Oh, Mr. 973, you'll never know what you could've been part of last weekend.
You might've wept as Maria Isaacs and Keith Cole recited their wedding vows. Many of the teary-eyed guests had never even met the couple, yet they'd donated everything that made the poignant gathering so lovely.
All of them, Mr. 973, leapt into action when they heard that Isaacs, 54, and Cole, 58, wanted to marry. The couple had battled homelessness and addiction during the decades they'd loved each other. When they got clean and sober over a year ago and secured housing, they wanted to finally marry.
I wrote a March column about the efforts of Wallingford attorney Sharon Suleta to pull their wedding together. She'd met the couple while delivering meals and socks to homeless men and women at Suburban Station (she calls her program "Meals on Heels"). Through Facebook, she'd recruited volunteers to help organize the big day, but she still needed a hall. So I put the request out there.
You detested the column, Mr. 973 (that's my nickname for you, since you called anonymously from a 973 area code to complain). You believed there were worthier potential recipients of readers' caring, like war veterans and kids with cancer. (I've written plenty about both, by the way.)
"This is the best person you can write about?" you asked, adding that Isaacs "clearly loves alcohol more than she loves having a job." The people who deserve a hand, you said, "are those who are contributing members of society," and folks like Isaacs and Cole "clearly are not."
You knew nothing about the horrific abuse and mental-health issues in Isaacs' background, the medical struggles in Cole's. I won't elaborate, but, trust me, it's a mystery how they've survived. And it's a miracle that, thanks to the right services from the right people at the right time, they finally have stability.
"Maria's life has been difficult," Suleta told me after I'd met Isaacs for the first time. "It will be nice to give her one really nice day."
Readers thought so, too. Dozens of them offered possible wedding venues and much more, gratis, all of it evident at the couple's wedding March 6 at World Café Live:
The gown, bouquet, and cosmetic primping for Isaacs. The suits, shirts, and boutonnieres for Cole and his best man.
The live music for the ceremony and deejaying for the reception. The croissants and pulled pork for lunch; the two-tiered cake and cookies for dessert.
The professional photography, centerpieces, and gift bags. The venue itself, as well as the volunteer services of two wedding officiants and a wait staff.
About 50 guests attended the nuptials. Some were related to Isaacs and Cole. The rest just wanted to be part of a gesture whose goal was, simply, to help a couple feel loved and cared for as they vowed to love and care for each other. They'd been inspired by Suleta's open heart to open theirs a little wider, too.
As wedding co-officiant Matt Monroe said: "That's what love does. It lets you be your best self."
That's what made the event feel so much bigger than a wedding, Mr. 973. You could feel it.
"We have thousands of important moments that happen throughout our lives," added co-officiant Kelly Green. "This one is regarded as so critical that we acknowledge its special status by sharing it with others. But why this moment?
"Because, despite all our differences, love is what we share; it is the great unifier; it is our universal truth. No matter who we are, where we've come from, or what we believe, we know one thing: Love is what we're doing right."
Well, here's who helped Suleta do it right for Isaacs and Cole (with apologies to anyone inadvertently left out):
Suann Shuster; Sandra Richman; Carolyn Verdi; Lois Burak; Frank Slezak; Kathryn Willse Clark; Kelly Green; Matt Monroe; Deborah Cianfrani; Marjorie Goldberg; Jonathan Fink; Erica Miller; PattyPat Kozlowski; Candice Jeffries; Maureen Nolan; Jenn Hope; Robin Schatz; John Nivaal; Darryl Davis; Fred Druding; the staff of World Café Live; and Windsor Suites.