It's a good thing we did it that day, because, as it turned out, on April 2, the next day, my grandmother died.
My maternal grandmother was the grandparent to whom I was the closest at the time; I saw or tried to see some of myself in her - or I guess I should say I tried to see some of her in me. Anyway, even though she had been sick for awhile as she struggled through a relapse of breast cancer, I was shocked by the news. I was grateful that my grandmother had hung on long enough to meet my husband-to-be and to hear about my wedding plans - and most importantly to meet her youngest grandchild, whom she held in her arms not long before she went on ahead, but I was so saddened by the loss that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. It was the first death that I had experienced of someone to whom I was close, and I was at a loss of how to even try to cope.
Needless to say, the next few days were a blur as we made our way to the city where she lived and gathered together as an extended family to pay our respects. I remember that I didn't think I would be able to sit through the service in the church without bolting for the door because I was afraid my cries would be too loud. I remember hardly being able to bear the pain of looking at my mom, at my two aunts - one of whom had a two year-old and a two-week-old baby - and most especially at my grandfather, whose sky-blue eyes held such endless sadness that there seemed to be no possibility of ever being able to comfort him. I remember that I stood with one of my cousins and my fiance long after the rest of the people had gone back to their cars at the cemetery; the funeral director had dismissed us after they'd lowered the casket into the ground, but I just couldn't bring myself to walk away before I'd seen her body buried, one final thing I felt I could do, if not for her than in her honor. We stood there by the headstones of the other graves around her plot, and I looked for four-leaf clovers while the dirt was placed over her beautiful silver casket, adorned with beautiful tiny daisies. I remember that I was a little bit comforted by wearing one of my grandmother's sweaters to the funeral; it was the only thing I had of hers besides the opal ring she had given me - "October birthday girl to October birthday girl,"she'd said - when I celebrated my sixteenth birthday. Years later, I pulled that sweater from the back of my closet and wore it to the funeral of a friend, and in the pocket I found the handkerchief that my dad had given to me at my grandmother's funeral, a reminder of both the tears I had shed and of the love my family shared as we tried to support each other through those rough days.
I knew my grandmother well enough to know that she would absolutely have wanted "the show to go on," and so, just a couple of weeks after we laid her to rest, my dad walked me down the aisle and I said "I do" to my new husband in front of many of our family and friends, at sunset on the banks of the Mississippi River. I wore the gerber daisy wrist corsage that was intended for my grandmother during the ceremony; I felt my her absence profoundly that day as I have many days since.
|Wearing the corsage meant for my grandmother|
Today, when I think back on that April Fool's Day at the Courthouse, to the days afterwards leading up to the wedding, and to the wedding itself, so many emotions run through me. I feel lucky, I feel loved, I feel happy for what I have learned and shared and survived. Twenty years, wow. Pretty incredible.
|My grandfather, at my wedding, just two weeks after he'd lost his wife. |
"I'm here for two," he said, and I knew just what he meant.