You Raise Me Up

By Laura Schiller

Based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

"You raise me up 'til I can stand on mountains.

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.

I am strong when I am on your shoulders.

You raise me up to more than I can be."

- Josh Groban

It was a simple wedding, of course. If Jo had had her absurd way, there would have been nobody involved but herself, her bridegroom, and Mr. March to officiate. However, as the Carrols, the Moffats, the Gardiners and assorted other friends and relations would have been scandalized at not being invited, they had settled on a small, informal get-together in the Marches' backyard, as with Meg's wedding. The evergreen arch was set up, along with five rows of lawn-chairs and a buffet table; a few of Amy and Laurie's young protegés were providing the musical accompaniment; as for alcohol, in the true March tradition, there was none to be found. It wasn early June day, rather cloudy and windy; in case of rain, they had planned to move the celebration to the house; but as the weather still hadn't made up its mind, they were keeping to the original plan.

Jo walked up the aisle alone (since her father, who would normally 'give her away', was also the minister), wearing a simple white dress which she had imbued with so many dreams, hopes and plans that it almost made up for the tediousness of sewing. Her thick, wavy, chestnut-brown hair was unbound and fell down to her waist; an unusual proceeding, but on this day of all days, she wanted her most beautiful feature to be seen.

Daisy and Demi toddled along in front of her, one scattering rose petals, the other carrying two rings on a cushion, both looking as solemn and dignified as two five-year-olds could look. Amy, Meg and Cousin Florence followed, wearing silver-gray bridesmaid dresses. At the end of the aisle, Mr. March waited, with his white cassock, green stole, and the leather-bound family Bible. Next to him stood Laurie, the best man, sleek and elegant from the top of his curly head the tips of his polished boots. He winked at Amy, silently reminding her of their own wedding; she raised her eyebrows disapprovingly, but had to smile all the same. Marmee sat in the front row, quietly elegant, her eyes full of joy for her daughter's sake.

Jo, who only a moment ago had been concentrating fiercely on where she stepped so as not to damage the dress, felt all her anxiety fall away, like a cloak cast aside in the sun. There was Fritz, standing on her father's other side, looking at her with nothing short of awe.

Her irrepressible sense of humor told her that she would never have allowed her fictional heroes to look like this at a wedding. Fritz was stout, middle-aged, bespectacled, and wearing a suit that was obviously, if neatly, torn and mended. He'd evidently made some attempt to tame his spiky hair, but that one unruly strand still fell over his forehead. It made her smile. But looking at him, she did not see ugliness. She knew how it felt to kiss those lips, to run her hands through that wild hair, to be held in those arms. She saw the man who had inspired her to be her better self from the moment they met – as a writer, as his friend, and his lover. Nothing in the world could be more beautiful than that.

"Dearly beloved," said the Reverend Mr. March, sincerely meaning it, "We are gathered here today in the sight of God, and the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony … "

Fritz saw the smile on his bride's face and found it almost impossible to concentrate on his prospective father-in-law's speech with her standing beside him. She was radiant today – not a conventional beauty, any more than he was, but glowing like his own personal sun. They could laugh and talk for hours together; challenged each other intellectually; they had stared out as teacher and student, but by now he honestly couldn't tell anymore who had learned more from whom. She made him feel at home in a foreign land; she made him feel passionate and alive as he never had before. She was his Herzliebste, his heart's dearest, and he prayed with all his heart that he could make her as happy as she made him.

"Friedrich Bhaer, wilt thou take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, for as long as you both shall live?"

The Reverend was the best father-in-law, and the best friend, any man could ask for. Fritz met his eyes steadily. "I will."

"Josephine March," with an apologetic smile, as Mr. March knew how much his daughter disliked her full name, "Wilt thou take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, for as long as you both shall live?"

Jo, who felt close to tears at the sight of her father's obvious emotion, blinked hard and glanced over at Laurie. Her best friend, seeing the danger, wiggled his eyebrows at her like two caterpillars. Her "I will" came out with a laugh.

"Demi," Mr. March prompted, "The rings."

Jo had a moment of icy panic; a moment later, she breathed again; Demi, who had neither eaten nor lost the rings, handed them over with exemplary dignity as soon as Mr. March had cut them loose with scissors.

"With this ring I thee wed," Mr. March dictated, first to Fritz and then to Jo, "In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

He joined their hands and, with unmistakable joy winning out over the sorrow of Jo's upcoming departure to Plumfield, said: "I now pronounce you … man and wife. You may - "

Jo barely waited for her father to finish the sentence before pouncing on her new husband for a kiss. Several guests laughed; Aunt Carrol sniffed disapprovingly; Demi asked, in his high-pitched voice, "Why are they doing that, Dranpa?" which only added to the merriment. As Jo and Fritz linked arms and walked back down the aisle in a shower of rice, cheers and applause, the sun finally broke through the clouds, bathing the scene in gold. Jo squinted up into the sky and smiled. Thanks, Bethy. I'd know your work anywhere.