We had been planning this day for the past 10 months, actually, if I were honest I would say I had been dreaming about it for 23 years—but the wedding that Olivia had in mind was her own. She had a vision, she had a plan and I was thrilled that she asked me to be a part of making it happen.
We began by touring the wedding venues across the state, sat down with a florist, chose the perfect wedding dress and accessories; made the guest list and hand cut pieces of the invitations. We made the centerpieces, the escort cards and grew grass in tiny terracotta pots that would hold them. Every tiny detail was attended to with care, and when it was all done the final result surpassed my expectations. It was perfect. The day of the rehearsal came and the butterfly’s in my stomach began; I was so truly excited for my daughter, who was beginning her new life with the man of her dreams, that it didn’t even occur to me to be sad, which is why the next morning threw me for a loop.
My husband and I faced different directions in our bed, but we both could tell the other was awake by the heaviness our moods brought into the air. It had been 2 years since we had experienced this feeling—and this time it was so very unexpected.
When you wake up the morning of your child’s funeral, it is presumed that you will feel a sense of dread, loss, finality; but when you wake up on the morning of your daughter’s wedding you would hope for nothing of the sort.
Obviously I am comparing two totally different experiences; but there were shared characteristics. We were closing the book on her childhood and “giving her away” to begin a new life. We would miss out on waking up to the smell of her coffee, and hearing her shout that she loved us as she ran off to work. Her chair at the dinner table would be empty, and her bedroom would be deafeningly quiet when we walked past it.
I obviously recognize the differences, but there were enough similarities to bring back the memories of saying goodbye to Naomi.
The photographer was at the house to capture every precious moment as the bride and our family prepared for the ceremony. The dresses lined up, the bridesmaids helping Olivia with her hair, her fathers first glimpse of his little girl in her dress. I was watching, as if from afar, but was shocked back to the present when she commented “Lorna, can you smile?”. I thought I was smiling.
To be fair, I was in an inconceivable position. How is it possible to process so many different emotions at once? I had no idea which emotion was being displayed on my face at any given moment. One minute I was looking at my daughter adorned in the most elegant lace dress, her hair swept back and her eyes sparkling with excitement, and I thought to myself: “wasn’t it just yesterday that she was 5 years old heading off to her first day of Kindergarten?“ It was surreal, beautiful, exciting, happy. Five minutes later I was standing having our family portrait taken and I looked down the line and noticed quickly that Naomi should be standing there among us. It was empty, deficient, full of longing and sad. That rollercoaster of emotions was overwhelming,
It would have been so much easier to just feel the sadness and leave it at that; trying to push through the layers of emotions was exhausting, but this day would only come once for Olivia and I wanted to be present there with her, I wanted to soak in what she was experiencing, see all the plans we made together come to fruition, I wanted to be ALL there.
watching her dance and laugh and be happy truly filled my heart with a joy that I can look back on now and call “untainted”.
I have spoken before about choosing to live and allowing myself to be happy, but there are some times that are more difficult than others. There are times when your grief is so “in your face” that making the choice to push through the pain to find the joy is as difficult as sprinting up hill on a hot muggy day. This was one of those days for my husband and I. We accomplished it, there were hours of dancing and laughing when my grief was carefully layed aside, and I was able to think of nothing but the happiness that was in the room at that very moment. Oh, I would pick it up later, before I went home, but those gift; and I am so glad I decided to chase after it.