by Anesta Henry
It is not often a visually impaired couple who are deeply in love say the words I do.
The atmosphere was perfect this afternoon, as history was created when for the first time in the Blind and Deaf Association’s 42 years history, a couple was wedded there.
Surrounded by family and friends who cheered them on, in a space that was beautifully decorated in green and white, 69-year-old Mark Arlington Stoute and his sweetheart Hyacinth Francina Hurdle took their vows, exchanged rings as a token of their love and constant fidelity and signed their marriage certificates.
“We did not set out to make history. We set out to set a precedent for my other brothers and sisters to let them see that we can have a simple ceremony in our own environment, the place that gives me the opportunity to start living again. This is a second home, there is life after blindness,” Stoute declared.
Cameras flashed throughout the ceremony as the couple who have been in a relationship for almost three years, made their lifelong commitment and took their first kiss as husband and wife.
Mark, the brother of prominent entertainer Richard Stoute who was his best man, told Barbados TODAY he asked Francina to marry him last year and they chose this date for the wedding to take place because it was the month for the disabled.
He lost his vision almost eight years ago and she, just around seven years. They met each other at the Association where they became friends and were both instrumental in starting the academic programme.
However, the couple’s romance strengthened, or was somewhat confirmed, when they began living together after Mark invited Francina to stay at his home where she would be closer to frequent hospital visits she had at that time.
Mark noted that despite being blind, he and his significant other who have six children between them, had a lot in common.
“We love fun. But we recently started to going to the Nazarene in Bank Hall and we are going to become members, so that is looking at ourselves spiritually.
“We love sports and still go out to cricket even though we don’t see a ball bowled, but we enjoy the atmosphere. We love singing, a good joke and all the funs of life,” he said.
“I was in love with her and I felt it just like the Biblical Ruth when I said to her ‘wherever you are is where I want to be. If you die here, I would die here too and if you get buried here too.’ We have an unconditional love,” the husband declared.
Hyacinth cannot tell the difference between night and day or light and darkness, but Mark can differentiate between the two to some extent.
Mark was not able to see his bride splendidly dressed in her cream dress adorned with sequins, nor was she able to catch a glimpse of her husband who was well shaven and looked dapper in his cream and green suit. But according to Mark their visual status did not stop them from seeing each other.
“Miss reporter, let me tell you something. We see each other in the mind. We use our hands a lot. We understand each other,” the former English teacher for 35 years at Ellerslie Secondary said.
To Hyacinth, Mark treats her the way any woman should want to be treated. Following the ceremony which was a little behind time because the electricity went off, she boasted that her husband was very humorous and spoke about how much she loved him.
“I just love Mark. He is a very nice person to me. He treats me well and everything,” Mrs Stoute said.
The bride’s sister Michelle King who assisted with the planning of the wedding, was overwhelmed with emotions. Actually, she was crying as she described her sister as a phenomenal woman, despite her challenges.
“She deserves to be happy. I am happy for her. When I was telling her how the cake look, she was very contented that she wouldn’t see it, but still in her mind she could see it,” King explained.
Entertainer Richard Stoute was also pleased to see that his brother took a bride who was ‘one of his kind’, which in his eyes was a connection of trust.
“Years ago we were told that we had the highest divorce rate in the world. That was because people were not giving love and trust to each other the way they ought to. I think this union is something God has put together and I hope he continues to bless and keep them,” Stoute said.
The couple was wedded by Reverend John Yarde who prayed for a blessed union and reminded them that the commitment of marriage was a permanent one as it was the intent of God “that your marriage will be for life and that only death will separate you.”
“If you seek always to know and to do the will of God your lives would be blessed with his presence and your home, with his abiding peace,” Reverend Yard said.
Mark revealed that the couple planned to enjoy their honeymoon locally in a very secretive place.