling warmly. “I’ll see you two shortly,” he said, smiling.
”I definitely like him,” Crystal said as Pastor Markham went to get ready for the service.
About seven minutes later, the Sanctuary almost filled, Pastor Markham stepped to the front of the altar. “Before we begin today, I have two very special announcements to make. Most of you will remember Erick Metcalf, a longtime member of our church who lost his wife quite some years back in a tragic accident. This morning I’m very pleased to announce that for the first time since that accident, Erick did not come to the service alone. Erick, will you and Crystal come forward please?” As Erick wheeled Crystal up the ramp to Pastor Markham’s side, the Pastor continued. “With him is his fiancée, Miss Crystal Sandlewood. After a round of applause, he continued. “Crystal is a freshman at UK, majoring in Accounting. She lost her right arm and leg in a car accident just over three weeks ago, and is very determined not to let that delay her education. Erick is already caring for her as she waits to be fitted with her new arm and leg. I will be officiating at their wedding in Florida in three weeks. The congregation erupted in a round of applause. When things settled down he resumed:
”Surprisingly, my second announcement this morning also involves this determined young lady. Her determination, and an experience they shared with me as I discussed their wedding plans with them a few days ago, led me to ask Crystal if she would possibly consider taking the job of our new Director of Special Services. She has very enthusiastically accepted the position. I’d like her, now, to share with all of you, the experience she and Erick shared with me that led me to make her that offer. Crystal, would you mind?” He offered her the cordless mike. Just slightly nervous now, she took it from him.
”Not at all, Pastor.”
As Crystal related the story of their experience with Sandra and her family at McDonald’s the week before, Erick and Pastor Markham watched the congregation. It only took a few short minutes for them to notice that most of the congregation was visibly moved by the story, especially when the tears returned to Crystal’s eyes and voice as she related Sandra’s first reaction to watching Erick as he used the “tough love” on Crystal.
”And the most unexpected part, for me, was that as we neared the end of the conversation, I told them that if they could make it to Florida in three weeks I’d love to have them at our wedding. They excitedly said they’d already be there then - on vacation. So now Sandra and I will meet again, on the most wonderful day of my life. I can’t wait to see the boost that seeing my wedding will give her in her fight, and for the chance to help others in her position here at this church.”
”Finally, if you’ll bear with me for just one moment, I just have to take this first public opportunity that I’ve had to say ‘Thank you ever so much’ and ‘I love you’ to Erick. It’s a long story, but even though we’ve been engaged for quite a while, we never set eyes on each other until a week ago. Yes, that means he never saw me with two arms and two legs. In the shock of the accident, I learned very quickly why others with similar disabilities are so afraid they’ll never find love. And I was terrified Erick would not want the work, the hassle, the life style changes that come with loving someone in my position. But I quickly learned that I could not have been more wrong. Not only does Erick still love me, he welcomed the chance to care for me in every way with open arms. To him every day is a new opportunity for him to show me he loves me in every way he can, all over again. I admit that I eat it up. His gentleness at every turn, like dressing me, never stops showing me how important I am to him. And I just have to take this moment to thank him from the bottom of my heart for his unending love, his tenderness, his gentleness, and his patience in caring for me, and to thank the Lord for bringing Erick into my life. Thank you, my love! Thank you, Father, and thank you all.”
As Crystal burst into tears from the emotions that had filled her as she spoke, the congregation’s thunderous applause quickly became a standing ovation. Crystal had just gotten her tears under control when she looked up, took one look at the congregation, and burst into tears again at their show of love and appreciation.
Erick gently approached her, spoke in her ear, then helped her stand. She balanced with her arm around him. When the congregation saw her on her feet, the ovation started again.
When things returned to normal a few solid minutes later, Pastor Markham stepped up once again. “Crystal, Erick, I want to thank you both for the way your story has touched our hearts today, and for what you have taught us about real love. I know without a doubt from the time I’ve spent with the two of you recently that the love you two share is truly special. And I am honored that you have asked me to officiate at your wedding. I’m looking forward to it. And, if you can arrange it, I would welcome the chance to meet Sandra and her family while I’m there. That said, as you two return to your seats, we’ll begin our service this morning with a prayer…”