When Carole’s daughter Heidi got engaged, Carole was thrilled.
It didn’t matter that her daughter, a 39-year-old woman with Down Syndrome, would likely never marry the man she was engaged to. What mattered to Carole was that Heidi was happy and loved.
Wanting Heidi to experience the full joy of being engaged, Carole helped her set a wedding date. Heidi and her fiancé had known each other for twenty years, so setting the date out another twenty seemed like a good plan.
Like any bride, Heidi started reading wedding magazines and planning her big day. She’d go to the library and pore over magazines and pictures of brides and dresses.
Before long, Carole noticed that Heidi was losing weight. So much so that she became concerned.
After several trips to the doctor, and many tests to rule out medical problems, Carole realized the reason behind the weight loss: Heidi thought if you wanted to get married, you had to be skinny enough to fit into a wedding dress like the ones worn by models in magazines.
The doctor recommended that Carole take Heidi to a bridal shop to try on dresses, so she’d realize that there were many she could fit into, and that she didn’t have to lose weight to do it.
But when Carole tried to do that, she ran into a problem: the bridal shops she contacted wouldn’t allow Heidi to try on dresses because her wedding date was twenty years out. Even after explaining the situation, Carole couldn’t find a shop that would spend time with them.
Then Carole took Heidi on a trip to Las Vegas to visit friends. While they were there, they happened upon a small bridal shop when they were out walking. They decided to go in.
Even though the shop looked tiny from the outside, inside there were mirrors, a runway, and rows and rows of dresses.
A young salesgirl came up and asked if they needed help.
Carole pulled the salesgirl aside and explained Heidi’s situation. She told her that, while Heidi was probably not going to get married, she thought that she was.
“No problem,” the girl said, smiling.
Carole was surprised and hopeful. Knowing that this might be her only chance to see her daughter in a wedding gown, and also knowing that most bridal shops have a policy that doesn’t allow customers to take pictures, she was hesitant to ask her next question…
“There’s one more thing,” she said, “When Heidi tries on a dress, may I take a picture?”
“Of course,” the salesgirl answered. And, again, with a nod of understanding, “No problem.”
The salesgirl went to get Heidi. She found her looking at veils and told her that she could try on veils along with the dresses if she wanted to.
Heidi could barely contain herself. She and the salesgirl gathered about five wedding gowns and veils, then disappeared into the dressing room.
Several minutes later, they came out.
The girl helped Heidi walk the runway and encouraged her to spin in front of the mirrors. She complimented her and told her how beautiful she was.
Carole took pictures through the tears in her eyes.
With each dress that Heidi tried on, the salesgirl led her down the runway, complimenting her, encouraging her, never rushing.
She let Heidi enjoy her moment.
And she let Carole enjoy hers, too.
“I’m a princess and my fiancé is a prince,” Heidi said proudly.
“You know, Heidi,” the salesgirl said, “in the back room, I have a princess dress.” She went in the back and got the dress–a beautiful white gown, covered in jewels.
When Heidi put the dress on, the salesgirl told her over and over, “You do look like a princess.”
After they were done and Heidi had chosen her favorite dress, the salesgirl invited her to come over to her desk. “This is what I do with all my brides,” she said, helping Heidi fill out a card with the style of the dress that she liked, the size, and the price.
She knew Heidi wasn’t going to buy that dress, but she did it anyway.
“For a mom with a special needs girl, it was incredible,” Carole remembers.
But that’s not the end of the story…
When Carole and Heidi finally left the bridal shop and continued down the street, they happened to pass a flower shop.
Overwhelmed with gratefulness for the time the salesgirl had spent with her daughter, Carole decided to buy some flowers to thank her.
But when she went into the flower shop, the owner told her they weren’t open for business yet. It was a new shop and there were only a few flowers in the refrigerator.
Carole thanked her and started to walk out, but then the owner asked, “What is it you were needing?”
Carole told her about the salesgirl at the bridal shop and what she’d done for Heidi.
“Let me make you something,” the owner insisted.
She pulled together all the flowers she could find and made a beautiful arrangement, on the spot.
She wouldn’t accept payment from Carole. “Just tell her we’re opening a new florist down here and give her my card,” the owner said, smiling.
When Heidi and Carole went back to the bridal shop, Heidi handed the flowers to the salesgirl. “These are for you because I’ve never had a better day,” she said.
“I want to tell you something,” the girl said back, “I’ve never had a better day either.”
When Carole remembers that day and all the things that happened to make it so special for Heidi, she says, “I think it just was something God intended. He obviously put everything together for a reason.”
Maybe that reason was to give others hope.
When Heidi was first born, and Carole and her husband Lou found out she had Down Syndrome, they were overwhelmed. The doctors told them that Heidi probably wouldn’t read and that she wouldn’t walk until she was about four.
But Carole and Lou decided they’d never treat their daughter like she was different.
And looking back after all these years, they’re glad they didn’t.
Heidi has far exceeded the doctor’s expectations, and has even competed in the Special Olympics in virtually every sport for the past 32 years. She’s an amazing woman who works hard at what she does and strives to be the best that she can be.
“Heidi is our gift from God,” Carole says proudly, smiling from ear to ear.
As any mother-of-the bride would. :)