Several poignant toasts were made by family and friends that made it abundantly clear how important these two people are to those who love them. But it was when the father shared the story of how the couple met that I was especially stricken with emotion.
A few years ago, the bride had complications from surgery, and things became pretty dire. There was a stretch of time when my friends thought they might lose their precious girl. As it turns out, the mother of the bride was first to meet the groom. He worked at the pharmacy, and when mom would come to pick up her daughter’s prescriptions, he would always ask, “How is Lily?” I couldn’t figure out why, but that part of the story starts me crying even as I write this.
I remember how frail Lily had become. She and her mom came over for a girls’ night, and Lily was quite literally skin and bones. But she always had a smile, a spunkiness… a light. During his toast, Dad went on to say what a fighter Lily has always been.
That got me too, but I still wasn’t sure why.
Thankfully Lily recovered. She eventually met the young man from the pharmacy who had often asked about her, and they fell in love. I guess in a strange way, you could say if she hadn’t been through her trial they may have never met.
The day after the wedding I had lunch with a friend. We only get together about twice a year, but we have a special connection. We have both lost a daughter. We were friends before either of our losses, but our relationship understandably strengthened afterwards. Sometimes it comes up in our conversations and sometimes it doesn’t. Though the circumstances of their deaths were very different, we are both what one might consider "veteran" bereaved parents – 19 years for me and 14 for her. And because we are veterans, we can usually discuss it without tears.
The subject of the wedding came up, and I shared with her how that story got to me and I couldn’t get to why, except that I know what it’s like to have a sick child and what my friends must have gone through. I teared up when I mentioned the reference to Lily being a fighter, and I told her I was unsure why I couldn’t communicate that part without getting emotional. My friend then pointed out that it was probably because Sydney was a fighter too.
It hit me like a brick, and I felt clueless for not quite piecing it together.
Sydney was just a couple years older than Lily. She might have been celebrating her own wedding. In fact, while she went through her battle with cancer, I frequently visualized her wedding day. There was a very specific scene I crafted in my mind, and it was of Sydney, her brother, and myself rocking out on the dance floor to Wild Cherry's “Play That Funky Music.” Don’t ask me where I got that scenario because I have no idea, but I thought if I visualized it enough times, it would come to pass.
And then, damn it, my tears prompted them in my friend when a few minutes later she shared that her daughter would have graduated college this year.
My friend and I acknowledge that we now have blessed lives, but all those “what ifs” and “should have beens” can creep up on you in the most devious ways, and we still can’t always process them. Just when you think you’re braced for all manner of shitstorms, you’re once again proven wrong.
That being said, I’m grateful to have witnessed a day of such immense joy. It truly was perfect. I’m also grateful for people like my friend who - because of her own loss – is able to dig to the bottom of things I sometimes can’t recognize on my own. No matter how seldom we may see each other, my connection with her, in this club to which no one wants to belong, is an invaluable and welcomed part of my life.