It was winter in Portland, 2007. I was 22 years old, single, working 2 great paying jobs and living a relatively care-free life. I sold my car for a bike and lived off of deli sandwiches and PBR. I had just finished a shift at the vintage store I ran with my two best friends and was getting pumped for an all nighter of Rock Band, beers, oven-pizza, and fun. My phone rang, it was my mother, she was distraught. She asked if I was with my friends, and then told me she had something to tell me. In a split second my life went from everything I wanted to pure misery: my mother had cancer. It was spreading rapidly and they hadn’t pinpointed where it had started. I was the last of 4 children and pretty much my entire family to know. “You’re going to be alright though, right?” I asked her after the initial period of shock subsided and my heaping sobs leveled out. She couldn’t answer me, she handed the phone to my older brother. “She is okay,” he told me. I believed him.
I fought hard to keep my life the same but the truth is, it never got back to “normal” for me. After months of treatments, it was decided I was to move back home to help with her “end of life care” while our family transitioned into this extremely trying time. I watched my mother, once full of life and energy, slowly fade away in every sense.
It has been 5 years since she passed, and though I have been on the long, winding road of healing and rediscovery of myself, or who I am without a mother, or what that means to me; nothing has been more trying on this journey than planning a wedding without her. She never actually got to meet Andrew even though we were already dating when she was sick. It just happened too quickly and, to be honest, I didn’t know how I would come out on the other side.
Some people have to do this without their family, without their mothers or sisters or grandparents for many reasons. The most common reason is distance but no matter, it’s not easy. Looking for dresses was like pouring salt into open wounds, it stung pretty badly to stand there alone.
I’ve found comfort in those around me, people have played more than one role and it’s been the biggest blessing of my entire life. My maid of honor lost her mother when she was 16, her experience combined with being my wedding buddy has been more valuable than anything else. My future mother in law has stepped in with so much grace and love that, at times, I almost forget a huge part of my heart is missing.
Still, the days when I’m just working on the small details, or thinking about the way the ceremony might play out, I get a wave of sadness realizing that not only am I going to have to do this without her, but I am going to have to hold it together for the rest of my family who hasn’t quite reached the place of acceptance that I have.
I’ve always been a great griever, and some days I catch myself grieving myself for the sadness I have to endure on my own wedding day. I hope that by the time that day comes, in just a few months now, I have reached a place where I can embrace my blessings, my wonderful fiance, his exceptional family, my exceptional family and friends, and realize that though she is gone, she is not absent from my life completely.