Monday, April 27, 2009

One Guest Less.

All Rights Reserved. © Wedding Thrift 2009

The strangest, saddest thing just happened. One of our guests died.

She was diagnosed with cancer and a brain tumor two months ago. While the prognosis was not great, it seemed like there was a solid medical plan and recovery was forthcoming. My mom was planning to visit her, but this friend, Dina, postponed the visit after unexpectedly going into the hospital. She told my mom to come in two weeks when she was feeling better. She was there for a week. Then she died.

She was a family friend who had an extra special place in both mine and my mom's heart. We met her at the same time, and both fell in love with her passion, her lust for life, and her talent as an artist. I have had two of her prints hanging on the walls of my apartment for the past 6 years. Through her art, I felt her presence in my home, and we stayed in touch through email. Most recently, I shared with her some of my latest favorite photographs, which she discussed with me at length and echoed my passion for capturing everyday moments in a unique light. She had no family to speak of, just a few artist friends, and my mom, whose companionship involved Proust readings and discussions, the exchanging of travel experiences and a shared love of art, literature and culture.

I looked forward to seeing her in July, and imagined her delight in reuniting with my mom and I. I couldn't wait to introduce her to Jake.

Wedding or no wedding, this is a tragedy. But something about knowing that she was going to be a part of my celebration makes me extra extra sad. It's as if she was a part of the wedding, and now that part is gone. As an artist, I knew she would appreciate the handmade invitations we planned to send, and would take special pleasure in their design and creativity. I imagined her reaction when she opened the envelope, and knew she would take time to examine each piece of paper and savor my writing on the front. I am certain that our Save the Date magnet with our names and a heart is located on her fridge in a barren apartment, as I type. Will it get thrown out? Will it make its way to a fridge of a close friend?

In Jewish--as well as other--traditions, a wedding is considered to be all about community and people coming together and uniting. The family, friends, and mentors of one partner come together spiritually with the family, friends, and mentors of the other. I embrace this perspective wholeheartedly and have found tremendous joy in connecting and reconnecting with friends during the wedding planning process. People had the most unexpected and wonderful reactions upon learning I was getting married, or receiving our Save the Dates. Their enthusiasm and genuine kindness made me even more excited about the wedding, and reminded me daily about the most important part of such a gathering: the people.

Dina was one of the people that encouraged me to value these things, and made me look forward to that day in July when Jake's world would come together with mine. And while she will be there with me in spirit, I can't help but feel that I will look around for her on that day, and be sad for her absence.

I know many brides and grooms have lost loved ones between the time they get engaged and the day they get married. Fathers, mothers, friends, and even partners have been lost before the union can take place, and yet life moves forward. It makes me so thankful for what I have; Jake, a loving family, supportive friends, and health. It makes all the thoughts about napkin rings and RSVP cards seem like an undeserved luxury; trivial matters. And it certainly provides perspective.

I will always honor Dina's passion, and make sure to include her in my celebration even though she can't be there physically. The saddest thing to me, is that I didn't get to tell her how much she meant to me, and how much I looked forward to having her with me on my wedding day, and beyond.

Dina, this is for you. You would have noticed the simple beauty of a single flower petal in the road and celebrated it. You would not have touched or moved it. You would have remembered and painted it later in your home studio. You would have smiled at the sight of it and, if I was there, we would have talked about it. Years later, you would have reminded me of its beauty, just as I am reminded of your beauty now.

All Rights Reserved. © Wedding Thrift 2009.

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