There is a quiet dell leading to the hidden waterfall that gives name to the park by the river. It is kept dark on even the brightest days by a thick canopy of leaves from the ancient trees. The soft bark of the thick tree trunks and the mossy earth quiets the birdsongs and squirrel chatter.
It was in that arboreal grotto that I found myself on the first afternoon in June in my best new suit and tie standing next to my daughter, discussing the weather.
This was not the usual idle chit-chat about the weather; this was serious. For my eldest was dressed in an elegant white gown and veil. The dark grotto hid us from a crowd of friends and family members, a minister, and a groom.
Nearby, away from the shelters out in the open were arranged 200 chairs facing a lovely green trellis, handmade by my daughter and her fiancée. Although the open air chapel had been bathed in sunshine the entire day, the skies had darkened about an hour before. It was sprinkling, and the chairs were wet and getting wetter.
The dim grotto had become even darker, the trees were keeping most of the rain from us. Until, what had started as a light pitter patter on the leaves and our small umbrella, grew louder and more insistent. There have probably been many pictures of brides and their fathers in similar circumstances over the decades, but ours had a 21st century twist as the two of us intently studied Doppler weather radar on my smartphone, hoping to see clearing to our west. Unfortunately, the first opening in the clouds was over 40 minutes away and then there would be all those wet chairs to wipe down and who knew if the opening might just fill with more rain clouds?
“What do you think?” I asked her.
“I love the rain,” she answered. “Let’s get this party started.”
Because the cues for the backup “wedding under the park shelter” were not clear, I left her briefly and went around the corner and toward the shelter to inform those under the shelter of the bride’s decision. Her mother must have been on the same wavelength, because the groomsmen had retrieved the heavy wedding trellis and arranged it under the shelter. I could hear Aila’s baby sister, the maid of honor, taking control of the group and arreanging them for the ceremony. I turned on my heel and returned to the bride, who had moved forward to the threshold of the dell. “They’re starting . . .” I said.
“I know, it’s perfect,” she responded softly. Her young ears could pick out the melody being played under the shelter, 100 yards away across the rainy park.
“I can’t hear the music,” I told her.
“I can . . .” A brief pause. “Okay, that’s our cue,” and she led me out onto the bright, rainy grass.
We must have made quite a picture coming across the field, a fat old man in a suit trying desperately to keep a tiny umbrella above the beautiful, athletic vision dressed in white that he had fathered. At first, we escaped notice, till someone spotted us and a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” issued from the assemblage. As I struggled to keep the rain from her head and the tears from my eyes, I thought about how proud I was of the woman beside me. Many brides would be crying in disappointment at much less significant hitches in their “perfect wedding.” My practical daughter was instead savoring the moment, making sure to hitch up her skirt to show off the tall purple rubber galoshes that matched her wedding shoes. I marched her to the front of the assembly, embraced her, and delivered her to her groom. The service proceeded with my daughter’s planned mix of seriousness and comic interludes. The damp crowd huddled under the protective roof of the shelter alternated tears with laughter.
Later, many people commented that it had been the most memorable wedding that they had ever attended. I know, despite my aging brain cells, that I will never forget the entire experience, especially our time alone together down in the dark and quiet dell.
These are the moments that we live for. This is what it is all about.
These are the times that many of our clients lose forever, and each time I experience one of these times, I am reminded of the immeasurability of their losses. I am reminded of the difficulty of our task in recreating these losses and asking for compensation.
My dear lost brothers can never stand with their daughters in a rainy park or the back of a church, can never give their daughters away to start a new life. My nieces have been deprived the support and love of their fathers. They will need to find substitutes to take my brothers’ place in those and other circumstances. My dear sister torn from us by the horror of cancer just two weeks before my daughter’s wedding, will never get a chance to plan her daughter’s wedding, to help her pick out a dress or shed tears at her beauty. They can only be with us in spirit.
These are the losses that personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are tasked to value. These are the losses that we must take into a dry and sterile courtroom and attempt to recreate. It is a formidable task and the reader would do well to consider these losses when they hear of a death or a catastrophic injury.
As a partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Joe Crumley has over 30 years experience helping injured people and their families to secure just and fair compensation. Excelling in personal injury litigation, Mr. Crumley has secured numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements and won accolades such as MTLA’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year” and “Excellence” Awards.
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