47: Our Day

47: Our Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Our Day

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.

~Albert Einstein

Wedding planning was already in full operation when I got off the plane from Paris with my newly dubbed fiancé. Matt had given Mom the greatest gift a few weeks back when he asked for my parents’ blessing to propose to me during our summer trip in Europe. Mom had waited her entire life for this, to plan a wedding for her daughter, and while I was away she secretly read wedding magazines, put together sample favors, and selected cake and mother-of-the-bride gown possibilities.

Back from my trip and ready to plunge into details with her, Mom jokingly referred to the wedding as “our” wedding. As in hers and mine. “Forget Matt!” she joked. “We’re the ones who have waited our whole lives for this! My April and me.”

As many brides know, planning a wedding with your mother does not come without disagreements. Mom insisted that we get married inside the church. I wanted an outside affair. When the church was booked for my preferred wedding date, Mom begged me to change it. “October 2nd!” she pleaded. “What’s the difference between 10/23/10 and 10/2/10?” But Mom knew that the numbers 10 and 23 were Matt’s and my lucky numbers, and I wouldn’t budge. October 23rd was to be our wedding day, no ifs, ands, or buts.

I did give in to some of her requests. When Mom heard me toying with the idea of having a chocolate fountain instead of a wedding cake, she nearly fainted. “Wedding cake is my favorite!” she exclaimed. “You can’t have a wedding without wedding cake!”

But when Mom was diagnosed with cancer that September, everything else seemed frivolous. The date, the place, the cake… who cared about any of it if my mother wasn’t going to be there to enjoy it with me? Mom seemed to be on the same page with me. “Just get me to next October,” she told her doctor before adding, “preferably with my hair.”

In the next year, we went through the ups and downs of battling cancer. Through the process, Mom proved to be the strong one. While we focused on her cancer, she chose to focus on getting the perfect wedding planned.

Late that following summer, Mom went in for emergency surgery. The doctor came out with some discouraging news. “It looks ugly in there. The cancer has spread. There is nothing more we can do.”

Mom tried life-prolonging medications and supplements, but after a month of excruciating pain, she made a new decision. She was ready to go into hospice. “Nobody wants to see you get married more than I do, my April,” she gently explained to me, “but I am in so much pain. I wanted to make it so bad, but I can’t live like this anymore. I’m ready to go.”

I was in shock. It wasn’t fair. I told my mom we’d move up the wedding. She refused. It was too late. Everything was in place. She insisted I get married as we had planned it — as I had wanted it — on October 23, 2010.

I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t get married without Mom there. A few days later, Matt and I were slated to meet with my priest. I would use that opportunity to make a very special request — a wedding, at my parents’ home, with my mom as the guest of honor. This time, she was going to have to be the one to give in.

At my church, Matt and I told the priest of our circumstances. “It’s really important that my mom sees me get married,” I explained to him. He agreed and said that he would happily officiate the ceremony whenever and wherever we chose. “Sooner is better than later… in matters like this,” he told me with his tender Irish accent. I nodded as a tear rolled down my cheek. I knew exactly what he meant.

As expected, Mom argued against the idea of pushing the wedding forward. I knew she feared that I was doing it just for her, so I firmly told her otherwise — that it was indeed for me. After promising that we would still have the October 23rd wedding as planned, Mom gave in. We set the date for four days later, September 23rd, one month away from my actual wedding.

That day when I got to my parents’ home, my younger sister answered the door.

“How’s Mom?” I asked.

“All done up and ready to go,” she responded confidently. “She’s trying to take a nap before everyone else arrives.”

I headed into my mother’s room. The sight was overwhelming. There, on a hospice bed, surrounded by medical equipment and pain pills, lay Mom all made up in a colorful dress and sparkling jewelry. The two sights didn’t belong together. Mom was perched up, eyes open, and looking in good spirits.

“You look so pretty!” I said as I took a seat next to her on her bed.

“I’m ready to watch my daughter get married,” she replied with a smile.

And so I did. In my parents’ living room, members of Matt’s and my family sat around with tissues in hand as we said our vows. The priest pronounced us husband and wife. Our families cheered. Everyone hugged. As I headed toward my mom, she pulled me in and whispered, “Thank you so, so much.” I gave her a tight squeeze in response. I knew that I had made the right decision.

That evening, we made sure to engage in as many typical wedding activities as possible. We took pictures, made toasts, and cut the cake. You can’t have a wedding without wedding cake! Although Mom was no longer taking in food, we got her to eat a small bite of what was seemingly the most delicious cake ever made. Fittingly, it would be the last thing she ever ate.

The very next night, Mom took a dramatic turn for the worse. That beautiful woman who celebrated my marriage with me just one night ago was now back in her hospice bed, surrounded by her family. In her dreamlike state, she mumbled about my shoes and transportation for the wedding. Even in this state, the wedding was her top priority. It had been the single happy thing that had kept her going this long, my family agreed.

“Everything is taken care of, Mom,” we assured her. “Your job here is done.”

Two days later, she was gone.

Only three weeks after my mother’s funeral, I walked down the aisle with my father. It was October 23rd, my wedding day. Dad cried on the way. I knew what he was thinking, “Your mama should be here for this.” As Dad handed me off to Matt and we took our seats, my mind started to wander. Is she here? Mom told me that I would always feel her love. I looked around the church at the beautiful colors and decorations, at her plans and designs. I looked at the picture of my mom set by the altar next to her mother-of-the-bride corsage and memorial candle. She was smiling at me. I felt love and happiness warm my heart.

She was there.

I smiled back. “Thank you for this beautiful wedding, Mom,” I thought. “You did such a good job, and I can’t believe that this day is finally here.”

I laughed to myself and then added, “‘Our’ day is finally here.”

~April Taylor Fetch

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