Posts Tagged ‘Weddings and loss’
I’m sure you all remember (because how could you possibly forget), Morgan, who wrote me in January to get Team Practical advice about wedding planning in the face of serious illness. Her dad was dying, and she was getting married, and you guys rushed into the void with support, and wisdom, and just the hand holding of having been there. I was blown away. Morgan emailed me the day after that post went up and said she’d locked herself in her office and cried after reading all your responses, and then read more and cried before dinner, and then read more and cried after dinner, and said, “We got more bad news yesterday, and to have such an outpouring of support and kindness from strangers was just … I have no words. So, thank you..” And then she emailed me a few weeks later to say her dad had died. And then she emailed me a few weeks later to say that they had just gotten married and it was healing and full of joy and she was off on her honeymoon and she’d write a graduate post when she got back. She was blissed out. I was so so so glad and grateful that she finally got to have that. And then she emailed me to say her 19 year old cousin had died. Out of the blue.
And so. After all that, Morgan was strong enough to sit down and write. She wrote two pieces. Today’s post is about why weddings are important especially in the face of death, and tomorrow’s post is about throwing a cheap and lazy wedding (or, as she prefers to call it, a cheap and cheerful wedding). I want to warn you that you need tissues to make it through today’s post. Not in the, “I got misty” way, but in the, “I went into the ugly cry” way. Seriously, I got sob-y as I read this. This level of honesty is necessary, but so hard, and so rare. So here is to Morgan, for her bravery – for getting to the other side, and for being willing to tell the tale.
. . . . .
Let me tell you about my last year.
In March, we know that David is about to become ‘temporarily out of work’, but decided to go to Washington DC as planned for 10 days anyway. A week after we come back, my father breaks the news that he has stage 4 lung cancer. Two weeks after that, David’s out of work, thankfully with benefits. They discover cancer in Dad’s brain, and he starts chemo and radiation – his health improves dramatically. David’s return to work is delayed yet again, now they promise September. In July, we take a look at our savings, my job, and decide on a whim to go to Scotland and Ireland for 3 weeks. He proposes at a Neolithic portal tomb in Ireland. It’s wonderful. My father undergoes another round of brain radiation. David doesn’t go back to work. We start to plan a wedding, and figure that March, 6 months away, seems safe, and book the venue. Gradually my father’s health starts to decline, and as does my mother’s mental health. David finally goes back to work, after 8 months of unemployment, 3 days before Christmas. We are all aware that this will be my father’s last Christmas, and everything is hard. He is getting worse, and this round of treatment does not help. Wedding plans are progressing, but it’s hard to get worked up about details. I call my sister home in mid-January for the weekend, complete with a big Sunday dinner with a couple of my parents’ oldest friends, and it is wonderful. My father then dies 5 days later, 50 days before the wedding. I have very few memories of the week between his death and the wake, and I’m okay with not remembering. I do remember that the day after he died, David and I buy a house, and are stuck with possession the weekend before the wedding. We pack up, con my friends in to helping us move, and eat a lot of take out. The wedding rolls around, and it is wonderful. We go on a lazy beach honeymoon (that also includes zip lines) and come home to start setting up house and buying furniture and unpacking boxes. Less than a week later, my 19 year old cousin dies of a totally unexpected heart problem. Mike was the spitting image of my father at that age, to the point at the wake I’d made a joke that as long as we had Mike, it would feel a little bit like young-dad was around.
So. Things were hard. The big stuff was very, very hard. Two funerals and a wedding in 9 weeks for my family. Continue reading Wedding Graduate: Morgan on Weddings In The Face of Death
Yesterday we had Part One of Morgan’s wedding graduate post – about planning her wedding as her father died. Today’s post is about details of throwing this joyful and painful and wonderful and necessary party. I want to chime my voice in with Morgan on saying big (and little) things will go wrong when you plan a wedding – maybe death, maybe divorce – and weddings can still be healing things. We didn’t have to deal with death, but we did have to dear with serious illnesses and awful divorces with our nearest and dearest. And you know what? Instead of our wedding being something we put them through (as we feared it might), it was a joyful healing moment that gave them the chance to rise above it all. And I don’t know who that was more of a gift for – them or us. But it truly was a gift, even if it only exists now as a shimmering memory and some really joyful photographs.
