[note: the one-year anniversary of our wedding is coming up (Oct. 1, 2011!), so I’m going to be posting some wedding-related posts to capture the events and feelings that surrounded the big day.]
As any bride can tell you, there are a wide variety of emotions surrounding a wedding. Happiness, love, frustration, excitement, stress — you name it, we probably felt it.
But there was one emotion that clouded my wedding; it is something that I’ve really never talked about with anyone (except briefly with David) and it’s time to finally let the thoughts that continue to linger out.
After our reception ended, I was tired, I was elated … I was sad. No, not because it was all over and I wouldn’t have wedding planning to obsess over anymore. I was sad because there was a huge whole; a missing piece that pretty much everyone there knew about but I only very briefly addressed during my toast.
You see, my mother had passed away just over a year prior to our wedding. It was a complete and utter shock and I replay the events leading up to it, the events of that day and the events following it over and over again.
My mom had the chance to meet and get to know David for nearly four years while we dated. I later learned that she had told one of my dear friends and bridesmaids that she had wanted David and me to get married. We had talked about it before her passing, but as I always do, I never really talked about my feelings (well, except to David, which is one of the reasons I knew he was the one) — I don’t like to put myself out there very often.
The time period leading up to the day she passed was full of excitement and frustration. I defended my master’s thesis and received distinction. Mom was laid off for a very stupid reason that I still get angry about (she was a hard-working and very caring social worker who helped families get through difficult times and later taught others how to do the same). I graduated from Georgetown. I landed my first “real world” job. Mom was happy and ecstatic about my accomplishments but (I’m told) was very unhappy overall (as I’m sure I would be too, in that situation). She mentioned this in passing to me but never wanted me to feel the pressure that she was feeling. She had her savings and worked long nights as a caregiver for the elderly (she started this as a part-time gig so that she could buy a car for me when I turned 16; I’m still inspired by her hard work and dedication not only to me but also to others — she would buy Christmas gifts with her own hard-earned money for children whose parents couldn’t afford them, among many other things).
I still remember the day I got the phone call from my uncle telling me that she was gone; it was July 8, 2009 (yes, that’s 7/8/09). I had just taken an impromptu trip to Florida over the long Fourth of July holiday as David headed back home for the summer to take an internship at the local State Attorney’s Office. I didn’t get to see her much as she was working (getting paid not nearly enough, I must add) but I was able to spend a small amount of time with her and tell her all about the apartment I had secured. I remember her saying something about how I didn’t need her help anymore. Oh, how untrue that is.
I was in a rush to get to the airport for my departing flight (as you can imagine, the lines for security can be very long during the peak tourist season and our security is SLOW). She wasn’t feeling well and asked if it was OK if my grandmother drove me instead of her (this should have been a warning sign as she was always at the airport an hour before I was scheduled to land waiting for me and always had to see me off). In the car my grandma asked me, “did you give your mom a hug?” I had, but just a brief one. When I talked to mom after I arrived back in D.C., she said to me, “I didn’t get a hug.” I replied, “Yes, you did.” Her response was, “Not enough.”
I would like to say the events surrounding her death were a blur, but they are still very clear to me. I remember sorting through unorganized paperwork worrying about what was going to happen to the house. I remember every one of the family members and friends that were there to support me and my grandmother. I remember thanking God that David was with me to help me get through (and continues to do so) and for the numerous prayers that gave me the feeling that everything was going to be OK — it would be hard and I would still feel the pain of her absence, but God would provide, and He has. And I remember the terrible feeling I had right before I approached the podium to give her eulogy (it was the worst feeling of my life; I did not feel like I had the strength to get through it, but God was there with me to help me give my tribute to her life).
David and I got engaged the Christmas immediately following her passing. Her absence was felt then, was felt throughout the entire planning process, and was felt especially on that day. After the reception ended and David & I went to our room, an emptiness began to creep up. When he left to deliver his tux to one of his groomsmen, I sat on the couch in our suite and cried. I let it out. No one else was around and I let the emptiness and the heartache I felt consume me for a brief time. I continued to miss her greatly during our honeymoon and after we got settled in, and I continue to miss her to this day. But while her absence brings about sadness, she brings much more.
She helped me enjoy the day, and all of the events leading up to it, fully. She continues to remind me to be a good person. To work hard. To play hard. To love and give more to others than to myself.
I don’t think I can be the amazing person she was, but she is there to inspire me continuously. Even after her death, she gave to others. She was an organ donor and her eyes (the pretty green that they were) help someone be able to see to this day. I remember my grandma telling me about a phone call she had received from the Southeastern Tissue Alliance in which the lady told her that because of her donation, my mom “would live forever.” I don’t know anything about the person that she helped, but I do know this — she continues to live in me and that, I know, would be her most proud accomplishment.