I was hungry and tired. It was warm, very warm. The mosquitoes were biting. And I was walking through the woods, in the dark, wearing a sundress and flip flop leather sandals…
The invitation had come earlier that spring. My sister blessed with creativity and a penchant for flare, would be wed that summer. “You are invited to a firefly wedding.” What? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Yes, indeed a “firefly wedding”. An evening nuptial set in the Smoky Mountains National Park in Elkmont, Tennessee – culminating with the viewing of fireflies.
Okay, so I’ll be honest. I laughed just a bit about the whole bug wedding theme. Yet fireflies aside, genuine excitement and joy filled my heart for my sister. She had found love again! I had not attended her first wedding. Hurts held deep in both our hearts over that decision. Hoping for redemption, I was determined to play a supporting role in this day of union. With effort, Bob and I rearranged our schedules, cleared the date and made plans to attend.
We had arrived the night before and stayed in Gatlinburg just outside the park. With plenty of time before the wedding started, we found our way to Elkmont. At the entrance, we would meet my sister’s finance and be escorted to the site. As we neared the park, cars began to pile up and turn around. I received an urgent text from my sister, “WHERE are YOU?” Followed by information that the park was shutting down to all unregistered vehicular traffic.
What? Are you kidding me? All the way from Houston to now miss yet another wedding! From where our car sat, there was no way we were getting into the park. And who shuts a park down to vehicular traffic during peak summer hours? Good grief! With my hand on the door handle, I boldly stated, “I’m getting out right here, right now and walking into that park!” Nothing was going to keep me away from my sister.
Thankfully, Plan B kicked-in and we parked at a visitor’s center several miles away to be picked up by my sister and her groom. They were registered park campers for the night. My sister informed me that cars were not allowed in after a certain point to insure the safety of pedestrians and also the fireflies. Okay, really? People yes, but aren’t we just talking about a few beetles? Wow…
The wedding was beautiful, set along the banks of The Little River that runs through the park. My sister was a lovely bride dressed in shades that included her signature color, purple. Her man, he loved her. I knew, because I firmly shook his hand and looked into his eyes. Plus he wore his heart on his sleeve. I cried with joy as they expressed their vows with tender love. It was a celebration filled with the goodness of second chances.
I was looking forward to rejoicing with a big piece of wedding cake. We had eaten much earlier that day. Sadly, upon transport the wedding cake experienced disaster that left it inedible – which my sister handled with such grace. So the wait for twilight and the first blinking glows of the fireflies left us all hungry. My niece passed around a bag of chips around 8PM. I’m telling you, those four nacho cheese Doritos tasted simply divine! They were enough to stave off the “hungries” for just a bit longer.
So, waiting and watching for fireflies is much like a watched pot that never boils. Many guests left. Finally, the first lights blinked around 9:15. “We have to move deeper into the woods for the real show,” stated my new brother-in-law. “And no flashlights allowed unless they are covered in red or blue cellophane.” Ah, note to self. Who knew? Sigh…
“Ouch!” “Watch out for that tree branch!” “Are we in deep enough?” Voices whispered and shadowy bodies moved throughout the woods. Bob held my hand and drew me close to his side. Twigs stabbed my feet and branches scratched my legs. I tugged at his arm and whispered, “All I’m saying is, this better be sooo worth it.”
Then in the pitch black a truly amazing wonder of creation took place. A hush stirred the woods. I looked around to find hundreds of illuminated faces watching with delight and astonishment. Thousands of fireflies looking for love put on a spectacular light show – a symphony of synchronized sparkles cascaded over the bluff through the woodsy terrain.
Photinus carolinus. This amazing synchronous firefly finds its way to this special spot in the Great Smoky Mountains each year. This lightning bug show is truly a spectacular event that very few people get to witness.
Time stood still. I couldn’t move. Bob held me gently in his arms. And I’m quite certain I was holding my breath. My entire being was mesmerized by the extravagant phenomenon dazzling before my eyes.
I soon found my sister by my side. She whispered, “So, what do you think?” I was speechless. She put her arm around me and we hugged. “I’m so glad you came to the wedding. It means so much that my sister is here.” “And I am so happy to be here celebrating with my sister!” I replied. “Nothing could keep me away this time.” Her face glowed with love and my heart blazed with redemption.
Time has passed. That blaze has dimmed, replaced by misunderstandings, conflicts, illnesses, old and new wounds with much distance to navigate in our hearts and words. Sisters raised together in similar circumstances, with much different experiences and responses. There are times we have wanted to quit – wondering if it’s really worth it with so much in between. Is reconciliation even possible? It has been a difficult journey. Yet, my heart still desires much more in our relationship. It remembers the bright sparks of hope that joyous summer.
Oh my, what an enchanted evening!
And yes, sooo very much worth it… Love is always worth the cost.
Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 32 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose. Robyn writes here. n