We had a cheapish wedding. It was not full of charming details or at a beautiful venue or full of indie spirit. It was at a plain hall with minimal decoration, and it was so full of love and family that I couldn’t stop beaming. I can tell you truthfully that going cheap and lazy in no way changed the emotional impact or joy in the day.
Taking pictures and having an intimate family dinner before the ceremony didn’t reduce the impact of the aisle walk and the way David looked at me, the same way practicing the vows at the rehearsal was a completely different experience than saying them in the ceremony. The first was sweet, and the second transcendent. Same words, but emotional intensity was sky high – David’s voice was so choked with emotion he could barely speak. This loveliness, this intensity, this palpable love? That was the only thing I should have been aiming for. I should have stopped second guessing myself about not serving dinner, or not decorating more, or any of that, and just focused on trying to allow in the most joy possible.
A few more specific bits of advice: Continue reading Wedding Graduates: Morgan & David, Part II
My Mom died; three years AFTER I met The One and two years BEFORE we decided to finally make it “official”. I have done a lot of searching on your site and have yet to find the Tale of the Mother-less Bride. And I kept asking myself… “I can’t possibly be the only bride going through this.” So many posts and comments on the blessing and curses of the mother-of-the-bride but few on the delicacy of this phenomenon. So, I decided to write my story.
I would like to clarify one thing at the start; Mom and I were NOT best friends. In fact, I avoided her phone calls for the greater part of my late adolescent/early adulthood (20s-30s) life. She even had her very own skin crawling ring tone (“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s) so that I didn’t have to make the effort to cross the living room to check the caller ID. Don’t get me wrong, I love (ed?) her bigger than the expanding universe, I just couldn’t bear to talk with her…she was a never ending fountain of questions bigger than the Bellagio. “How’s Justin? How are you? How are the cats? How is work? How is the weather?” How ‘bout we take a break with the interrogation! Now, with her gone, I would give up 20 years of my OWN life just to hear that ring…but that isn’t what this post is about. It is about how I am managing to plan a wedding, MY wedding, without her…the all-star cheerleader of my life.
I came to call it the “Missing Mother Malady.” A sickening cycle of excitement and joy followed (approximately 8 hours later) by overwhelming grief and anger that permeated every step in the planning process from the easy days (what’s my color palet) to the hard choices (how do you honor your dead mother in your ceremony). If you have had a profound loss in life, you are too familiar with this cycle; if not, I can explain further. Continue reading Wedding Undergraduate: The Motherless Bride
This wedding graduate post is funny, in the way that sneaks up on you. Perhaps apropos of yesterday’s conversation, Kristen starts the post by saying she doesn’t really have that much wisdom to impart… and then proves herself to be totally wrong! What she writes really mirrors what my wedding experience was. Weddings can be crazy emotional and transformative in the ways you least expect. Another recent Team Practical bride (post coming at some future date), wrote me recently to say that getting married was so intense and gritty and real and hard, that she thought she was broken, like she had done it wrong. But ohhhhhh no. That’s how it was for me too, and I think how it was for Kristen. So, I love that this post allows us to really honor the fact that weddings can include amazing circles of love, and crazy softball games, and life-changing vows… and can also leave you a sobbing snotty mess when all is said and done, because holy h*ll, that was a LOT. (PS ask wedding graduates about the sobbing breakdown. Most people will nod their head and name the day on the honeymoon when it happened.) And that doesn’t mean we’re broken, it just means that bride-dom is not quite what we expect it to be. And that’s a blessing.
Before we begin, let me share two tiny wedding day details to help set the tone: I was wearing a sleeveless dress, and I was also sporting a fairly prominent farmer tan. I know – really! But I will also let you in on a secret: I did not care, not one little bit. I didn’t even care when some (rude) someone pointed out my two-tone arms during our cocktail hour. I wanted to shout, “Hell yes, I have a farmer tan!” My life did not get put on hold just because I was getting married. And as I get older, I’ve come to realize that in every well-lived life a little awkward tan must fall.
