Prairie View

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Paul and Clara's Wedding

One week ago today I was present at my youngest sister Clara's wedding in Columbus, Ohio.  She married Paul Stoltzfus from Newburg, Oregon--originally from Chestertown, Maryland.  As is true of most weddings that involve second marriages because of the death of a first spouse, some bittersweetness lurked just beneath the surface, but overall it was easy to share in the joy of the happy couple.

Clara's two adult sons gave their mother away.  Her 10-month-old granddaughter and namesake helped strew flower petals ahead of her entrance, except that I'm not sure that she ever actually dipped into the petal-filled basket that her Aunt Victoria carried, along with little Louise.  My two sisters closest to Clara's age (Lois and Dorcas) served as bridesmaids, along with a bevy of other friends from Ohio.

Clara is a good seamstress, and she had sewed her wedding dress.  It was simple and elegant.  Her bridesmaids all wore capes over their dresses--real capes, tied at the neck and falling loosely to end at the waist.  Clara had selected the navy fabric from a custom-clothes website and gave every bridesmaid freedom to choose whatever style they wanted.  After the first person selected the cape style and shared her choice with the others, one by one, they followed suit, each one selecting the sleeve length and neckline option that pleased them.

Neither Clara nor Paul have any surviving parents.  Each of them, though, has a set of parents-in-law from their first marriage.  Clara's Shrock in-laws were present in full force at the wedding.  They provided the rehearsal dinner for all those involved in the wedding and for relatives who had traveled to Ohio from out-of-state.  Fewer of Paul's in-laws could be present, understandably so because of the long trip from Oregon to Ohio.

Paul's four children all followed their father into the field of psychology, except for one, who is a pre-med student.  The youngest  left for college last fall, and all of them may still be in school.  As is true of Clara and Matthew, Paul and Janette had two boys and two girls born to them.  One daughter is married--as is also true in Clara's case.

Clara's small city yard looks like a showcase garden.  In season are hydrangeas and other sumptuous and extravagant flowers.  Many of these were used as wedding decorations.  Peonies were the other main flower, refrigerated in the bud stage from this year's bloom season.  Lots and lots of flowers were present--big bouquets on every table at the reception, bouquets carried by the bridesmaids, and festooning the arched opening and the steps into the outdoor gazebo where they exchanged vows.  Paul's Quaker pastor married them, and Larry Miller (son of "Hallelujah Ervin," I'm told) spoke during the service.  Larry's family and Matthew and Clara's family attended the same Vineyard church. 

When Clara and Paul took a picture with Clara's siblings, Paul told us that he used to look up to our dad, who never treated him like the "bad boy" that some others thought he was.  "And to think that I'm married to his daughter now. . . "  Later, in speaking of what he found attractive about Clara, Paul said that, besides the fact that she's beautiful, Clara is also intelligent and articulate (I'm so glad we're all agreed).  Seriously, I'm happy that Paul treasures Clara and that he felt that our father treated him with respect. 

Steak and salmon were on the wedding dinner menu, along with various delicious side dishes.  The venue was "The Boat House," which offered a glass-walled reception-room overlook along the Scioto River.

Clara and Paul have a very similar Amish Mennonite background, but have both moved into other social and faith traditions, so the wedding was a mix of familiar and familiar-only-elsewhere traditions.  The bridal couple's dancing entrance to the reception (beautiful, if I may say so), the open bar (drinks available for purchase), the exchange of wedding rings, and the toasts all fall into the latter category.  We have our modest and circumspect counterparts, of course--open mic instead of toasts, for example.  The lovely choral singing by all available and willing nieces and nephews was familiar.  The violin music while people gathered and during the processional and recessional included familiar tunes.  I was sorry though that the only version of "Here Comes the Bride" that I know is the seriously corrupted version that I learned in grade school--not in music class of course.

I did not know Paul before he started dating Clara, but I knew others in his family.  The one I know best is Mary Ellen, married to Mark Beachy, who was a former student of mine in Ohio.  Their daughter, Margretta, is married to another more recent student from here, Tim Yoder.  A sister Lydia was at Calvary Bible School when I was there, and another sister Anna once traveled through Kansas on her way to Belize or Guatemala with her veterinarian husband, Doug Hodgins.  They were on a medical mission to the people in the hinterlands who had no access to medical care.  It turns out that his basic medical skills were a great blessing in that setting.

The reception included an extremely well-done video of Paul and Clara being interviewed separately regarding the relationship that led to their marriage.  The videographer's well-timed juxtaposition of Clara's and Paul's responses provided smiles and chuckles throughout.  I also learned a few things.  I didn't know about the "walks" they took together at Calvary Bible School more than 30 years ago--after they had learned to know each other before then at camp week at Faith Mission Home.  Paul says that he thinks nothing more came of it at that time because he was afraid that he'd never get off the farm if he pursued a relationship with Clara.  I did know that he was determined to go to school and was afraid that marriage would derail that effort.  He married Janette after he had graduated from college, but I believe he earned his graduate degree after that.  Paul and Janette (from Oregon) were introduced by mutual friends, probably while he was at Cedarville University in Ohio and she was at Rosedale Bible College nearby. Paul and Clara's paths simply never crossed after Calvary Bible School--until they "met" again one year ago in the comment section on David Nisly's Facebook wall (a mutual friend/acquaintance) when he posted about the death of his father Daniel (from Kansas).

Soon after that first (recent) introduction, Paul and Clara began talking on the phone daily.  They kept that up, with only three exceptions, ever since.

