Her name is Elsie, she’s 86 and she is hard-of hearing. Tonight, she sits at a table in an elegant hall, the lights are low and a handful of dancers have just finished a waltz.
Across the dance floor, a projection screen is set up. Elsie pushes aside a desert plate and leans forward. She’s been looking forward to this day for a long time. It’s the wedding of her first great-grandchild, Todd. Her son, Richard, told her there’d be a video and that there’d a surprise for her in the video. She has no idea of what that might be, but she can’t wait.
So far, it’s been a wonderful day, though a bit difficult. Elsie lost her husband three years ago and she still feels awkward in public without him. The lights dim and she settles in for the show. She doesn’t know it yet, but the surprise awaiting her is bigger than either her or her son Richard can know.
The surprise will a Sign.
The first frame on the screen, to Elsie’s surprise, it’s a shot of her husband Jack. He’s in his uniform. His eyes are bright, his face so young. In the net frame, he is holding a baby. It is Ricky? It must be Ricky. Now another picture. Tears well in her eyes and blur the outlines of their house on Greenlawn Avenue. She blinks away the tears to see a boy on a tricycle. Is it Ricky? No, it’s Todd.
The pictures keep changing. The people around her are laughing and talking and she wishes they’d be quiet. Don’t they see? Don’t they see how important this is? This is her life, all the love of her life. And that’s when it happens!
She’s not sure if anyone else sees it, but she does. And that’s all that matters.
There, on the screen, a stone chapel set amid palm trees, the Pacific Ocean in the background. A young woman with dark skin and a blue veil stands at the chapel door holding a silver plate. The woman turns the tray and there, in the silver frame is another image of Jack. But it’s more than an image, it’s real! Jack’s been injured and he is kneeling inside the stone chapel, praying.
Elsie can read his thoughts. He’s praying for her and he wants to come home…and Elsie knows why. It’s because they have a baby on the way and Jack’s begging God to heal his wound so he can be the husband and father he longs to be.
Elsie is transfixed.
Jack stands, hobbles up the aisle and lights a candle.
Elsie leans back in her chair, overwhelmed. Her hands are shaking. Maybe it’s her medication. Or maybe the woman in the blue veil was Mary.
Jack never told her about that prayer of his or that stone chapel on that island…but she knows it’s true. It was just like Jack. He relied on his faith to get him through the war and back home. The scene was just like Jack. And just like God.
Just like God to give her this sign on the night of this wedding.
The presentation comes to an end. The bride and groom dance at the center of the floor and she prays that God will fill the life of Todd and his young bride with the happiness she and Jack once knew.
And she prays that soon they will notice the signs, all the marvelous signs of love pressing upon their hearts, stacked like stones in the walls of a chapel, flowing like wine from earthen jars.
Some call it salvation, others grace. But Elsie is a Catholic and the word that comes to mind is Sacrament, a temporal encounter with of Heaven’s glory.
And, someday, she’ll be there, in Heaven. And Jack will be there. And Christ and the Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints will be there. And it’ll be like the Wedding-at-Cana all over again.