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  Chapter 15: Bittersweet Wedding
  Slipping her hand into the crook of Alex's arm, Kate smiled up at him as he escorted her down the aisle of the chapel, crowded with friends and relatives. 

Kate had promised herself that she would not be weepy on this happy occasion. To keep at bay the flood of nostalgic memories that threatened to undo her resolve, she concentrated on admiring the elegant simplicity of the colonial-style chapel with its high domed ceiling and crystal chandeliers. Tall arched windows of leaded glass, framed with ornate ivory moldings, lined the white walls, giving a sense of brightness and light to the room and visually extending it to include the huge shade trees that surrounded the church. At the front of the church, ivy cascaded from white Grecian urns, and a pair of spiral candelabra were twined with deep pink roses and carnations, white spider mums, and more ivy. 

Brenden had been nearing thirty when Melissa stepped into his life like a ray of sunshine. What joy Kate and Michael had shared, watching his quiet personality unfold and blossom as he and Melissa fell in love. What satisfaction to see a beloved son find true happiness with a girl who loved God and shared his ideals. Kate quickly checked that thought before it went too far and looked up as Melissa's mother and father were seated at the opposite end of her pew. 

The organist changed to a bright and joyous processional as Michael entered from the front and six pairs of bridesmaids and groomsmen swept up both side aisles, the girls wearing bouffant dresses of sapphire blue taffeta and the men dashing and handsome in black tuxedos, with bow ties and cummerbunds that echoed the color of the women's dresses. Kate smiled in loving pride as first Alex, then Danny, passed her with beautiful girls on their arms. Carefully, she refused to acknowledge painful thoughts that hovered at the edge of her mind. 

The organ music became more stately and regal. Following the lead of Melissa's mother, the congregation stood and turned toward the rear of the church. Kate caught her breath, and unshed tears shone in her eyes as she saw Brenden and Melissa, looking like a fairytale prince and princess dressed in white, moving slowly up the opposite aisle. They were preceded by the Bible boy, dressed like a miniature groomsman, and Sara, the flower girl, wearing a dainty white dress Kate had made. Kate flashed a smile at Stephanie, who was in the pew behind her with Amy and Samantha, also wearing pretty dresses lovingly made by their grandmother. 

When the bride and groom reached the front of the chapel, the music ended, and heads were bowed as Michael prayed. Then, with a rustle, the congregation was seated, and Michael began his homily. 

Melissa and Brenden, we have come, as your family and friends, to be with you on this special day; to share in your joy; to celebrate with you; and to ask God's blessing as you become a new family in the larger family of God." 

As she listened to the beautiful words, Kate's heart overflowed with joy over her son's happiness. And in that unguarded moment, thoughts of another son, thoughts she had studiously avoided all afternoon, suddenly overwhelmed her. 

Blinking back tears, Kate fumbled in her handbag for a handkerchief as she remembered another wedding she had once dreamed of. Her gaze shifted from Brenden and Melissa to Danny, standing so straight and handsome in his black tuxedo, and for a moment she felt the weight of unutterable sadness. 

A pensive look shadowed Danny's face. Brenden's wedding was a bittersweet occasion for him, he later told his mother. He was glad for his brother. He knew Brenden had waited a long time for the happiness Melissa had brought him. And he was glad to be included and to have an important role in this family occasion. But he could not help comparing his situation with Brenden's as he listened to his father's voice. 

"Brenden and Melissa, marriage is a gift to you from God. In the unity of marriage, it is His plan that you will enjoy, together, a wholeness and completeness that you could not experience alone. Your personalities, blended in marriage, will more fully reflect God's divine character." 

How Danny yearned for his relationship with Steve to be approved of and accepted by his parents and family, for them to feel joy and happiness for him such as they so freely expressed over Brenden's wedding, for the blessing of the church, the recognition of society. But he knew it would never be. He fought back feelings of hurt and bitterness. 

"And so, Melissa and Brenden, it is your love for each other that has brought all of us here for this joyful occasion, your wedding day. As your parents, family, and friends, we wish you every happiness and joy as you begin your life together. May love and laughter crown your home. May God shower His richest blessings on you. And may your love grow deeper and stronger with every passing day." 

Michael introduced the new husband and wife, the organist burst into exuberant Mendelssohn, and the happy couple proceeded down the aisle past Kate as the bells in the tower began ringing out the joyful news to the city. As Kate followed the procession out to the vestibule and into the late-afternoon sunshine, the clangor of the bells echoed the exultation of her heart as, for the moment, she completely identified with the celebration of her son's wedding day. 

But for Danny, painful longing still clouded the happy occasion. He understood why most of his gay friends refused to attend weddings. It was just too painful. 


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