Fifteen years ago there lived three best friends. Three girls who lived to be together. They had grown up together, found community with each other, and made plans for their future. The three girls loved each other very much.

One afternoon, one of the girls was in a horrible car accident and left this world. The two remaining friends were completely heartbroken but found solace in each other. They had each other to grieve with and learned how to live in the absence of a piece of their hearts. As the years continued to go by, tragedy would strike again. A car accident would take the life of one of the two remaining girls, leaving just the one. The one friend was left alone to grieve her friends who had brought her so much life and joy.

Isn’t that just the way life feels? You’re minding your own business, trying to live and find happiness only to have it ripped away. You learn to live with the loss of something that meant so much to you only to suffer something equally traumatic.

It can feel like this constant battle to stay afloat amidst all the sadness and heartache pulling you under. 

I have written many times about heartache and loss and forgiveness. I know a lot about grief. I’ve felt the sting of loss after loss. I have hope in Jesus. I have not drowned in my sorrow because I know there’s more than just this life. I know God is good and He didn’t bring me to this place of devastation to leave me broken. 

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One of the three girls in the story was my sister, and sadly, she was the second friend to pass away. She had her future planned. She was getting married in a few short months. She already had the dress and flowers and the church and all these plans. She had no idea that the plans she had made for her life were different than God’s plan for her life. All of her plans and preparations for her wedding were left with us after she was gone. A closet full of flowers and a beautiful dress were left behind as a reminder of her dreams that would never be realized. 

Her wedding dress sat in her closet until my parents moved to Wisconsin. Her dress made the move with my parents and found a new home in a new closet. At first, when my mom opened the bifold doors in her guest room, she was reminded of everything that was no more. She was reminded of the future that was stolen from her as well. She had lost grandchildren and a daughter.

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As time went on, as it always does, she began to look at the dress differently. Her thinking changed from look at all I’ve lost to how can I turn this into something meaningful? There is something very powerful that happens inside of us when we are able to channel our hurt into giving something back.

My parents are incredible at taking difficult circumstances and giving God the opportunity to make beauty from ashes. 

Carrie’s dress sat in a closet for 12 years. We didn’t know what plans God had for that dress, but we knew it wasn’t meant to sit any longer. My parents were moving again and this dress needed a forever home where it meant something more. My mom made a Facebook post asking for suggestions of places we could donate the dress. There are wonderful organizations that can repurpose dresses or give them to people who can’t afford them. There are places and organizations that could give life back to a dress that represented loss for us.

God’s plans are always better than our own, and he had a much better plan for Carrie’s dress. Her friend, the survivor of the three girls, is getting married this year. It’s been 12 years of waiting for an answer for this dress and then God gave it more beauty than we could have ever planned for it. Her friend is going to wear her dress. She had been searching for a way to memorialize her friends who had meant so much to her. The first friend who was lost left a sister, and she is the one who saw my mom’s post. She shared what she had seen with the surviving friend. It’s not often we get to see the beauty or the purpose in something that has hurt us so much.

God doesn’t always have to reveal his perfect plan but sometimes He gives us a glimpse at all He is capable of.

He’s capable of more. In a world full of so much hurt and so much loss, I am thankful to serve the God who cares about the details. Who cares enough to show us the rainbow after the storm. I believe because God has shown up for me over and over again. I will add this beautiful story to the list I recite to myself on the hopeless days. God is good and He is so faithful. 

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My beautiful friend Amber took pictures of my daughter with the dress. The dress may have moved onto another story, but I wanted to keep some beautiful memories of my own. Every time I look at these pictures I’m reminded of the rich history I shared with my sister and the story of her beautiful wedding gown. She will be pleased.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Shelley McCauley

Born and raised in northeast Florida and transplanted to Minnesota, I am a stay at home mom of four, daycare provider, and foster parent. My faith and my family drive me to get up each morning and encourage me to go to bed early every night. Writing has become free therapy and my outlet to connect with other women.