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‘I Got to the Altar and He Had Tears Pouring Down his Face… My Heart Melted’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY

Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

CHADWICK ‘CHAD’ AND MATHLEEN CRAIG

Live: Graysville

Married: Sept. 8, 2017

Met: August 2016, at Health South Rehabilitation Hospital in Homewood. Chad was a certified nursing assistant [CNA] and had been working at the facility for two years when Mathleen came aboard as a nurse.

“I was [newly] single and I said, ‘I’m just going to do me,’ Chad said. “But then I saw this new girl [Mathleen] getting some coffee. I walked up to her and tried to give her that charm, and she shut me down. For the next three weeks, I would come in and look on the [assignment board] to see which nurse I had, and I would [trade] with other techs and say, ‘let me get your patients’ just so I could talk to her.

He even suggested group outings with the staff so he could spend time outside of work with Mathleen. Yet “she still wasn’t giving up the number,” Chad said. “Every time I asked her, she would shut me straight down.

Despite what it may have seemed, Mathleen had actually been attracted to Chad but said she shut him down because “I was enjoying my single season,” she said. “I was really in the thick of getting my relationship right with God, so I wasn’t interested in dating at the time.”

However, after weeks of Chad’s persistence, and Facebook messenger exchanges, Mathleen finally gave him her number.

First date: Mid-September, at Rock City Church in Forestdale, and lunch afterward at the Red Pearl in Homewood. Spending their first date at church was Mathleen’s idea because her relationship with God was most important in her life.

“I was testing Chad to see if he would actually come, I thought he was gonna flake on me,” Mathleen said. “He passed the test because he actually came, and we had a great time. At the restaurant, we talked about the sermon, and I could tell something had clicked in his life.

Chad thought the invitation to church was a joke.

“I typed the address [into the GPS] and when I pulled up I saw the people going in and I said ‘so this really is a church date,” Chad laughed. “Church was amazing though. I didn’t have a relationship with God at the time so she opened that door for me. That was the first time I ever felt something on my own [in church], and it felt right, it didn’t feel forced or anything.”

The turn: “The months had flown by and we were getting closer and around February 2017, we were at work and I had just walked out of a patients room and he walked up to me in the hallway and said, ‘you’re going to be my wife someday’, and I said, ‘oh really? We’ll see’. And from there it just got more serious,” Mathleen said.

For Chad, it was shared commonalities and the positive effect.

“We went to a J.O. [Jackson Olin High School] homecoming game, we were both there with our friends because both of us went there and we realized how much we had in common and I had found someone who really complimented me,” Chad said. “That night at the game, Mathleen said she forgot her [debit] card and I said, ‘I got you, what you need, some gas?’ And she said ‘yea, I’m like no problem,’ want me to fill it up? And thankfully she said no because what she didn’t know at the time was that I had two dollars in my account, and I was praying it wouldn’t decline. It didn’t … I was on the phone trying to borrow money the next day. I was a single dad, I wasn’t irresponsible, I just never wanted to be seen in a negative light in her eyes,” Chad said.

The proposal: June 2017, at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook.

“I got all her friends and family’s phone numbers because she had mentioned that she wanted all of her friends and family present when she got engaged. I had talked with her dad and got his permission, and set it up with him,” Chad said. “And when Mathleen’s dad [invited her to dinner] she was like I’ll just wear some jeans, and I was like you may want to wear something else, try that white dress. And she was like it’s just dinner with my dad, and I had to [be firm] like ‘wear the white dress and she was like ‘wow, ok, I’ll wear the white dress.’” Chad laughed. “Her dad picked her up and took her to the Grand Bohemian, and when she came around the corner all of her friends were there, they had the camera’s going, and luckily there was a cover band there and I asked them to do me a favor and they played ‘Ask’ by Stevie Wonder … I hugged her and whispered some things in her ear and then got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.”

“When I came around the corner and saw everyone I was in total awe, it was so beautiful. He got down on one knee and I said yes,” Mathleen said.

The wedding: The couple took their vows at the downtown Birmingham courthouse “because we just couldn’t wait any longer,” Mathleen said. But kept their original plans for their wedding, and held it on their first anniversary in 2018, at Woodrow Hall in Woodlawn, officiated by Pastor Ozell Bates. Their colors were lavender and gold.

Most memorable for the bride was a moment during their vow renewal. “My dad walked me down the aisle, and when I get to the altar I see Chad with tears pouring down his face and my heart melted,” Mathleen said. “Of course, I started to cry as well and I’ll never forget that, it was such a beautiful moment.”

Most memorable for the groom was his music video debut at their reception following their vow renewal. “Me and my guys redid ‘Let’s Chill’, by Guy, and I gave the music video to her as a wedding gift,” Chad said. “Seeing her face light up, and seeing a few tears run down her face was cool. It is something that she will always have.”

Mathleen was pregnant with their first child and they had just started new jobs at the same facility [Grandview Hospital]. ‘We went right back to our responsibilities,” Chadwick said.

Words of wisdom: “Effective communication. You have to realize your spouse is not a mind reader and they’re not perfect. Therefore if you have effective communication you can get through anything,” Mathleen said.

Chad said, “Be willing to have hard conversations and be open to having them. When you talk it out you become closer and get better. Don’t sweep it under the rug. I understand that I may not like [what she’s saying], but she’s only telling me what she’s telling me because she loves me. The person you marry is not going to be the same person even three months after you marry them, so you have to be willing to grow with them.”

Happily ever after: The Craigs attend Rock City Church in Forestdale, and are a  blended family with four children: Chadwick Jr., 14, Chloe’, 11, Caleb, 3, and Chandler, 3 months.

Mathleen, 31, is a West End native, and Jackson Olin High School grad. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Jacksonville State University and is a registered nurse [RN] at the Birmingham VA Hospital.

Chad, 35, is a Pratt City native and Jackson Olin High School grad. He attended The University of West Alabama where he studied psychology and works as an EEG [electroencephalographic] Technologist at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

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