July 10, 2020, our wedding day. No aisle, no flowers, no coordinated outfits, but there was a lot of love. I showed up with the love and the pain to celebrate the love between Ra’Shaud and I.
I’m so thankful for all the people who showed up on the Zoom call, but also those who did what they could to make this day and this week as special as could be. My friends came in town, packages with thoughtful gifts showed up in the mail, handwritten notes, a surprise chocolate covered strawberry delivery, and even a surprise in person visit. Y’all made me feel so special and so loved.
Below is what I shared on the Zoom Toast:
I spent last night typing the word “vows” into Ra’Shaud’s computer hoping something would reveal itself . But It didn’t, and I knew I was searching for no reason. I’d be surprised if Ra’Shaud intended to plan and write his vows down in the first place, he spoke beautifully with no notes. And today wouldn’t have been any different, if anything it would have been easier. I don’t need a script of what he would have said to me, I know. The vows we were to say in front of each other today would not be anything we didn’t say to each other every day.
About a year ago I had a heavy crying session as I left Ra’Shaud once again heading back to DC. I laid in his arms and just sobbed. So frustrated with time, and the idea of having to make it through another year apart. He held me tight and assured me that our time was coming. It would be our time soon. That long drive back home, I called him to cry some more, I cried to my mom on the phone, I cried to his grandma on the phone. I just could not pull it together.
In addition to writing our vows, Ra’Shaud and I both intended to speak during the reception. So the moment I got home from that trip I grabbed my computer, opened a new document in my wedding planning folder titled “One Day Soon” and began typing this:
As many of you know, I have been planning this wedding since I was a little girl. I knew the event, and the party would happen, but I didn’t know with who. I collected pictures and glued them into notebooks, I had file folders in my head of how I wanted things. When my Dad died when I was 17, I immediately recognized the fact that he would not be there in the flesh with me on my special day. High School Alysse had enough forward thinking to go into his closet and take a navy blue dress shirt and a navy blue tie in hopes that it could be incorporated into her wedding someday. Four years later that girl grew up and met Ra’Shaud Graham…and while she found her guy she still had to wait.
I remember walking out of Newcomb, a UVA dining hall, after the weekend I started talking to Ra’Shaud and I entered “The Citadel” on google maps. I literally stopped in my tracks. 7 hours I saw. Never did I intend to jump into a long-distance relationship but here I was. Because I knew Ra’Shaud was worth it.
As the years continued, I felt like I handled the distance better at times than Ra’Shaud did. That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry every time I saw his car pull off, but I understood the season of life we were both in.
Then about a year and a half before today, my longing for our life together in Christ, in the same state, was increasing. At times I felt anger because I felt like we had put in our time, we did all the right things, but it just wasn’t our time yet. I poured my heart out to the Lord praying that he would strengthen me and bring me peace and joy.
So I planned and planned and planned, which really means I distracted myself I distracted myself I distracted myself . I couldn’t make the days go faster, so I focused on what I could control and threw my energy into venues, and colors, and dresses. I made spreadsheets, and documents, and emails. Still I waited.
This past year has been a marathon of prayer. Prayer to be at peace, and prayer for strength, but the Lord brought us to today. We made it, I’m so thankful that all of you could be here to celebrate, because the wait is over! (2019)
If I’m being honest, reading that, those words and those feelings that I believed would be true today sound like a cruel joke. It is our time. We waited so long for this. It was supposed to work out. Long distance was supposed to be a blimp in our forever love story, but now it is our story. I’m in an ultimate long distance relationship and my wait has been extended. I’m here, and he’s there, but the love still is.
Our love still is. We were obsessed with each other. From the moment we started dating we recognized the other’s talents, and learned how to dance with each other. Me in his Lake City and Citadel places, him in my UVA and DC ones. We could change speed when needed, we could change the lead when needed. We danced the distance, we danced the financial woes, we danced tough days, we danced great days, we danced as one. Today we were to become one.
Having this call, having some semblance of the community who would have been around today is what I needed. I thank you all for literally showing up for Ra’Shaud and I. Showing up for me.
I love you Ra’Shaud Graham. All the way around the world and back again. Ten times. TEN WHOLE TIMES.