I remember the peace I had when I decided that I wanted to ask Claire to marry me. I was going back and forth in my mind, trying to find the perfect day and the perfect way to ask her, and then I came to the most important realization. I was asking Claire to marry me! That brought me such joy. It didn’t matter how or when it happened. I was embarking on the best adventure and I knew where I was going. I knew who I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
I started looking for a ring, and after many conversations with Claire’s sister (and matron of honor), I settled on a type of stone, and decided to have a ring custom made. I wanted the ring to be a symbol of my fidelity to Claire and the pure love of our promised marriage. I chose a diamond that was flawless, sacrificing a bit of size for the purest stone that was available.
Now, I had to ask Claire’s parents. We had a trip planned in early June to see her family, and I had the intention to ask both of her parents. Being one of six kids though, it was difficult to get both Mom and Dad together. One day we planned to go to Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid for lunch as a family. I asked to drive up with Claire’s Mom and Dad, and to my surprise Claire drove her siblings in the other car. It was my perfect chance! I started to wonder if my stomach was doing flips because of the car ride or because of my nerves. But I asked Claire’s Mom and Dad for her hand in marriage, and I was met with such love. We were all so filled with joy and excited for the future!
Once we made it back to Buffalo, I wanted to ask two of Claire’s closest friends for a bit of help in planning the engagement. I had an idea for an awesome engagement scavenger hunt! So I printed up a few of my ideas for clues and drew up a map and we planned the day. Each clue would lead to the next spot, with hints of our past dates tied to each clue. If Claire struggled with any riddle, there was a last resort taped to each clue at the bottom.
Claire’s family is very dear to her, and because they were far away, I wanted her to be surrounded with love on the day of her engagement. This was why I wanted to include her two closest friends, and I asked my two sisters to participate too! Each person was going to give Claire an envelope with a keepsake from one of our dates, along with a white rose. Claire also expressed that before we were engaged she wanted to get to Confession. I made sure that her friend would go to Confession with her and then bring her to Delaware Park.
The date was set for June 28th, which was the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Claire was coming off the night shift and going to sleep for a few hours. We had plans to meet up in the afternoon. I bought the flowers and prepared the envelopes, and then relaxed. I drove out to see her friend and give her the first white rose and envelope. Then I drove to Delaware Park, and met up with the others to place them along the path.
The scavenger hunt started at the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Claire arrived with her friend, and her friend gave her the first white rose and envelope. In the envelope, there were two tickets from our date at the gallery, and a poem that read:
Across the parkway
You’ll find our roots
By the foot of a man
Murdered by Booth
My youngest sister was across the street, waiting at the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Delaware Park. She was holding the first bottle of wine that we opened together in the first few days of our relationship (or rather, I attempted to open – the cork splintered into the wine and it was undrinkable). The name of the wine was called Root. My sister gave Claire another rose along with the next clue.
Food is your love language
O heart of hearts
Meat at this flagship sculpture
By the Italian master of arts
My other sister greeted Claire with a rose and the next clue at the statue of David by Michelangelo in the heart of the park. This clue included recipes from the time that we took a sausage making class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. On each page, I gave Claire a number that she had to find, that when put together, made the phone number of one of her close friends.
Search the recipes
For numbers in all
A friend indeed
You will have to call
Claire’s close friend, who had just given birth a week before, was waiting with her newborn son across the Scajaquada bridge. The rose and clue were tucked snugly with the baby in the stroller. The clue contained the tickets we used to attend the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which was playing a selection of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. I remember it was Super Bowl Sunday, and I think we both fell asleep at different parts of the performance!
You’re close to the end
Or is it the start?
Find the bust of a man
Whose name rhymes with heart.
A day at the symphony
This favorite composer
Would be so much fun!
I won’t be a dozer
At the bust of Mozart, our friend waited with the last white rose and clue. This clue reflected a prayer Claire had been praying for many years that God would lead her to her husband. A husband that would be a prince to make her a princess worthy of Christ, the King. It also contained the tickets from our trip to the botanical gardens.
Around the corner in the gardens
A prince waits with a ring
To make you a princess
Fit for a King
A short walk brought Claire down to the beautiful part of Hoyt Lake that sits behind the Buffalo History Museum. I was standing there, waiting, and Claire saw me as she came down the hill. She started to wave. I froze. I didn’t know what to do but smile, fingering the ring box in my pocket. I had the biggest grin on my face and forgot to wave. As Claire came toward me, I knelt down on one knee and said, “Claire, you are the best person I know and an incredible woman of God. I love you. Will you marry me?” To which she replied, “Thank you,” and stooped down to kiss me while I was still kneeling. And I asked with a touch of alarm, “That’s a yes, right?” We were so excited, so happy, so filled with joy!
We love Delaware Park, and every time I even drive by it I am reminded of that wonderful day. I think of how full my heart was on that day, and my desire to give fully of myself to Claire, at that moment and for every moment after.
I love you Claire. I will give of myself to you for as long as I live.