A wedding day is one of the most special and memorable of a person’s life – a day the couple wants to share with family and their dearest of friends. On this very extraordinary of occasions, those present tend to remember those loved ones they’ve lost who will only be there in spirit.
When Mikayla married Dakota on October 14, the day seemed perfect. The bride radiated happiness; the groom beamed with pride as Mikayla walked down the aisle; the weather cooperated.
The one damper on the ceremony was that Mikayla’s father wasn’t there to walk her down the aisle or give her away.
Her father, David Poling, was once a Marine and had worked as a probation officer for the Gallipolis Municipal Court. But on May 22, 2007, Mikayla and her family’s lives were forever changed.
On that day, Poling stopped a 22-year-old man on the street. Instead of heeding the officer’s commands, the young man fled to the Ohio River. He flung himself off a high bank into the water.
Poling jumped in after him. Sadly, the 32-year-old officer didn’t resurface. His body was recovered in the early morning hours the following day.
Though she was only nine-years-old at the time of her father’s death, Mikayla clearly remembers the moment she learned of his loss.
“I remember Mom telling us, sitting us down and told us that he wasn’t with us anymore, and it was really one of those things like, ‘Dad’s not gone, he’s just gone for the night,'” she recalled.
“And I think it was a couple of weeks later that it set in that he was gone and he wasn’t coming back.”
To honor her father on her wedding day, Mikayla carried a burlap-wrapped bouquet with a medallion inscribed with the words “Walk with me today, Daddy.”
What Mikayla didn’t know was that her father’s colleagues had planned a surprise to make her wedding day even more special and make sure his memory was carried on.
The father-daughter dance is a significant part of the wedding reception. It’s a sentimental moment shared between father and daughter.
Since Mikayla’s father couldn’t be there in the flesh, his colleagues filed into the hall to dance with the bride.
Mikayla told Good Morning America about her reaction to seeing the first officer:
“The first cop walked out. He was a state trooper, and I just lost it,” she said.
“Everyone was in uniform, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I fell into his chest and lost it.”
How thoughtful of those police officers. Even 10 years after the death of their colleague, they’re still looking after his daughter on the most special of days.
Sheriff Matt Champlin explained how it all came together:
“We did just a bunch of scheming behind Mikayla’s back,” he said. “We wanted to be able to give her on her wedding day, the little piece of Dave that couldn’t be there, that each of us carries with us every day.”
The officers accomplished precisely what they set out to do. Mikayla will always remember what they did for her.
“Even though I do have a great stepdad now in my life, he wasn’t there you know – my dad wasn’t there to dance with me, and it was something that was heart touching for me, and I remember just looking around and taking it all in,” the bride said.
Mikayla’s new husband, Dakota, spoke of how his father-in-law has impacted him, even in death:
“I saw that man impact more people in life and death than most ever will in an entire lifetime, and that’s my goal, to affect someone the way he did me.”
Good deeds don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to fulfill. What matters most is that they come from the heart.
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