It's easy to love Matt. His excitement for life is infectious and in everything, every moment, he finds something to celebrate. So when he told my family he would not be able to join us for our annual beach week at Ocean Isle, N.C. we were all disappointed. The beach trip would not be the same without him. Matt and Abbie have been dating for six years and unfortunately the majority of the time they have been together they've been living in different cities. Needless to say, Abs was especially bummed when Matt said he was unable to get off of work to come with us.
Beach week was going swimmingly (you see what I did there? Uh huh, welcome to the cheese factory): lots of sun, lots of family and a whole lot of great food. We got to meet Mandie's little one, baby Creighton, and Uncle Jeff, Aunt Ronnie and cousin Rhiannon also joined us, along with Betsy and her boyfriend, Travis. (More about them in a different post)
Tuesday afternoon Betsy and Abbie take a walk on the beach and not a moment later Travis tells us my mom is ordering us up to the house. We all casually walk and talk about what the heck she could possibly want. Then it dawns on us, simultaneously (or, I thought it did. If you ask Toby, he thought we were moving houses. You have to know my mom and her history of moving beach houses and camp sites in the middle of the trip to appreciate that one!) and we begin to run up the deck to the gazebo where mom is on the phone. She tells us Matt is on the beach, waiting for Abbie. We all squeal with delight and start hugging, and some of us (I won't say who), shed a tear or two, knowing what's to come. The whole group, which now includes Matt's parents and Abbie's friends, Lindsay and Jill, (who flew in that morning- God bless them!), huddle on the gazebo waiting for Abbie and Betsy to return.
Five hours later (or 10 minutes, depending on who you ask) they walk up and Abbie spots Matt lounging casually in one of our beach chairs. They sit together for a couple moments, chatting, then he takes her hand and they start to walk toward the beach house. Then he puts his hand in his pocket (the group leans in), gets down on one knee (we hold our breath) and asks her (we cheer and hoop and holler - they don't even notice). A kiss.
So many images flashed through my mind as I had the honor of being present at this most intimate moment. I thought back to when I first knew Matt was the one for Abbie. It was October 2004 and she had just returned home from the hospital after having a tumor removed. My parents gathered us together to talk. This is when our lives changed in an instant.
not what we expected...malignant...ovarian cancer... aggressive chemotherapy... start as soon as possible... I felt paralyzed. I could see that Toby was holding my hand but I couldn't feel it. Betsy started to cry. All I felt was doom. And then anger. 18 years old. One of the most intelligent and kind hearted people ever to walk this earth, not to mention witty and hilariously silly. This is not happening. This is not happening.
Silence. Everyone is crying and my parents are fighting to be strong with everything they have left and knowing it's just the beginning. Now we are talking about the duration of the chemo, the statistics, the challenges of the coming months. Everyone is looking at each other in despair; utter disbelief. Then Matt says, "Ok, so we just have to get her through chemo. We can do that. She CAN do this." And with those simple words there is something so hope-filled and beautiful- the way he said them- so faith-filled and trusting that I start to believe. I shut my eyes and say a prayer of thanks for sending him to us, her angel, full of endless optimism, endless devotion and pure, unfailing love.
And now they are embracing in the sand, the waves crashing at their backs, their family and friends cheering them on from a distance. She with a ring on her finger, he with a smile stretched across his face. Happiness. The moment is perfect. Everything is possible.
We toasted the engagement and then celebrated with a fabulous Italian meal cooked by Rhiannon, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Ronnie. That evening (and every night thereafter) we stayed up late discussing wedding locations, dresses, flowers and my personal favorite, cakes! It fills my heart to see my little sister glowing with happiness and excitement for the future. We wish you nothing but the best, Abbie and Matt, you deserve everything good life has to offer. Thank you for letting us be part of such a special occasion!