Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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They were sitting face-to-face in the pastor’s quarters. “What brings you here Millie,” asked Pastor Harold Cooper gently. He was well acquainted with Mildred Allen. She and her fiancé, Frank Baxter, had been talking to him about an upcoming marriage. All talk on this subject had disintegrated upon word that Frank had been killed by an IED in Iraq. His rank had been Sergeant when he died. In March, his body had been buried with military honors in Wellhaven Cemetery.
“Frank has been coming to me, as a ghost, for several days, Pastor.” Mildred spoke quietly and calmly, as if her words could be considered commonplace. The fact is the good pastor was instantly shaken.
“Frank came to you as a ghost?” Pastor Cooper repeated, as if he had not correctly heard what she had said.
“I know this is an unusual thing for you to hear, Pastor,” she said. “But it’s true
. When Frank comes, I see him as clearly as I’m seeing you now. He is dressed in an ordinary soldier’s uniform. He is clean and neat and well shaven. He smiles at me, and we talk.”
The pastor could not find any words with which to reply.
“We talk about him and me, and the plans that we had been making for getting married. He tells me that he loves me dearly. The most astonishing thing he says is that he wants to marry me. I know people don’t get married after they had died, but Frank keeps repeating what he says about marriage over and over. He really means it. And I want to marry him too. Pastor, is it possible that you can marry us?”
Pastor Cooper, astonished at the request, was silent for several minutes. Mildred waited patiently knowing that what she had requested was probably an impossibility.
Finally Pastor Cooper found his voice, and said, “I do understand what you are asking, but I don’t see how your request can be granted. I don’t know of any case where anything like this has ever been done. I know that people are being married under unusual circumstances these days; same-sex marriages are common. But a marriage between a dead person and a live one, I just can’t imagine it happening!”
“It would not have to be an elaborate marriage,” she said. “If it were done in your chambers, I’m sure that Frank would be happy with that, and my objective at this time, is to make him happy. Can’t it be arranged in some way?”
“I could do a dedication ceremony without any trouble,” said the pastor. “I would expect that Frank would be present, at least spiritually, if not literally. Would this be acceptable?”
“A dedication ceremony is not a marriage.” Mildred said firmly. “And he wouldn’t appear invisibly. I would be able to see him though other wouldn’t. I would expect that he would have on his best uniform and would be wearing his medals.”
“During this wedding, would people be able to see him?”
“I don’t think so. I see him very clearly. But when he came to the wedding, I think I would be able to see him but you would not.”
“Would you expect to, ah, I don’t know how to say this, consummate the marriage?”
“No, Frank is a spirit. He has no solid substance. But for me, this would not be an important consideration. I know that under certain circumstances, people get married without expecting the marriage to be, as you say, consummated. But for me and for Frank the marriage would be real. And I would become Mrs. Baxter!”
“You would be happy under these circumstances?”
“Yes, because I would know that one day I would a spirit just as he is now!”
“I don’t know of any mechanism by which I can legally grant your request,” said the pastor. “Let me do some thinking, and some inquiring around, and I’ll see what might be possible.”
“I couldn’t ask for anything more!” said Mildred.
After Mildred had left, pastor Cooper sat at his desk, writing down some possibilities. He wrote,
Then he picked up the phone and dialed the number of Congressmen Wilkinson, whom he knew well.
“Jim,” he began, “I have the weirdest request that you may never have heard. One of the members of my congregation, wants to get married to a dead person, a fallen soldier in Iraq. She says that he is a ghost who is requesting the marriage and she wants to comply. I want to do whatever is possible, but I don’t know what is possible! Is there any way that a marriage can be conducted legally under these circumstances?”
The Congressman did not immediately ridicule the request or declare it to be impossible. He said, “Right off the top of my mind, the only thing I can think of is for Congress to pass a law allowing the marriage, on a one-time basis, with the two people that are involved. It would be a request unheard of in history, but for the sake of the serviceman, I think there a chance that it might be passed. Let me check it out.”
“Thank you Jim. Let me know as soon as you can. In the meantime I’ll call the young woman and tell her that we’re working on it and will get back to her.”
They hung up.
The pastor sat motionless for a few minutes, then he dialed Mildred’s number. “Millie, I’ve just talked to a Congressman that I know and he will see what can be done. I’ll get back to you when I know more. Don’t expect a lot. And don’t expect my answer to come right away. But I will call!”
There is much that happened within the next several months. There were the usual wrangles in Congress over the budget, taxes, health benefits, and others. Unbelievably, the House of Representatives actually took up consideration of the bill James Wilkinson had requested. It passed with no dissenting votes. The measure called for Pastor Cooper to conduct a wedding ceremony for a deceased soldier named Frank Baxter to a living person named Mildred Allen at a time and place convenient to both of them. No license would be needed. At the ceremony, the persons needed in attendance with the pastor, were the bride, groom and a witness. The ceremony could be as complex or as simple as the bride and groom wanted it.
Pastor Cooper gave the good news to Mildred as soon as he could. She was overjoyed with the information, and said that Saturday, June 15 at two p.m. would be a good time for her and she would check with Frank to see if this date and time would also nr convenient for him. Pastor Cooper thought, inwardly, that he could not understand why any time at all would not be convenient for a ghost.
On June 15, Mildred and Pastor Cooper were sitting in the same chairs that they had sat in at an earlier time. The pastor wife, Susan, was standing at the doorway. “Is Frank here?” Pastor Cooper asked Mildred.
“I saw him last night,” she responded. “And he said he would be here exactly on the dot.”
“How will I know if he’s here?” asked the pastor.
“I will tell you when he has arrived,” she said. “I’ll be able to see him. Even though you will not. He will respond to your questions, and you will hear his voice. I’ll be looking forward to this myself since even though I have been seeing him for several weeks, I have never heard him speak.”
“I am happy to see you again, Pastor Cooper,” came a disembodied voice. Pastor Cooper, greatly astonished, looked in every direction but saw no one. He had enough presence of mind, however, to stand and ask the bride and groom to place themselves facing him. Then, assuming that they were there, he began the ceremony.
Although the pastor was not able to see Sergeant Baxter, Mildred could see he was there beside her. As she had expected, he was dressed in a handsome uniform and with medals on his chest.
When the pastor asked if Frank would take Mildred as his lawful wife, the clear voice of Sergeant Baxter was heard robustly saying, “I do!” Mildred responded to the question in the same way. Pastor Cooper declared the couple to be man and wife.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Baxter thanked Pastor Cooper for the service he had provided, then left. Susan, who had said nothing during the ceremony, declared, “I never felt so strange in all my life!”
“It was strange for me, too,” responded her husband.
“Oh look,” exclaimed Susan Cooper, “this wasn’t here during the ceremony.” She picked up an item from the table near the door, and handed it to the pastor. It was an envelope containing a thank you note that was signed by Sergeant Baxter. There were also several brand new bills of paper money in the envelope with strange symbols and writing on them. These turned out to be Iraqi dinars, which the pastor and his wife never exchanged for U.S. dollars.