July 3, 1954. She sat alone at the end of the counter while noise and laughter rose and fell around her. She hardly noticed the soda placed in front of her by the waitress with the sweet Southern drawl. While she was trying to hold onto hope, sadness settled in as she replayed the months that should have overflowed with joyful anticipation and planning. She felt the weight of hopelessness, though her wedding was only a day away.
Her eyes filled with tears; she was unable to slow time. What was she to do? Her wedding dress had been ordered since her engagement, and although it had shipped months earlier, it had not arrived. Every Saturday, she drove the distance from her home to the nearby rural town and caught a bus into the big city, anxiously hoping her gown would be waiting at the department store. This trip had proven no different than the last, or the others before. She wanted to remain hopeful, but no time was left. She would board the bus in a couple of hours and return to her little corner of the world empty-handed.
She whispered a simple prayer, “Please, God, make a way.”
On the stool beside her sat an older gentleman, quietly sipping coffee and perusing his newspaper. Now and then, he would steal a glance at the pensive girl. He wondered why this sad young lady was sitting alone in the midst of a cafe lunch rush. Curiosity overcame his thoughts. He turned to face her and kindly inquired if he could help her in any way. She slowly raised her eyes to meet his. Through heartbreak, she shared her story with this gentle stranger.
“I don’t think anyone this side of heaven can help,” she said.
He returned her gaze; then watched as she looked down at her engagement ring. His slow smile expressed sincerity as he spoke, “Will you trust me?”
His question startled her, but for some unknown reason, she lifted her eyes and tentatively replied, “Yes, I will.”
He stood and said, “I am the postmaster of the city post office. Come with me.” Once again feeling a glimmer of hope, she followed his steps through the soda shop, out the door, and to his parked car at the curb.
Within minutes his jangling keys unlocked the heavy metal door leading into the urban post office. As he flipped the light switch, he pointed to a sign in the corner. “Dead letters” it read. The area was designated to store undeliverable mail with incomplete addresses. His kind face looked at hers.
“A box with a missing label has been in that corner for the past two months,” he explained.
Her heart stood still as he lifted a flat package from the floor. Placing it on the counter, he carefully peeled the tape from the cardboard flap. Tissue paper peeked through as he stepped aside, offering her the joy he felt would arrive in mere moments. She closed her eyes, took a hopeful breath, and slowly pulled back the wrapping to reveal her wedding dress. As she gasped, he was already en route to the entranceway. They had limited time to return to the department store.
His car stopped abruptly, and she hurriedly threw open the door. She turned to him, tears poised to fall, and couldn’t find words for what her grateful heart held. He nudged her on. She had less than two hours until her return bus would arrive. He contentedly watched a hopeful girl disappear through the revolving glass door into the bustle of a Saturday shopping crowd.
Hurrying into the bridal department, she was sent directly to the dressing room. She returned wearing the gown. It sagged on her lean body; she had lost weight from worry. The clerk rushed her into the alterations room and shouted, “Ladies, stop what you’re doing! We have one hour to make this dress fit this girl!”
Just as the bus pulled to the stop, a relieved bride-to-be stepped out of the store, boarded, and found her place among other travelers. Beside her on the seat lay a cardboard box that had spent two months gathering dust in a dark post office corner. Rest had come. Delivered on the wings of hope, her dress had arrived just in time.
My mother was a beautiful bride as she stood beside my father that next day. In a small country church before the Sunday morning worship service began, they vowed to spend their lives together. Her smile had been restored along with joy for the future they would share and renewed belief that it’s never too late to hold onto hope.
Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.