It was a sunny May afternoon about a year ago. Sunny afternoons are few and far between on the Oregon State campus so Lene and I celebrated the day by sitting outside on our porch swing. We spoke of boys and life and about how excited we were to plan my winter wedding. We discussed flowers and food and venues and dresses and, most importantly, the dress. After sharing my thoughts and listening to hers, Lene paused before speaking words I never could have imagined hearing. Lene's mother, Pauline, had offered to make my wedding dress. I was speechless and in that moment life was beautiful. I remember the July afternoon when Lene, Pauline, my mother and I piled in my mother's car and made the trek to Portland. It was a last-minute trip but the opportunity arose and we took advantage of it. We spent the day searching the aisles upon aisles of lace and satin until we found the perfect pieces that would make my wedding dress. It was strange seeing the twenty some yards of material folded up like a pile of freshly pressed sheets, but I remember the excitement I felt to be holding the textiles that would christen me into marriage.
Over the next seven months I met with Pauline weekly. To my untrained eye it seemed as though at each new week Pauline had made only one or two stitches before needing the mannequin that was my body to try the garment on. While at first she was making - and remaking - the bodice of the dress, it was only a few short months before the gown began to take shape. Each new week I was overjoyed to see Pauline again and each new week I was floored by the incredible detail and precision that went into creating such a dress. Somewhere between seven and ten layers had gone into the making of my wedding dress and it was more than evident that each of these layers had been sewn with an overwhelming abundance of love and devotion. Pauline had given me a gift that no other person in the entire world could have given me. While I spent those seven months experiencing the amazing process of making a wedding dress, what I really experienced was the beautiful woman that Pauline was. She was an individual who gave of herself to bless others. She smiled continuously, laughed often, and never overlooked an opportunity to wrap up others in the warm embrace that was her hug. She also created a daughter that I will forever be a better person for knowing.
Fast forward to this week.
Her voice squealed with excitement. It was one thirty on Monday afternoon and Lene had just turned in the printed copy of her Honors Thesis. She was three weeks and a handful of final tests away from graduation and her heart - and voice - were exploding with joy over life and its many blessings. It was the beginning of her second week as a newly engaged Fiance, and it was all she could do to not leap out of the phone and join me in Virginia for a cup of coffee and wedding talk. Lene was only one confirming phone call away from setting the date for Labor Day weekend and, much to Pauline's joy, she had just asked her mother to sew her wedding dress. We ended our chat with the promise that we would talk soon and that I would search every wedding blog known to man to find the perfect details for her special day. Life was beautiful.
When I heard from Lene a few hours after our chat she again delivered words I never could have imagined hearing. Earlier that afternoon Pauline had unexpectedly passed away.
And then life hurt. This time, like last time, Lene's words left me speechless. This time my heart hurt for my beautiful friend and her family who's world had just been turned upside down in matter of minutes.
I'm getting ready to head back to Oregon for a week and while I wish I could be returning under different circumstances, I look forward to being with our friends during this time. Anyone who has ever had a close group of friends - in our case who lived together during all four of our college years - knows that one person's mother is truly everyone's mother. Pauline was no exception and we will all miss her as though she were our own. While it's been a rough few days, I think it's only appropriate - and only what Pauline would have wanted - to remember this woman as the joyful, generous, and beautiful woman that she was. I want to remember her as the mother of my dear friend and as my beloved dressmaker.
Here's to Pauline.