On our wedding day, July 22, 2000, I tucked a hand-embroidered handkerchief inside the sleeve of my wedding dress.
It was a gift, my 'something new.' I kept it close at hand, ready to catch any tears that may fall on this momentous day.
I don't really remember crying on our wedding day. I just remember feeling so euphoric, so overjoyed, so married. I remember the day with bright vividness, especially how Robb literally danced as his dad said, "I now pronounce to you, for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Robb Williford." A happiest of grooms.
I carried the handkerchief all day, the silent witness to my every moment on the first day of our marriage. At the end of the day, it was as pristine as it had been first thing in the morning. Not a flaw, perfectly white, without spot or blemish.
I have carried it on other special occasions in the last decade, but it spent most of those ten years tucked safely in a drawer.
On the day of Robb's funeral, as I dressed for an event equally momentous as our wedding, I suddenly realized it was just what I needed.
"Please be where I think you are... please be where I think you are..." I whispered as I rifled through my drawer of keepsakes.
And there it was. And I took it with me, although not tucked in my sleeve. I held it tightly in my hand. It was not a token of newness; it was much more necessary. It caught my river of tears.
I have carried it every day since. Every single day.
Even now, it is in my purse. I have needed it nearly every day. It is no longer pristine or white; it is smeared with mascara streaks, and it has turned a dull shade of gray.
I met a mentor of mine for coffee about a month ago. As we talked, I drew my handkerchief out of my purse to once again dry my eyes.
She said, "Oh, oh, my. Tricia. May I look at that?"
"Oh, Laura. It's so dirty. I've got to wash it."
She unfolded the linen and held it in her hands.
"Tricia, please don't ever wash it. This is one of the most beautiful, sacred things I have ever seen. This holds the story of your marriage. The day it began, and the tears as it ended. Please, please, don't ever wash it."
Perhaps, when I no longer need it every single day, I will frame it in a shadow box.
Indeed, it tells a story.