Mar 102013

The Wedding Chair

By Arlene N. Diehl

PN News article

Article as it appeared in the February 2003 issue of Paraplegia News.

            Winter had concluded and spring was upon us.  The April 5th wedding date was not far away.  Paige’s wedding had been on the front burner for several months and the female attention to planning every aspect of the big day had begun to wear thin on the male components of the wedding.    Nonetheless, the day was fast approaching and the dreams were beginning to encroach upon reality.

            So, following the advice of several wedding planner books, we made preparations for everything from wedding etiquette to reception detail. The ladies from our church transformed the old Community Center into a western style banquet hall, stringing white Christmas lights and positioning straw bales to create the ambiance of a Montana night under the stars.  With the decoration being complete, it was time to rehearse.

The detailed wedding planners had covered every practical to-do list and advised for every awkward family arrangement.  Their ready-made counsel seemed all-inclusive, except for the dilemma, our dilemma:  how to get Paige down the aisle?

Our dilemma did not include a blended family or a deceased parent.  No dysfunctional relationships had clouded this aspect.  Paige had a healthy love and virtuous respect for her father, one to be envied on any level.  Being most like her father, they easily tolerated one another’s view of life, and found that their shared objectivity often put them on the same page, reading life’s events in casual harmony.

So the question of who was to escort her was not a dilemma.  The question to resolve was a matter of transportation.  How would David escort Paige, his first daughter, to meet the man that she had chosen to spend the rest of her days with??

Our transport dilemma concerns the chair. David’s wheelchair.

Six springs had come and gone since David’s bout of transverse myelitis. Experiencing the grace and sufficiency of God, we had learned to adapt to David’s paraplegia.  Using creativity and ingenuity, we had resolved nearly any accessibility issue, including getting on a tractor.  Paige and her siblings knew a different kind of normalcy.

But this “different normalcy” still brought us to this dilemma:  how to have a “normal escort” down the aisle at Paige’s wedding?

We discussed the options.  With years of physical therapy, David had acquired the strength to ambulate with long leg braces; having never recovered the nerves for sensory or motor function, his gait was difficult and dangerous without a strong escort to assist every step.  Technically, he could walk her down that aisle.

Or perhaps David could hold her arm, while I follow, pushing the chair from behind?

Or how about both of us grip the wheelchair and sandwich David in between while steering our way to the front of the church?

None of these came close to normal, and certainly none was the picture that we were hoping to create.

Then our wedding organizer, Jill, made a suggestion.  Why not take the escort while sitting on David’s lap??  No, it was not normal.  But neither was it abnormal, since Paige was quite comfortable climbing onto her father’s lap for far less important occasions.  So, having eliminated all other possibilities, it was decided.  At an ordained moment in time, Paige was to appear at the top of the stairs.  When all was ready, she would seat herself on his lap, receive her bouquet and make ready for the escort.  David, strong and muscled, would wheel the chair forward and take his passenger to the front of the church, where Trinity would then take her hand to help her to her feet.

It was settled.  Rehearsing brought confirmation and emotion to all.  And since this was what Paige and her Dad wanted, it was natural for them.  We knew that the real moment would be a tearful one, even if David could walk.  But envisioning this picture, I mostly feared that the emotion would flood over father and daughter, making it all the more difficult for mom to stay afloat.  But that didn’t matter at this juncture.  A wheelchair ride is what it would be.

The day came.

All the effort put into the planning was not in vain. But all the painstaking anticipation did not predict that the plans of a girl and her father would upstage every detail with stunning display.  Every eye would record the picture of the bride’s radiance and her father’s victory over adversity as the two redefined the traditional trip down the aisle.

Did we remain composed? Of course not.  And even though I knew how the stage would unfold, I still had to fight hard to protect my makeup from the tears bursting within. So, with a curious mix of joy and sorrow, my wish for normalcy was drowned by immeasurable gladness for the two passengers on that chair.  There was a collective hush and strain to see as they forged ahead, both seeming unfazed by the outpouring of surprise and emotion erupting all around them.

The rolling escort concluded with a graceful assist to a stand.  Paige now stood, ready to say her vows and to be joined to a new escort in her journey into time. A simple escort was the day’s crowning glory.


Though ours is an abnormal journey, we thank our Heavenly Father that we can celebrate each season. We have learned long ago that although normalcy is what we desire, gratefulness has brought a different gladness.  And although we disdain the chair, that dark winter of life has forged our character within, bonding parents and children in a way that “normal” could not.

            It has been said that we could not appreciate spring if it were not for the winter.  I believe that is true… There are times like this wedding that our senses and emotions not only savored a wondrous spring, but at the conclusion of the day, it is certain to say that what our seasoned hearts had experienced …  was truly … the glory of summer.

Here is David with his daughters, Paige and Andrea, both of whom he “carried” down the aisle.

Paige and her father

Paige and her father

Andrea and her father

Andrea and her father

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 Posted by at 7:38 am

  14 Responses to “The “Wedding Chair” (Here is how David “carried” his daughters down the aisle.)”

  1. Arlene this is beautiful! Heartwarming and so well written. Overcomers!

  2. Arlene, thank you for sharing this very special and beautiful story. You all created your glorious summer. I admire your strength and wisdom.

    • Thanks, Kim! It has been 16 years since Paige got married and we still get comments about the day…
      Now she has three kids herself, which are a delight to us.

  3. beautiful!!

  4. Arlene,
    This is absolutely beautiful! All of it and God is good in all things. Thank you for sharing. I am encouraged and blessed.

  5. That was a very heart warming story. Very sweet how creative you were on their special days!

  6. Thanks for sharing that story. Your family is truly an inspiration. We are so blessed to have known all the Diehls!

  7. What a wonderful day that must have been for you all! Great to hear how you resolved this tradition so beautifully!

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