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Fitzgerald: Remembrance of lost love inspires justice of the peace

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

By: Joe Fitzgerald

Her name is Phuong. She's 21, a beautiful young woman whose face radiated the joy a bride should feel when she's about to swap "I do's" with the man of her dreams, in this case a handsome young groom named Duy.

Though both were born in Vietnam, they did not meet until they came to America and wound up working at the same restaurant in Dedham.

That was two years ago and though a festive family wedding has been planned for August in Da Nang they decided they did not want to wait any longer.

"No more dating," Duy explained in halting English. "I want to know absolutely that she will be my wife now and forever."

So the ceremony took place a week ago and as the justice of the peace spoke to Phuong he couldn't help rhetorically wondering, "Was I ever 21? Is this how we looked back then?"

Becoming a JP was his wife's idea, late in what she knew was a terminal illness. She was convinced it was something he ought to do, believing the example of their own matrimony could be an encouragement to couples, letting them know just how beautiful marriage can be.

He agreed, but by the time his official appointment was approved by the Governor's Council and signed by the governor himself, he couldn't tell her because conversations were no longer possible as death hovered like a storm cloud.

Since her passing, lots of couples, like Phuong and Duy, have crossed his path and they all get the same answer when they ask, "What do we have to do?"

They're told they have to do two things: "Obtain a license, then meet with me over a cup of coffee."

That's when the JP shows them his wife's picture, tells them about their life together, how every day of their marriage was like being on a date.

"That's not to say there were not bumps along the way," he notes, adding, "Love does not mean you'll face no difficulties; love is what allows you to get through them together."

It's a talk they've all heard from what's left of the 21-year-old groom who once vowed to that lady in the picture "to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health ..."

Following each ceremony, the JP stops by the cemetery to share a reflection on what he told them and how it went.

And he'll stop by again sometime today because this would have been their anniversary, and he's never stopped loving and cherishing her.
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