Ford column: What Would Jennie Do?
Sometimes when my kids are stressing me out or I haven’t been an attentive friend or my priorities get out of whack, I find myself thinking WWJD.
What Would Jennie Do?
Slow to anger, quick to laugh, creative and patient, Jennie has been my one of my closest friends since ninth grade.
For this, I consider myself very lucky.
Jennie has a tender way with her children that I often try to emulate and only sometimes achieve. She always, always puts her family and friends first.
A cardiac nurse, she epitomizes the nurturing, expert care offered by the best healthcare providers.
Her enthusiasm for even the smallest joys in life knows no bounds. She actually called me once to describe a flower, her voice shaking from the sheer beauty she had witnessed.
Jennie and I drove across South Dakota to the Black Hills one summer in my mom’s convertible. When we dubbed ourselves “Thelma and Louise,” I told Jennie I would bring the gun.
She said she would bring Brad Pitt.
It hit 100 degrees as we drove across the plains toward the mountains, and I asked Jen if we should put the top up.
She looked at me, sunburned and drenched with sweat, and said, “This top is not going up until we get back to Sioux Falls.”
We sang and sweated and laughed and waved at truckers, pausing halfway across the state in Chamberlain to admire the powerful Missouri River that splits the state in two. We peeled off our clothes in the Pizza Hut bathroom, only to soak fresh outfits an hour later.
Our soundtrack was U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” A few years later, I would call Jennie from the U2 concert in Atlanta, screaming an indiscernible “I love you! I wish you were here!” into the phone.We stopped at the famous Wall Drug to buy sun visors but walked away in cowboy hats instead.
Jennie’s life, at times, has been more difficult than most. In response, her many friends have formed a protective circle around her that runs from Washington State to North Carolina.
When she started dating Russell a few years ago, we held him at arm’s length. We welcomed the suitor, joked with him, but looked at him out of the corner of our eye with a furrowed brow.
Would he treat her right?
We watched him, judged him, tested him.
As Russell and Jennie exchanged vows last weekend on the shores of Lake Madison, overlooking the picturesque place where they will build not only a house but also a future, no one could have looked at her with more adoration.
He loves Jennie, and he loves her kids as much as his own.
Anna walked hand-in-hand down the grassy aisle with her new sister Victoria. Then young Ben escorted his mother, stunning in a simple ivory dress and pearls, and took his place next to Russell.
Looking up with a smile, Ben took his hand.
Would Russell take Jennie to be his wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health?
“Forever,” he said. “I will.”
I don’t think there was a dry eye on the lawn when the minister asked for the rings and Russell surprised Jennie by walking over to his grandmother and accepting the gold band from her left hand, then placing it on Jennie’s finger.
The reading of “Simple Gifts,” a Shaker song written in 1848, couldn’t have been more apt.
Late in the night, after eating and dancing and a typical South Dakota rain shower that had everyone huddled under the huge tent for a few minutes, the band tried to say good night.
“Can you play it one more time?” the bride asked, and they broke into her song, “I Will Survive.”
Jennie has not only survived but thrived. Driven by her devotion to her children and an epiphany that she deserves to be happy, she’s shown strength that none of us knew she possessed.
Russell is one lucky Norwegian. And he knows it.
” ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ’twill be in the valley of love and delight.”
To be in the place just right. Truly a simple gift.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.