Laura and Hunt--

A Rockport wedding

Laura Kooistra and Hunter Archibald wed on June 1, 2019 in Rockport, Mass, during a wonderful weekend filled with love and family.  The weather was grey, which only served to make an even more stunning backdrop for the beautiful couple.

Stitching two families together

At my son Hunter's recent wedding to his wife Laura in Rockport, one of the most important guests-the one with four feet and a tail-wasn't actually there, but he certainly made his presence known to everyone.

Stitch was in Michigan during the festivities, probably sleeping, but he was with us in so many ways during the four days of celebrations. He hovered over the proceedings-grey and white, skinny and scrappy-from start to finish, and his name was prophetic as two people and two families were joined together.

Stitch is 18 and has been with Laura's family-parents Shelley and Bill, older sister Lindsey, younger brother David-since they spotted him as a tiny baby near their cottage by Lake Michigan. The ailing kitten was rescued, brought back to health, and became a member of the family-a somewhat quirky one.

He was always more cuddly with the kids than the parents, and didn't seem to like men as much as women, which makes his affection for Hunter unusual. He loves water, and will jump in the tub after showers to get it. He demands that you turn the faucet on for him. He knocks glasses of water over to feed his habit. And his passion for milk is legendary. My favorite picture of him was taken right after Laura accidently spilled a gallon of milk in their long hallway. The picture shows a river of milk coursing down the wood floor, and there's Stitch crouched over it, lapping away, obviously in feline heaven.

Most recently Stitch went to live with Hunt and Laura in their Cleveland apartment while they attended medical school. I knew Hunter was serious about Laura when he showed absolutely no concern about the hair on his clothing that used to drive him crazy when it came from our cats. Stitch's hair was different, because Laura loved Stitch, and Hunter loved Laura.

I had the idea to do a painting of Stitch for a wedding gift several months ago, and asked for pictures of him from the kids under the guise of "he's so adorable I want to see more of him." I am an enthusiastic beginner and attend a weekly class at the Artists Workshop at the Tannery, taught by the talented and wonderful Pat Lutz. Pat guided me, encouraged me, and made me believe that I could actually produce something good.

I spent hours staring at the picture of Stitch as my painting took shape. I began to know his face, his paws, his furry chest intimately. I knew the black spot on his nose and the way the white blaze on his forehead curls up and to the right. And I knew, especially, the slightly sardonic expression in his eyes and his frank and level gaze, and worked hard to capture it.

The month before the wedding I went to extra art classes two and three times a week, and often despaired that I would ever finish the piece to my own satisfaction. But miraculously, the two final days of painting brought everything together. I finished it during the last minutes of the last class I could attend before the wedding.

I presented the painting to Hunter and Laura during a lovely dinner hosted by her parents at the house they were renting. The ecstatic surprise on both their faces made every minute that it took to create it worthwhile. The praise and admiration from her family and relatives, all of whom have know Stitch for nearly two decades, was an incredible bonus.

What I didn't know until the wedding ceremony was that Laura's uncle Bill, a Presbyterian minister who spoke during the service, was so stirred by the painting that he decided to revise the words he was delivering to reflect it. I learned after the wedding that he asked to borrow the painting so he could look at it while he wrote (his wife Kathy told me she was terrified that something would happen to it, a tree falling on their car while the painting was in it, perhaps).

I was stunned during Bill's homily when he reached behind the lectern and pulled out the painting. He spoke about how Stitch was basically on death's doorstep until he went to live in Cleveland with the two young doctors and how well this boded for their healing powers. I was blinking back tears by the time Hunter and Laura recited their beautiful wedding vows, and once again Stitch played a part, with Laura speaking of how she began to learn of Hunter's kindness by the way he treated her cat.

The young doctors are now in Minnesota to begin their residencies and Stitch is with them, well-supplied with water and milk and settled comfortably into his new home. They know that one day there will be a final goodbye. I can only hope that my painting will make that day just a little less painful. I hope that love-my love for them, their love for each other, and the love we all have for a cat who is so much more than just a pet-is what remains. 

This article was originally published in the Newburyport Daily News in June, 2019