Stacey Evette Bond was beautiful in her white mermaid wedding gown and veil, holding a bouquet of peach-colored roses in her white coffin with gold trim.
The story of the 41-year-old Bluffton woman’s unexpected death on Aug. 12, and the funeral planned for her wedding day on last Saturday, spread across the globe last week. Through the likes of “Inside Edition” and the Daily Mail of England, thousands of strangers expressed condolences through the internet.
And on the appointed day — a sultry, stormy afternoon in Bluffton — the Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church was full. The entire center section was filled with family members who had looked forward to being in an old Georgian mansion in Augusta, Ga., that afternoon, dancing into the night at the wedding of Stacey and Guy A. Weaver.
No one fainted at the funeral. No one wailed or moaned. But many tears were shed on Stacey’s wedding day, especially as everyone filed by the open casket to view her, with her long hair fixed perfectly by her sister.
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Little girls wore the frilly dresses they had planned to wear to the wedding.
The would-be bridegroom stood strong with his brother Thomas at his side. He was stoic in his white tuxedo, white shoes, white bow tie, white vest, white kerchief and peach-colored rose boutonnière. The groomsmen-turned-pall bearers wore white tuxedos with peach-colored bow ties, vests and kerchiefs. Bridesmaids were in their peach dresses. Even the staff of the Allen Funeral Home wore white suits with peach ties and vests. The theme of the wedding was to be “Peaches and Cream.”
Elizabeth Lovell of Bluffton, the bride’s mother, held Stacey’s granddaughter, Skyla Brown, who slept through much of the hour-long service in her white lace.
Presiding pastor Bennie Jenkins of First Zion Missionary Baptist Church, and the Divine Worship and Combined Choir of First Zion Missionary Baptist Church led by Melinda Mitchell, tried to keep things moving with songs like “I’m Free,” “Lean on Me,” “I’m So Glad” and “I Can’t Give Up Now.”
Afterward, hundreds of people filled the Isaac W. Wilborn Jr. Fellowship Hall at the church, enjoying a buffet of chicken and ham and a long line of savory foods intended for a wedding reception.
‘That day will come’
In an opening prayer, the Rev. Renty Kitty of Bluffton said, “The best bridegroom there ever was has showed up for this bride.”
His sister, Elder Brenda Kitty of Boston, read the timeless words of Ecclesiastes 3, where there is an appointed time for everything.
Friends and family talked about Stacey’s outgoing personality, and shared some lines they are clinging to: “God makes no mistakes” and, “Let go and let God.”
Weaver’s sister April Hall of Augusta got a standing ovation with her soaring version of the song she’d planned to sing at the wedding, “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The Rev. Joey Jordan, resplendent in a cream-colored suit, opened his eulogy with singing and then got right down to business. He spoke directly to Stacey’s four children and the five children of Weaver.
He said he wanted to tell them a story. It was one from the Bible, sometimes called the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They were to be prepared for the bridegroom’s arrival, but five, as he put it, took extra batteries for their flashlights and five did not. Five were ready, and they were rewarded. Five were not ready, and they were punished.
“You do not know when that day will come,” Jordan said.
‘I Want to Be Ready’
And then, going into a sing-song rhythm with his words, Jordan looked directly at Stacey’s eldest child.
“You’ve got to be there as a rock for the other three,” he said. He said the children would have to put away childish things and step up to the plate.
“She may not be here, but she left something on the inside of you,” Jordan said.
“She raised a strong woman. You must say, ‘I’m going to stand up and tell the world I’ve got my mom living inside of me.’ ”
And when he eased into the first lines of the old spiritual, “I Want to be Ready (To Walk In Jerusalem Just Like John),” the large gathering instantly joined him in singing.
It’s almost a theme song for Jordan, pastor of a the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Okatie. He’s even been called Joey “Walking In Jerusalem” Jordan.
I want to be ready,
I want to be ready
I want to be ready
To walk in Jerusalem.
Nobody was ready for this funeral. There had been no rehearsal. It did not all run like clockwork.
But they leaned on something old to do something new — a beautiful funeral for a beautiful bride.