Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wedding As Memory

There are certain things about which people do not talk. You aren't supposed to talk about such things, especially not on a do-it-yourself wedding blog. But I want to talk about them, because they are real and important and worth talking about.

You may recall me writing a post about a friend dying of cancer just before my wedding, and the resulting sadness I felt. Now, I want to mention a similar scenario, sort of flipped. Sort of.

I had mentioned that we had several relatives coming from international places. One such relative was my Aunt, who was 83 at the time, and had difficulty walking. Despite this, she traveled 5400 miles just to see me get married. It was touching and brave, and the rest of her family even traveled with her everywhere, to make sure she was OK, and to help her get through jet lag as smoothly as possible. She was not very frail or ill, just achey with some hip/leg trouble, and traveling or walking long distances was not easy for her.

It was so special to have her with me on my wedding day. Not just that day, but the dinner the night before at my parents' house, the next day as we prepared odds and ends for Sunday, the next night's dinner where both Jake and I's family commingled and got acquainted, and all the funny, silly, stressful, hurried moments in between. She was there. She got to see relatives she had not seen in a long time, and likewise, my family took great joy in reconnecting and creating new memories with her.

Fast forward almost to the month, one year later, I got a phone call from my mom. My Aunt had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The prognosis was bad, it was estimated that the cancer had already metastasized a great deal. Treatment was unlikely to be of any use. And so now it was my turn to hop on a plane and travel 5400 miles to see my Aunt. Unlike the last cross country trip, this trip didn't have a happy ending. I was with my Aunt until the very last moment, as I watched her gasp for air, and silently, mysteriously, pass.

When I returned home, I was haunted by the vision of her on her deathbed, and the way she had looked the last few weeks, days. Barely recognizing me or her family, eating nothing, drinking even less. This phase lasted for quite a while. But eventually, I started to remember other things about her. The most vivid memory I had of her was her smile on my wedding day, her gentle support, her warm, loving hand on my bare shoulder on that sunny, wonderful day in July. Slowly, I was able to replace the haunting vision of her ghost, with the images of her enjoying her time with me, a year before.

These are the real reasons why we plan a wedding. So we can share our joy with others. The true friends and family--the ones who truly love you for you--they don't care about wedding favors, or how the dessert table looks. They care about you, and seeing you happy. And you too will remember back to your day, and think not only of some of the funny things that went wrong, but of the people who stood by you, and cherished your day because they loved you.

I have heard so many people (myself included) say that they feel like they "missed" their wedding--everything flew by so fast. While seemingly inevitable when throwing any big party, I urge you, beg you, to make sure to spend time with the people you love on your day. Make them feel special. Make them glad they made the effort to drive, fly, walk, bus to your event. That is what I did with my Aunt, and you better believe it was one of the best decisions I made on that day. At the same time, the people who love you most are also the ones who don't expect you to spend extra time with them. They understand that the day is demanding and stressful and they don't judge you based on your behavior the day you finally host your own shindig; trying to mingle with guests, coordinate logistics, and juggle tasks. Still, try to dote at least a bit on your most cherished guests.

After all, love is a gift, not a given. I will hold close to my heart the memories of my Aunt on that day and weekend for the rest of my life. The vision I had of her ill has been replaced by photos of her laughing and smiling, surrounded by family--at my wedding. I'm just thankful that I got to share it with her, that she got to know my husband, and that she gave me the gift of love.

Next time you find yourself stressing out about some random part of your wedding--thinking it all has to be perfect, that things just have to go a certain way--stop yourself. And remember to focus on what's most important: the people who love you and are truly happy for you. You know who they are.

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