While I am not much of a romantic, I love reading the Vows column in the Style section of the Sunday New York Times. Every week, the story of a couple — from their initial meeting, through their courtship, to the wedding — is described in a feature among all the other engagement and wedding announcements. I like the Vows column because it shows the diversity of adult love: some stories are admittedly like fairy tales, and yet many incorporate more realism in the setbacks the individuals or couples have encountered.
I know, I know: whether a fairy tale or heroic journey, these stories still reach the same conclusion, with a wedding as a kind of achievement. In these ways, the Vows column is not unlike a 19th-century novel. But I like Jane Austen and the Brontes, and I like the plots of these wedding tales too.
Today’s story, about the friendship, courtship, and union of Bridget Kelly and Eric Strauss, especially touched me. Bridget, now age 34 and a reading specialist in a Brooklyn public school, was attacked, raped, and shot by a stranger when she was 22 and a new teacher in Killeen, Texas. After her recovery from surgery, she made an unusual decision to go public with her story:
[S]he wanted the rape to be reported in the articles with her name as the victim. At the request of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, she returned to the field where she was attacked and made a video that was shown statewide as part of a public awareness campaign. Her message — that she had done nothing wrong and bore no stigma or shame — resonated with many.
A couple of years later, she met Eric Strauss, who is now 39, when she was interviewed by Charles Gibson for ABC’s Primetime. Strauss was then an ABC producer who was in charge of the interview site. Bridget and Eric became friends, corresponded by email for as long as she continued to live in Texas and he in Manhattan, and became better friends, and eventually a couple, after she moved to New York.
The story of Bridget and Eric’s wedding was written by the bride’s father, journalist Michael Kelly. About two-thirds of the way through, he describes the part — the diabetes part — of Bridget’s life that really grabbed me:
Two months after Bridget’s 2002 attack, her pancreas stopped producing insulin and her blood-sugar readings went very high. At 25, through no fault of her own, she had Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes. It was another life-changing event. Like the three million or so other Americans with the disease, she must prick her finger several times a day and regulate her food intake and insulin injections. It is an imposing and constant balancing act for her.
Later in the piece, describing the wedding itself, Michael Kelly adds: “Bridget, wearing a Ramona Ponce gown specially designed with an insulin pump pocket, smiled during the reception as her young nieces and nephews danced about her.”
Why does this particular story move me, besides the fact that the bride has Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump, as so many of us do?
Bridget’s story reminds me that diabetes, which on some days feels like The Big Story to me, may be secondary in many lives, which have been complicated by bigger challenges, events, traumas, and eventual happiness.
The theme of today’s wedding story, no matter how I read it or what part I emphasize, is more about resilience than romance. This my pragmatic heart loves.
Photograph “Bridal Bouquet” by whatsthatpicture on Flickr and published here via a Creative Commons license.