Sunday, July 23, 2006

E. + P.

I've thought a lot over the last 72 hours that "once upon a time" is pretty overrated these days. The only people who seem to even pretend it exists are celebrities who do the whole fairytale wedding deal, marry a too-handsome prince, end up in a tabloid as the result of some public falling out, then end it all a few months later with shared custody of the dogs and a big "For Sale" sign in front of the beach house in Malibu.

You know. The American Dream, basically.

But when I was 17 years old, I had the privilege of seeing "once upon a time" unfold right in front of me. Well, a floor above me. The Intensive Study Floor, in fact - though thinking of Elise being so close to the words "intensive" and "study" pretty much makes me want to giggle. Or perhaps guffaw. :-)

Elise and Paul met when we'd been at State two weeks, and I don't think I've ever seen two people fall in love harder or faster. Elise's eyes would light up when she mentioned "P-Dub," and he called her "baby" in a way would make your heart flip over just a little bit. You could just tell that when he looked at her, he had every intention of taking care of her for the rest of his life.

And that's exactly what he did.

Paul and Elise were one of the most affectionate couples I've ever known - they could not sit next to each other without holding hands, or rubbing backs, or, more often than not, locking lips. Those two LOVED to lock some lips. :-) And one thing I want their boys to know is that their daddy loved their mama openly, proudly, and unabashedly...I think that's what her friends loved the most about him. We all wanted to have our very own Paul one day. Just without the Hawaiian shirt collection, if possible.

Really, the thing about the Paul and Elise fairytale that makes it so great is that they never pretended to be perfect. They were honest about their struggles and their victories. Always. They fought hard for their marriage. Always. I mean, truth be told, Elise has been known to be a little, um, authoritative (that means bossy) from time to time, and Paul, God love him, had all the fashion sense of a colorblind retiree. So they weren't exactly the docile princess in her flowing gown and the suave prince in his coat and tails...they favored t-shirts and shorts, thankyouverymuch, and don't even THINK about a glass slipper - it was all flip flops, all the time for those two.

But the one ingredient of the traditional fairy tale that they had totally down pat was this: a pure and steadfast love. Even in those moments when they didn't like each other very much, the love never failed them. Up until the very end, the love never failed.

And so, a couple of nights ago, in a hospital room in Pensacola, my sweet friends and I had the great privilege of being with Elise and Paul as this particular chapter of their unique fairytale came to a close. Elise kissed her prince over and over again, and she stroked his face, and she rubbed his arm, and she held his hand - things we've watched her do countless times over the last nineteen years. And it struck me, as we reminisced about how Paul cried all the way through his wedding vows, and how he fell to his knees and sobbed when he was completely overwhelmed by the blessing of his first baby boy, and how he had to be - HAD TO BE - the first one on the dance floor when live music was playing, that while this particular ending might not be "happily ever after," it's been a fairytale just the same. I'm so grateful that I had the privilege to witness it.

Elise and Paul's legacy as a couple is something that I pray all of our friends will be intentional about communicating to their boys. Because I want them to know - and never, ever forget - how deeply their daddy loved their mama, and how desperately she loved her prince. He didn't ride up to her castle on a white horse - it was more like he drove up to her dorm in a copper-colored car - but their "once upon a time" was very much for real. And it was incredibly inspiring. And it will live in Elise's heart - and so many of our hearts - forever.

The End.


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