The only fly in the ointment connected to the wedding was an unwelcome development one week before the wedding.  As Paul told it, he had known for years that he had a minor heart murmur, for which he didn't want the medication the doctor offered.  He's been very active and during most of that time did not experience worrisome symptoms--even with regular five-mile jogs.  Ahead of his wedding, however, he decided that since he was getting married, he should be responsible and get checked out again to see if everything was still the same.  He couldn't do the five-mile things anymore without getting winded.  Remembering that his father died of heart problems gave some impetus to do this.  That was when the bombshell dropped.  The doctor informed Paul that he now had a very seriously defective mitral valve requiring surgery, and he would not clear Paul to fly to his wedding in Ohio.

Paul and Clara consulted with other doctors, who all very noncommittally told them they needed to make whatever decision they felt comfortable with.  Never mind that no "comfortable" option was available.  All things considered, they decided to go ahead with the wedding on schedule, but postpone the Costa Rica honeymoon till later.  Instead, they flew back to Oregon promptly, in time for a doctor's appointment on Wdnesday.  The surgery date had already been set for July 10.  At this first post-wedding appointment, Paul was told that the surgeon would attempt to repair the defective valve, but if, during surgery, that proved to be impossible or inadvisable, the valve might need to be replaced.  So surgery is the next big thing on their newlywed agenda.

For Paul and Clara's family and friends, prayers are on the agenda, for no medical crises now, and for swift recovery after the surgery.


Linda and I traveled to the wedding together, with my nephews Hans and Dietrich having the same flight schedule.  On the way home, Heidi and Kristi and Benji and Janae were on the same flights.  We traveled between the airport and hotel in Columbus in the car that Hans rented.  At this end, we traveled between home and Wichita in the Mast's van.  Traveling with them was a huge benefit.  Renting a car and driving in Columbus is sooo not my or Linda's idea of a good time.

The flight from Columbus to Atlanta on the way home was delayed by storms in Atlanta.  Apparently no flights left Atlanta for quite some time, so when we finally arrived several hours late, the airport was teeming with people, most of whom had their travel plans go awry.  The backed-up flights had begun to move again by the time we got there, but the atmosphere was still a bit panicked and chaotic.

We came upon Arthur and Lillian waiting for the same outbound flight to Wichita as the one we were on, so we chatted with them while we waited.  Traveling with our travel-savvy Mast relatives (from the family that owns Golden Rule Travel) did not get us home faster than otherwise, but it left Linda and me unburdened with having to work out any of the details involved in a travel delay.

An affirmation of that is the words of a lady in Columbus who left her place in the security line ahead of Linda and me to come back to tell us how beautifully peaceful we looked when she saw us earlier--not like all the other people around us.  Affirmations like that are always a nice surprise.  I hope I can remember to offer similar kindness to others when it's appropriate.


Jan Maskil died this past week.  She lived in the Nickerson area and became a friend when she offered to teach ceramics to the children in the Royal Clovers 4H club that our family and other homeschoolers were part of.  All our boys took her classes.

The Maskils were an unchurched family.  We didn't know it at the time, but when she began teaching Amish Mennonite children, she didn't know much about us, and thought we were a cult.  Very soon, however, she claimed us as her "favorites"  among the ceramics students.  She has often attended the special  events in "her kids'" lives--programs, graduations, weddings--and she wanted to be sure that "her kids" sing at her funeral.

After Jan no longer taught ceramics, Lowell's family stayed in contact with the Maskils.  Lowell rented their pasture for his cattle and Christy helped them in the house.  Garden produce found its way from the Miller garden to the Maskil table, and they had asked Lowell to help them build a retirement home--just before they decided that moving to a duplex at MFC actually made more sense.  The floor plan there was almost identical to the one they had sketched out themselves.  They visited occasionally.

Last week my brother Lowell got a phone call from Dan, Jan's husband, who was quite distraught, saying that his wife "wouldn't make it" and asking if they could come see them in the hospital.  They (Lowell, Judy, and Christy) did so, and were able to speak to Jan, who assured them that she was trusting Jesus in this hour of imminent death.  Dan, too, visibly relaxed when they prayed with him and Jan.  Before they left, Dan made it clear that he would welcome their continued involvement as further events unfolded.  "We don't have a church . . ." was one of his wistful comments.

Lowell helped the family make funeral arrangements yesterday.  The service will be on Friday at the Elliot Funeral Chapel.  I don't know a lot of specifics, but Lowell and "her kids" will apparently be involved.

Jan Maskil and I shared a birthday.  She was exactly 13 years older than I.  I'm glad I knew her and even more glad that she learned to know the Father that we Amish Mennonite "cultists" love and follow.  Who knew--all those years ago when 4H was a new venture for us homeschoolers--that walking through that open door would--many steps and friendships and conversations and years later--result in Jan being able to walk through the door of death trusting in Jesus?

Today during share time in church, various friends of Jan's told what they remembered her saying and teaching.  Joe said that she used to emphasize that what was required was the student's best effort, not just something that is "good enough."  Oren remembered that she taught students to say "I forgot . . ." not "my mom forgot . . . "  Shane remembered that she said (or perhaps had posted on her wall) "Your lack of foresight does not constitute an emergency on my part."  This past year in school I used a similar quote for my language arts students, without remembering where I had first seen it.  Now I'm thinking it must have been on the wall in Jan's basement ceramic shop.


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