REAL LIFE

My soulmate died but we still wed

So touching.
Fonesca Photography

Debbie Gerlach, 25, found herself posing in her wedding dress alone for a truly heartbreaking reason.

Here, Debbie, tells the story in her own words.

The moment I met Randy Zimmerman, I knew he was someone very special.

Both 18, we worked at the same childcare centre.

He was so much fun and the kids adored him. Randy was kind and generous too.

‘How many children do you want?’ I asked him, after we moved in together.

‘One of each,’ he said. ‘Me too,’ I grinned.

I already knew he’d make an amazing dad but we were in no rush to start a family – we thought we had forever. But Randy rode a motorcycle and I’d often worry, even though he was careful and wore a helmet.

‘I’m always safe,’ he said.

‘It’s not you I worry about,’ I’d say. ‘It’s other drivers.’

The only thing we really fought about was who loved the other the most. ‘I love you more,’ I’d say. ‘No, I love you more,’ he’d laugh.

Then in May 2017, we were at the beach on holiday when Randy grabbed my hand.

‘Remember how I told you I loved you more?’ he said, then he got down on one knee. ‘Will you spend the rest of your life by my side?’ he grinned.

Bursting into tears, I threw my arms around his neck and he spun me around.

Having some engagement photos taken, we wanted one in front of the sunset but it was too cloudy.

‘They still look great,’ I said.

Back home, I began planning the wedding.

‘What about November 11?’ Randy suggested.

engagement photo 2
We were going to spend our lives together (Credit: Fonesca Photography)

I loved that it was 11/11. He’d never forget the date!

So we booked the venue and I chose a stunning gown, decorated with sparkling beads.

Then on the morning of February 1, last year, I gave Randy a kiss and dashed to work.

But once there, I felt strange. I couldn’t explain it, but I told my manager I didn’t feel well and I went home.

There, I got a frantic call from Randy’s colleague, Marcus.

‘Randy’s gone,’ he sobbed. ‘What are you talking about?’ I said. ‘He’s had a motorcycle accident,’ he wept. ‘He didn’t make it.’

Dropping the phone, I screamed and screamed. Randy had been just 30 seconds from our home.

I found out that a car had ignored a stop sign and collided with his motorbike.

His friend, riding just behind, saw the whole thing and was also hit. He’d survived with cuts and bruises. But Randy had died on impact. He was just 25.

‘Why did you ride your bike today?’ I sobbed.

wedding photo kiss
Randy and me ‘together’ for our wedding portrait (Credit: Fonesca Photography)

At Randy’s funeral, I stood up and told everyone how much I loved him. I thought I’d be doing that at our wedding, not at his funeral.

Afterwards nothing seemed important without him by my side. And then I had an idea. I couldn’t have a wedding any more… but could I have a wedding photo?

Finding a photographer, Kristie Fonseca, I told her my plan. ‘I can do that,’ she said.

So I put on my wedding gown, and with a heart-shaped locket containing Randy’s photo around my neck, I posed for pictures.

Wearing the dress was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. When I’d chosen it, I’d envisaged walking down the aisle with Randy watching, tears in his eyes.

‘Imagine him standing there with you,’ said Kristie. Then something strange happened. I felt Randy with me. I felt his love wrapping around me like a hug. Then the clouds parted and the most magical sunset appeared – the one we’d never managed to get for our engagement pictures.

ashes
Me with Randy’s ashes (Credit: Fonesca Photography)

‘That’s Randy’s gift for you,’ said Kristie.

After the shoot, Kristie photoshopped Randy into the pictures. My tears fell again as I looked at them. Randy’s family and mine loved the photos.

On November 11 – the day that would have been our wedding day – I posted them on Facebook.

Today was supposed to be the day I married my best friend, I wrote. But today I woke up with my heart broken all over again.

Today I will not have a husband because a person made a choice not to stop at a stop sign. Please, I beg you, watch for motorcycles, stop at stop signs and drive with care.

The post, shared by thousands, went viral and strangers from all over the world messaged me. Some told me that I wasn’t alone.

wedding photo 3
The sunset was Randy’s gift (Credit: Fonesca Photography)

A few were cruel, saying my pictures were creepy. I ignored those. I hadn’t done the photos for them. They were in honour of a day that we were supposed to have and as a tribute to Randy. It was also a warning to watch out for bikes.

You never know whose whole world is on that bike. If that driver had paid more attention my wedding pictures would have had my Randy in them for real.

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life, on sale now.

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