MARCH 8, 2008: “This Haunted Place” …

~ by The Phoenix Collaborative Project ~

Dear Marlane,

Let me preface by stating that never once in 38 years have, I done something this crazy; that is, writing a letter to a complete and total stranger. Let me also tell you that those who know me well know that I am not the type of person who is easily impressed by fame, fortune or even people in general. To me, the true measure of a man (or woman) is forged by the spirit of the unseen things inside their hearts.  That being said … My name is Catherine and I only live a few miles north of you in Fairview, Texas. I just happened to catch the middle of your “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway” episode this week. Since I only caught half of the show, I don’t really know the whole story. Yet, from what little I did decipher, I want you to know how completely taken I was … and inspired!

I have had a good life. I come from a loving home, my parents are still married (40 years this July), both hard-working, upper-middle class people who built their successes with only blood, sweat, tears and their own hands. I am perhaps obscenely if not codependently close to my parents and only sister, and in fact have the very good fortune of living only six doors down from Mom and Dad and seven miles away from Sis. I see or speak to my family daily, and they are integral parts of my children’s lives. My husband is also a self-made, hard-working man who, after having been told repeatedly by his physically and emotionally abusive stepfather that he would never amount to anything, has created a more than abundant life for our family out here in Fairview. The man has worked made it his mission to give us nothing but the absolute best things this world has to offer. Thus, he has more than exceeded even my own expectations of him.

Despite all this, lately many a day has found me feeling intensely sorry for myself and not able to truly “bridge the gap” between the very intense last decade and a half that I have struggled with and the life that I now live. I was raped in 1992 when my husband and I had only been married five months, became pregnant, divorced, had a full-blown nervous breakdown, suicide attempt, and a whole lot of other stuff in between. Eventually, though, I found my way back to “the man who wasn’t supposed to amount to anything”, a man who patiently waited for me to find my way back home. We remarried in 1998, and things were getting back on track. But alas! Can anything ever be simple and peaceful for too long?

After trying to conceive for 4½ years we finally became pregnant with our second child, a teeny tiny little girl who died in my arms only four hours after her birth in 1991. Meanwhile, a serious of rather unfortunate events have caused my own breasts to become, what I am told, something like that of a cancer patient. I cannot look at my bare chest in the mirror and cannot let my husband see me naked or touch me. So, then, although I am truly blessed in many, many ways (not the least of which blessings is the very healthy and happy little girl that we finally did conceive, who is now 2½ years old), I do find myself wallowing in self-pity many a day.  So, that afternoon I was tiptoeing through the bedroom, so as not to wake the sleeping baby in my bed, carrying some towels I had just folded to the closet. On the way I stopped at the nightstand to grab the remote and lower the T.V. volume but happened to point it at the screen right at the moment you were walking out of the dressing room to reveal your beautiful gown to your wedding planner. There I stood paralyzed, clutching the towels over what’s left of my chest with one hand, holding the remote with the other, completely frozen and enthralled by the story. I couldn’t stop watching, and then I started to cry, and by the time you made your vows, the remnants of my morning mascara had already found their way to the bottom of my chin. At first, the tears were a combination of true joy for you, and sorrow for me. But then something changed. I saw the way you looked into your husband’s eyes while you were saying your vows. You looked like a little girl standing in a room filled with every wish and dream she had ever had! Then, it dawned on me. Here was this beautiful, mature, amazingly courageous woman who had looked death straight in the eye only a year before, only to find herself a survivor facing her future! After everything each of you must have experienced in your lives on the way to that exact moment … two lifetimes of intricacies and fullness, battles fought and won, you stood there in front of each other not taking a single second for granted. Then, there was me … scarred, yes, but alive and healthy in a house filled with the love, laughter, happiness, and joy from my children’s voices. My future is right here in front of me, and it has been all the while. How ashamed I am of the things I have taken for granted!

Why it took me so long to “get it”, I have absolutely no idea. But then again, I’m a firm believer in not only fate, but also the theory that “there’s a meaning in every moment”. I believe that God Himself had me fold those towels and carry them back to the bedroom at the exact He did for the sole purpose of catching my attention, opening my eyes, my ears, and my heart, and finally beginning to “bridge the gap”.

What an amazing inspiration you are, Marlane! I can’t remember ever having seen a more beautiful bride in my entire life.  Sadly, marriage is not the sacred institution that it used to be. People make vows flippantly and then break them, as if they are only cheap souvenirs that can be thrown away and replaced. Get married, get divorced, nothing gained/nothing lost.  Unfortunately, statistics show that sooner or later, someone I know … perhaps my Mother, Sister, or God forbid, my own Daughter, may have to face such a battle before it is all said and done. Should that day ever come, I can only pray that I or my loved one will be able to face it head-on in the graceful and beautiful manner that you did. You are a remarkable woman, and please know that you, and your story, have not only inspired, but challenged a complete and total stranger to never, ever take another moment for granted.

Thank you, Marlane, and God Bless You!


Just take a look inside this haunted place. No soul alive is left alive, not one single face. This desecration that is alright, this devastation in my life. What’s killing me are all these things I do from hate. Don’t excuse me when I am the one to blame. No, I can’t explain why all these things I do from hate. Don’t excuse me when I am the one who’s haunting me.  This final breath we have to take defeated by my own mistakes. Your devastation that proceeds your life, exposing the answers even if it burns me alive. {The Leo Project}