This Easter marked the one-year anniversary of the day my brother married his wife. You see, my brother and his wife didn’t have to fight the WIC, they didn’t have to send out invitations, they didn’t even have to announce the date. What I have come to consider an extremely fortunate and extremely unfortunate wedding took place in an impromptu, never could have imagined sort of way. They exchanged vows on April 20, 2013, next to the bedside of my mom, who was living her last days with lung cancer and brain cancer.
They stood at the foot of her bed and exchanged promises of love and forever. I couldn’t help but focus on my mom while our neighbor, who has been like a mother to both my brother and me, married them. She had a single tear stream down her cheek as they said, “I do,” and my brother kissed his bride. For the next day, she told everyone that came to visit her or called her: “Did you hear what happened? Chris got married in my hospital room.” The pride, joy, and love dripping from these words will forever be etched in my memory and epitomizes who my mom was as a person, but more importantly as a mom.
Four days later, my mom passed away. Though she had been battling late-stage cancer for a year, we never could prepare for that day. For that grief. For that loss. I quickly had to learn and adapt to living without my mom, my best friend, my biggest fan. After speaking to her every day, multiple times a day, I had to figure out what to do with those moments when all I wanted to do was call her. As those who have lost anyone close to them know, it’s a roller coaster. The grief ebbs and flows, and how you cope with it fluctuates. Long cries. Swapping of memories. Staring at photographs for hours. Tequila. Isolation. Laughter. This is what the past twelve months have been like.
Fast-forward eight months to December 23, 2013. On this day, my best friend and love of my life proposed to me. After a romantic proposal, which included strangers photographing and videoing and a random guy buying us chocolate cake, we headed to a local restaurant where Kyle surprised me with his parents, brother, sister-in-law, my brother, my dad, and my best friend. Among all the joy, excitement, and “over-the-moon” feelings I was experiencing, the striking pain and realization that my mom wasn’t there—that she would never be there for any of this wedding, marriage, and forever stuff—sunk in.
Should I have asked Kyle to exchange vows next to my mom’s bedside too? I mean, we knew then we’d be getting married. We had looked at rings two months earlier. I texted my mom after Kyle had surprised me around our five-year anniversary. She was so excited she told my dad and Kyle’s mom (whom Kyle hadn’t told he was surprising me with looking at engagement rings). That was totally my mom. Too excited to keep a secret. Always wanting to share my big moments and joys with others.
Though I often think about the “what if,” I have come to accept that I cannot dwell on it. Not because it’s unhealthy, a waste of time, etc. But because she absolutely would not want me to. I was fortunate enough to know I was going to marry Kyle long before my mom even became sick. I would stay up with her when I came home to New Hampshire to visit from Chicago and talk about our future wedding. One day I told her I wasn’t getting married in a church, and she immediately got defensive. Then I said, “C’mon mom, when was the last time we went to church?” and then we just laughed about all the times she “dragged” us to church when we were younger.
Kyle and I have a year and five months until our wedding day. We have so much time. But every conversation, every idea, every bit of wedding planning I’ve done thus far and will continue to do has caused me to think about and painfully miss my mom. I’m also at an age where everyone is getting married. All of my girlfriends are always talking about doing this with Mom, doing that with Mom, etc. Some days I just want to scream “GOOD FOR YOU!” in a passive aggressive tone. But most days, I know that’s not fair.
My mom won’t help me pick out the dress. She won’t be there to help decide on flowers. She won’t be there to stay up until two a.m. writing envelopes for our Save the Dates. She won’t see me walk down the aisle. But she did give me her blessings so long ago when I naturally started talking about marrying Kyle. She did help me wedding plan even before we were officially getting married. And she is with me through all of these moments.
Everything I do, everything I am, I owe to her. She taught me how to love and on September 5th, 2015, I will exchange promises of forever with the love of my life with my mom watching down.