A charm on my wedding bouquet cherishes the memory of my twin brothers, who died at age 13, with the initials of their first names surrounding by blue hearts.
It has been three months since I last posted to this blog, and it feels as if many lifetimes have passed before my eyes in the time since then.
I stopped writing at about the same time that I started going to counseling at the Centers for Grief in St. Paul, Minnesota. On an ordinary day in May 2012, I walked into a counseling appointment, looked at my new therapist, and said quite simply, “It’s too much!” Then burst into tears.
The summer that followed my first counseling encounter was at times exhausting, at times eye-opening, and at times rejuvenating. It was marked simultaneously by the personal challenges that existed all around me, by the warmth of the new people in my life, and by the unfailing love of my new husband, Matt.
On missing my mother…
I cannot begin to count the moments when I have felt my mother’s absence this year. Even the simple things, such as picking up my cell phone and passing her name on my contacts list, knowing that she will no longer answer the phone, have been indescribably hard.
On drives through the countryside, I picture her house in rural Ohio, and I remember with sadness the blooming gardens, the bountiful apple trees and the beautiful sunsets that would stretch across the horizon.
I miss her when I meet special education teachers, when I drive by car shows and whenever I see a Jeep Cherokee or a black Jeep Truck, as I am instantly reminded of what her car looked like after it was shattered into a hundred pieces with four people in the car.
On quiet days, my mind wanders to her things, her possessions which were given to me after her death. And I think especially of her journals, containing her own hand-writing, which are safely stowed away — touched but unread — in my bedroom closet.
I remember her voice, her eyes and her hair, with the same color as mine.
“You are the spitting image of your mother,” people have always said to me.
I remember the looks she would shoot across the room when she was cross, the way she would watch in amusement as we played a childish game, and the way she laughed, with her whole body. A genuine expression of delight from a woman who had been through so much in her own lifetime.
I have missed her as I have considered shopping for a house, the option to go back to school for a second degree, and the question of whether or not I will have children of my own.
But I have missed her most of all, as I have added to our family tree, by marrying the love of my life and making Matt her son-in-law.
On getting married with only 18 guests…
I hope my beloved readers can understand, then, why I got married with only my immediate family, close friends and grandparents present.
I have always considered myself a family person, and there has been nothing more exciting to me over the years than a gathering of all of our extended family, at the same time in the same place. But when such a big part of your family is abruptly taken from you, and your heart is still aching more than a year and a half later, such a huge gathering of people becomes a daunting — even overwhelming — task.
When I finally regained confidence and energy enough to accept a romantic proposal and entertain the idea of a wedding— after going through counseling this summer — I decided that I needed something different than the wedding I conjured up in my childhood dreams. I wanted something small and intimate, where everyone could feel comfortable enough to cry, and where I could cherish the memory of my late family members in tender, albeit saddening, ways.
I invited only 18 guests, checking individually with each one to see if the date I had in mind would work for them, and scheduling the wedding with only three weeks notice. Together with my fiance, who proposed in July, I planned the wedding inside of one month. I took care to line up all the details I would have wanted in a perfect world, but I altered the ceremony to acknowledge a world without four loved ones (five if you count my late father).
Our Wedding Website
On remembrance, renewal and sun beams…
On the day of the wedding, my Matron of Honor gave me a charm to remember the twins by. And she helped me pin it to my bouquet. I donned a beautiful white dress and a veil, and met Matt for the first time that day on a quiet trail overlooking the Mississippi River.
When everyone from our immediate families and friends arrived, we gathered them in a circle inside Schaar’s Bluff Gathering Center, and asked our musician to help us dedicate a song to my mother, Paula, stepfather, Tom, and my twin brothers, Thomas and Lawrence, as well as my father, Marty. Michael Monroe began to play the music on his acoustic guitar and sang the beautiful song “Forever Young” in their honor.
May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others,
And let others do for you,
May you build a ladder to the stars,
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young.
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room, though through the large open windows of the gathering center, we could see the sun shining down on the natural scene just outside the door. The song was joined by hugs, words of encouragement and open expressions of love between those who gathered.
Afterward, we all took a moment to regroup and dry our eyes, and we walked down to the Stone Alcove, where the ceremony would be held.
By this time, I couldn’t stop smiling!
I was overwhelmed with both sadness and joy, and caught up in all the beauty and meaning that found us on that day. Our officiant reminded us to be strong, to always be true to each other, and at our request, he read us the vows used in my favorite book of literature. Then he reminded us to stay “Forever Young,” and on September 3, 2012, we finally took our first steps as husband and wife.
I’m told that the sun that shone down on us, as we said our vows, shot down like a beam of light from the heavens. This is so meaningful because this is the way I look for my twin brothers and my mother in the world, in rare beams of light, protruding from the clouds above. These rays are warm and radiant, and they are one of the only things that can bring me to feel my family’s presence here on earth.
We held a small reception after the ceremony, necessary for all of us to cool down from the 94-100 degree weather. There was a first dance. There was a cake. There were even bagpipes, courtesy of Matt’s grandfather!
There was a prayer. There was a slideshow. There was a toast. And our best friends spoke to our happiness and our future, acknowledging all that we have endured to come this far.
This is what I needed. I needed something small and quiet, where I could experience my sadness alongside my joy. And I can’t wait to share all of the excitement with each and everyone one of you! But please know that my mother and the rest of my family — who we lost on April 24, 2011 — were invited into our hearts on that day, and cherished in their memory.
Now, in our Happily Ever After, we are looking forward to the joyful years ahead!