Our family had been friends with the O'Briens for decades, so we were excited about the wedding of their eldest daughter Sarah. It was the night before the wedding, and speeches had commenced.
"Daniel," Sarah's father began, addressing the groom, "I'm here to give you fair warning about what you're getting yourself into." Laughter rippled through the crowd. The father sneaked a look at his daughter to be sure she was smiling. She was.
"It began in 1990," her father, Scott, continued. "I was a happily married man with a wonderful wife and two great kids. Then one night in a bar, I learned that we were going to have another baby. Yes, I learned about Sarah in a bar.
"I talked to the baby often during the pregnancy. I'd ask about the accommodations or the weather or if the baby liked the Patriots' new quarterback. I always ended by saying, 'Daddy loves you every day, all the time.' Without fail, the baby stirred at the sound of my voice.
"In the delivery room immediately after birth, Sarah turned when she heard my voice. She arched her back and craned her little body toward me as if she could wait no longer to meet her beloved. My wife says that I was Sarah's first great love. Perhaps she is right.
"I was the first person to hold Sarah in my arms, the first to sing to her and to tell her how much we love her and that she's smart and beautiful and strong. In return, she graced me with her first smile, her first word, her first baby kiss.
"Unfortunately, I developed the bad habit of going to work. I thought Sarah's little heart would break each morning as I headed out the door.
"And then she would wait.
"One day, the waiting became more than she could bear. Sarah squirmed her way into the laundry basket and wrapped my tattered nightshirt around her little body. 'Dada! My Dada!' she quietly wept. My wife grabbed scissors and cut a small swatch of fabric from the hem of the nightshirt so Sarah could carry it around in her chubby fist. We called it her Piece of Daddy. She still has it.
"When she was about 5, Sarah announced that she wanted to marry me. I gently explained that she couldn't marry me because I was already married to her Mama. A few days later she revealed her backup plan: she would marry her big brother. I'm afraid that makes you her third choice, Daniel." More laughter.
"You and Sarah have known each other a long time, Daniel, but there are some quirks that we think you should be aware of. Did you know, for example, that Sarah is terrified of bunny rabbits? Did you know she won't swim in Cape Cod Bay for fear of being attacked by minnows and crabs? And yet, I'm certain she would run into a burning building to save a friend. Probably to save a stranger, too. Possibly even a bunny.”
Scott pressed on. "Did you know, Daniel, that Sarah's kindergarten teacher had to make a rule that Sarah wasn't allowed to answer math questions? It was the only way the other children could get a word in edgewise. Did you know she started reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings when she was , and yet she couldn't sleep without her Barney pillow? You are marrying a very unusual lady.
"Oh, and a word to the wise: if you value your life, do not – I repeat: do not – ever say anything bad about Sarah's beloved big brother. I mean it. Not ever.
"I love that girl with all my heart, Daniel. I love her every day, all the time, and tomorrow, I am giving her to you. She is the most precious gift I have to give, and as I do, I hope you won't mind if I make one request.
"It's the only thing I will ever ask of you. Just cherish her."
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!”
(1 John 3:1)