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It seemed like any other day. Sherry Blackledge was working her shift in the maternity ward at a hospital in Laurel, Miss. when a woman traveling from Alabama to Louisiana arrived in labor—she wasn’t going to make it home to give birth.
After the delivery, Blackledge chatted with the woman and learned she had planned on giving her baby up for adoption, but it fell through. The nurse shared that she and her husband, Craig, had tried to have children for years and could not. Instead, they had adopted a boy 11 years earlier.
Hoping to make the new mother feel better about giving up her baby, the nurse explained how deep her love was for her adopted son, Brian. Then the woman turned to Blackledge and asked if she wanted to adopt a little girl.
“How awesome is [it] that God just let her stop in Laurel,” says Blackledge. “We just never thought we would have another child. So it was unbelievable.”
The Blackledges adopted the girl and fulfilled the dream they had throughout their relationship together.
“We always wanted a little Brian and a little baby Brooke,” said Blackledge.
When the girl was 18 months old, asleep in her crib, Blackledge wrote a letter to her daughter, explaining how much she loved her. She decided that she’d share the letter with Brooke on her wedding day. Blackledge wrapped the letter in some magazines and hid it in a drawer in her bedside table.
“I knew I wanted it to be special,” she said. “I don’t know how she never came across it.”
For 20 years, the letter sat in the drawer, waiting. Last year, Brooke began planning her wedding to fiancé Tyler Zugg, and Blackledge started her own planning. She discussed design options for the letter with Erin Napier, a printmaker who is known for printing invitations on handkerchiefs. Napier's idea: print the letter on a piece of Blackledge's wedding gown.
On March 7, as Brooke dressed for her wedding, she realized that everyone had left the room besides her parents and the photographer and videographer. Blackledge handed her a beautifully wrapped present. Brooke opened it and saw her mom’s handwriting on something, but it wasn’t a piece of paper. As her mom explained the letter and how it was printed on a part of the dress, the waterworks flowed. The videographer, The Film Poets, captured the whole exchange.
“I probably ugly cried for 10 minutes straight,” Brooke says. “One of the things that went through my head as my mom was telling me about the letter … that someone had been thinking about my wedding day when I was a mere 18 months … that made our wedding day even more special.”
The Zuggs are expecting a baby of their own in January. Brooke is already thinking of how letters might play a role in her child’s life. She knows for sure that her baby will have a letter on his or her wedding day, too.
“With this letter being such a huge impact for me, I am not going to write just one,” says Brooke. “This letter is something I will always have.”