I do not have planning advice that hasn’t been shared here time and time again: stick to your guns, support your family. Figure out what matters to you and forget about the rest. My husband and I had a defining vision for our wedding (for us that meant smallish, somewhere rural, with a focus on fun) and discarded everything that didn’t fit. I DITed some of the things that really matter to me (like invitations and décor) because I’m crafty like that, and then we (happily) paid wedding elves to do the rest. Every penny was purposeful, well-spent and within our means – and that, in and of itself, felt fabulous and authentic and helped set the tone for the entire weekend.
Because here is one thing I can promise you – something magical and transformative will happen to you on your wedding day. It manifests itself in different ways for different people, and you cannot prepare for it. In fact, trying to prepare for it would be like trying to harness a bolt of lightening – and don’t people look silly when they try to do that? Take it from me, you just have to go with it. But since this is a Wedding Graduate post and I’m expected to offer some sort of advice, here are Five Things I Learned About Weddings from the Moments in Mine That Made My Heart Swell.
So, by some odd coincidence, both of our wedding graduates this week got married (once, at least) in Munich. Crazy, no? After Lynn wrote about being a motherless bride, Tina emailed me about planning her wedding(s) as her dad was dying. She was in the middle of the process, and I asked her to email me back when all was said and done, and she knew what she really wanted to say. So I’m honored to bring you Tina’s absolute bravery and wisdom today, in two parts. The first she wrote after her legal wedding at her fathers bedside, and the second she wrote after her more celebratory wedding, three months after his passing. Tina writes at Melbourne Vintage, and you can read more about her wedding there (also, she says if you want to get in touch, do!). And with that, here is Tina:
My husband is Australian and I am German – we got engaged last Christmas while on a break in Paris. We’ve been together for ten years. My dad loved my husband. My husband loved and respected my dad. When my parents picked us up from the train station in Munich when we got back from Paris, everything seemed perfect.
I remember so vividly and clearly how my dad’s eyes began to shine when I showed him my ring, and how he told me he had hoped we were going to get engaged in Paris, and how he took my arm and marched me off to the car, skipping, and how excited he was. It was pure joy. We almost instantly made plans for our weddings, we were going to get married in Australia in June, and in Munich in Oktober.
In May I got the phone call that changed my life – my dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I quit my job, and my husband and I temporarily relocated to Munich to be with him, in what turned out to be the last few months of his life. Since we knew how important it was to see us get married, and knowing it would be impossible for him to travel to Australiain June for our intended first wedding, we had to cancel my parents’ tickets to Australia, and, with completely broken hearts, cancelled the entire wedding.
Instead, we embarked on the horrible journey of trying to get past what seemed like mountains of German red tape to be able to get married in Germany, so my dad could witness our wedding. Since my partner isn’t German, it wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. We got married on the 2nd of June, a few weeks before my dad passed away. The most important thing about the day was, and is, that my dad got to see us get married. It is so special to me that we made this possible for him. But this means that for me, our wedding day wasn’t about me, or my husband, or celebrating our relationship.
When the day was over, I didn’t know how to cope with the fact, and I didn’t want to admit, that our wedding day was the saddest day of my entire life. And how, as we sat through the brief ceremony, I could think of nothing else than the fact that I was going to lose my dad. I was completely heartbroken and unable to feel anything but overpowering grief. I was wondering if there was something wrong with me, that I felt so unable to feel any joy that I was finally getting married to the love of my life.
Now, after my dad has passed, and we’ve rescheduled the wedding celebrations for later this year, I can’t stop thinking that my dad won’t be able to walk me down any aisle, or dance with me. He was a fantastic dancer. I can’t believe I won’t get to experience the utter joy of having him dance with me on my wedding day. It breaks my heart every single day. And I think that maybe we rescheduled the celebrations to soon, and that by the time they happen, I still won’t be able to feel how I “should” feel – overpowered by joy and pure happiness.
So how do you re-claim your wedding after an experience like this? How do cope with having the “wrong” emotional response to your wedding? And how do you make your wedding about your relationship in the face of grief and loss? Continue reading Wedding Graduates: Tina & Morgwn