* Jesse, Theatre Props Master & Warwick, Writer *
The day after my sister passed away, there was a school dance. They offered to cancel it, but I wouldn’t let them. At the time I needed someone to remind me what life, what normalcy could feel like. Choosing to celebrate with a wedding after losing a loved one can seem unimaginably hard. But posts like Jesse & Warwick’s today continue to remind me, years after my own loss, why it’s also so important.
Leading up to my wedding, I was already thinking about my wedding graduate post, composing it in my head day by day as I went through the process. (Note to self—if you find yourself doing this again for any other major life event, step away from the blogs!) I had already written the introduction when I wrote a post about coming to terms with my huge guest list and my less than unique church and reception hall venues. My graduate post was going to talk about learning to take help from my friends instead of doing the massive stack of invites by myself. I was going to talk about the awesome ways I saved money with my bouquets of handmade fabric flowers and thrifted colored glass centerpieces. I was going to talk about coming to grips with not having a massive batchelorette or shower because my friends were spread across the country and couldn’t afford more travel than coming in for the wedding. I was going to talk about how doing what we wanted and adding things we liked made the standard feel personal and unique.
Six months before our wedding, my little brother died, suddenly, without warning. He went into the hospital on a Friday, there were tests and surgeries, internal bleeding, more surgeries and doctors who couldn’t find the problem fast enough to solve it before it was too late. He passed away on Wednesday. Over the next week as we were planning a wake and visitation and funeral Mass I heard over and over again from friends and family, “I’m really excited for your wedding in the fall, we’re going to need a party by then.”
Adam’s death changed everything about my wedding, and changed nothing. All the plans that were in place stayed in place, all of the vendors were already booked, most of the people were already invited. Those blog posts I was planning to write could still be written, I still learned those lessons and loved my décor and was a money-saving diva. In many ways it was still our day, but in so many ways it became everyone’s. Thinking about not having Adam there on the wedding day was unbelievably sad. Warwick and I had already been engaged for over a year when Adam died. I was already planning on Adam being a part of the day, wearing a ridiculous suit, rolling his eyes and proclaiming he wouldn’t dance, and then spending all night on the dance floor, being the last one to leave the after-after party, sneaking off and having smoke breaks that he would attempt to hide from my mom, hitting on each and every one of my friends, and being the one to pull Warwick aside during the week to make sure he knows that he needs to treat me well or else. I cried on our wedding day or course, especially during the ceremony, but mostly there was so much joy there was no room to be sad.
All of our aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends, people who we were assuming would meet at our wedding, had already met, bonded, celebrated, and cried together. So many of these people had stood vigil with us for days at the hospital, or stood in line for four hours at the funeral home together just to give us a hug and tell us that they were sorry. All of these people needed a party, and all of these people, more than they ever had before, needed to be part of the love and joy of a wedding, so they brought the joy with them and heaped it on Warwick and me and my entire family.
There were torrential rains as Hurricane Isaac made its way north the weekend of the wedding. There were wardrobe malfunctions and scheduling nightmares. We almost forgot the rings and the wedding coordinator at the church was a bit of a bitch, but in the grand scheme of things, that all felt small, and everyone treated those problems as insignificant, which of course they were.
I was terribly worried before the wedding that I should find some public way to memorialize Adam on that day, but everything felt fake. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry and it was okay that I didn’t do anything. He was there and he wasn’t far at all from anyone’s mind, no one needed a picture or a memorial candle to remember him. I had my own private way to honor him; his thumbprint was on the inside of my wedding band (courtesy of Brent & Jess who are wonderful people and did amazing work). Other people found their own ways to honor him. I saw so many people wearing the green ribbon for organ donation, which Adam felt very strongly about, Warwick quietly pulled an empty chair up to the end of the head table during the reception, my dad briefly mentioned Adam in his toast, and we included a prayer for him and our other lost loved ones in the special intentions at the Mass, and even if none of that had happened, he was remembered by everyone there. And without anyone saying it, we all knew that what we needed most was to let loose and celebrate life moving forward.
I still miss my brother every day, and without wedding planning to distract me, the sadness is even harder to shake at times. The memories of that day, of the joy and love and support that surrounded us, remind me that, whenever I need them, I have a huge loving network of people ready to help. Our wedding taught me that it is okay for life to keep going after tragedy. It is okay to laugh and feel joy, to dance, to hug, to focus on insignificant details, and to worry over bigger ones. Adam’s memory will never be lost, but my life has to keep moving forward, and despite our sadness (or maybe because of it) it is so important for our community to celebrate the hell out of the good times whenever we get the chance.