Earlier in the autumn some friends of ours decided to renew their wedding vows. It was a beautiful day and better than most weddings I’ve attended.
We first met Gloria and Steve in the mid 90’s after their daughter Yasmin was born with Down’s syndrome. Emily was only two and we have always been happy to go and visit new parents and give them our support and encouragement. We’ve received it back many fold over the years.
Sadly Yasmin died when she was just three years old.
What made the wedding vow renewal day particularly special and poignant was that it was on Yasmin’s 21st birthday. So it was a day of celebration, of remembering, of giving thanks.
This was also a day that Emily would never forget. She had been asked by Gloria and Steve to sing during their service. Not as part of a group or a choir or even a duo. She had been asked to sing a solo, accompanied only by her brother in law on guitar.
No video exists of Emily’s performance. I am usually the first to try to capture things like this on film but this once I wanted to get a quick photo and then sit back and enjoy the moment.
Emily was amazing. She took the microphone, showed no nerves, just stood there and sang beautifully. The church was silent, everyone listening intently to every word. I was so proud. Her rendition of “A thousand years” couldn’t have been better if Christina Perri had been there herself.
"Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every hour has come to this”
The words just seemed to perfectly sum up Emily’s opportunity. She received a huge round of applause at the end, calmly raised her arm and gestured towards the happy couple as though saying, “that was for you” and then took her seat as the applause died down.
She looked radiant. In that moment, nobody questioned her ability to tell the time. No-one considered asking her to find the right money to pay for something. Right then there was not a thought to see if she could spell, cook or find her way from home to college. We were not concerned whether she could choose a healthy meal over a burger and chips, whether she could brush her own teeth, ride a bike or swim without gulping half of the water in the pool.
There were no tests to check her understanding, nobody standing over her to make sure she didn't make a mistake, nobody shadowing her every move.
No. Right in that moment Emily was doing what nobody else in the church could do. She was being Emily.
To stand there and sing, no words to read from, to humbly choose to direct the applause meant for her elsewhere and to make my friends cry.
Right in that moment she could do everything that really mattered.