I have never broken my blog silence on my Pep's illness or passing until now. It was his death that brought my blogging to an almost standstill.
His illness, suffering, and death happened so fast that I was left spinning. To watch someone suffer the way he did...well it left me unable to talk about it. Even here. Even though this blog has centered around my grief, and was my sacred spot, my safe place...I just couldn't type the words of what I experienced those short 6 weeks with him & his fight.
I still can't.
Instead, I would like to share with you a piece of writing I did last year. It captures a moment in time I spent with my Pep. One I cherish so very very much.
Today I would much rather focus on his life, rather than his death...
The heavy Romanesque cathedral doors shut with a thud behind us. I stood in the vestibule located between the main doorway and another set of closed wooden doors, leading to the church’s nave. I still shivered from the frigid New England autumn air outside. The residual aroma of the incense used at that morning’s Mass filled the air. I could hear the soft whispers of our guests. My heart raced with excitement, nervousness, and relief. So much planning and work had taken place in preparation for this day.
In front of me there stood six of the closest ladies in my life. They wore harvest colors, their gowns flowing to the floor. Loose draping curls fell down to their right shoulders. My eyes now caught the sparkling lights reflecting off the crystal accents on their gowns and in their hair. I was honored for them to be there with me. Frolicking alongside our two flower girls was our ring bearer. The pride he felt for his job shone through in the way he carefully held onto the cream colored pillow and straightened the autumn foliage pinned to it. His almond shaped blue eyes, which reminded me so much of his grandfather, my father, were filled with excitement and a hint of apprehension. He appeared very grown up in his black tuxedo and ivory vest and tie, a small version of his father’s attire. As the young girls twirled, their off-white dresses swirled around their ankles. They were careful not to drop their fabric covered baskets filled with leaves. Their curls bounced as they played. They both wore a string of pearls that I had given to them as a gift for this day.
My wedding coordinator stood at the apex of the entryway staircase. She looked down at me and gave me a reassuring and calming expression. Our Deacon’s wife stood behind me. She was a warm and loving woman. Decades of experience shown through her eyes as she serenely directed me to let go of all the stress, worries, and control. I found her presence comforting for my nerves and I did as she said. I wanted to be present in that moment. Her husband and she had prepped my fiancé and me for this day over the course of the prior six months. I was happy she was there with me.
To my left stood the most important person to me in the room- my grandfather. At 74 years old, he stood there looking the same to me as he did twenty years ago. His olive toned skin had acquired faint age lines but he was a man who never seemed to truly age. He looked distinguished and elegant in his tuxedo. His salt-and-pepper thinning hair was combed over in the same 1940’s hairstyle he wore since childhood. He had on gold, slim, wire-rimmed glasses that resembled the 1980’s style pair he had worn throughout my life. His eyes had begun to fail him but he was a stubborn man who was not going to let that stop him from walking his granddaughter down the aisle. His right hand clutched his cane for support but he still remained strong and ready for this moment. If he was nervous, he hid it well. He always possessed an easy-going disposition. I pulled my strength from him. His left arm was draped through my right and I clutched it tightly. I felt blessed that I still had him in my life and was able to share this special moment with him. I could not think of a more perfect surrogate for my father, his son. I know we both thought of him in that very moment. The presence of his absence tugged at each of our hearts.
The processional music began to play and immediately the doors to the church were opened. It was in that very moment that the magnitude of the day washed over me. I felt the butterflies in my stomach and I remember mentally telling myself to breathe. I wondered if maybe my maid-of-honor had laced the corset to my dress a bit too tight and noted to tease her about that later. Surprisingly, I had spent the earlier part of the day very relaxed. I was grateful my nerves held off until now.
I kept my eyes focused ahead of me and watched as each bridesmaid stepped out of the corridor into the aisle of the church. As my maid-of-honor proceeded, the doors closed behind her. My grandfather and I took our final place directly behind them to await our departure. My left hand clasped the bouquet of white roses decorated with silver crystal accents. Dangling from it was the sterling silver cross that belonged to my father. He had worn it every day for the last ten years of his life. My mother had gifted it to me that morning. It was nice to have a memento of his entwined in my wedding day array.
My coordinator adjusted the train of my dress one final time. As we paused, I had a flashback to the many times as a little girl when I fantasized about my wedding day. I could hardly believe the moment had arrived. My daydream was broken by the sound of the crescendo in the hymn. We carefully chose that part of the composition for the bridal march. My grandfather leaned over to me and asked if I was ready. I was. I nodded yes to him. Suddenly all my nerves disappeared. I was excited to start the walk that would lead to the next stage of my life.
As the doors opened up I glanced into the church and scanned through our crowd of guests. They rose to their feet as they waited for our entrance. I gazed at the beauty of our 92 year old church. It was always a glorious site with its stunning French Rococo design, but on that day, it was more breathtaking than ever. The ornate ceiling paintings spread across the dome and the Angel sculptures were illuminated by the altar lights that extended from the floor fifty-five feet up to the ceiling. The altar was covered in the most beautiful flowers in harvest shades with a light infusion of autumn foliage. They were placed around the base of the Sacrament table atop the earthy orange carpet that harmonized our quintessential harvest wedding. The towering candles flickered with light above them. I then took a deep breath followed by our first step onto the aisle.
The walkway ahead of us was lined with dark wood church pews that were decorated with ivory colored bows and autumn leaves. They were one of the many special touches we had worked on for our special day. My grandfather and I found our pace. About a dozen steps in, he looked over at me and said, “Take your time. Enjoy this moment.” I smiled. He had always been a man of few words but when he spoke, I listened. I did just what he said. I slowed my pace and I relished the moment that I was sharing with him. I knew it would be a fleeting speck of time and a soon-to-be memory that I would hold very close to my heart.
As we came closer in view, I stared straight ahead at my fiancé. He looked extremely striking in his attire. Our Deacon stood to his right and his best man and five groomsmen stood to his left. His handsome, mocha, oval framed face looked lovingly back at me. It no longer held the boyish appearance I held fallen in love with a decade before. His now virile features held a slight grin as he watched me make my way towards him. After all these years he could still make my heart flutter. My eyes locked with his deep-set dark brown eyes and we exchanged smiles as both our eyes filled with tears. I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the man I was about to marry.
The flashes from guest’s cameras were going off all around us. I smiled at everyone as I tried to hold back my tears of happiness. It seemed as though the almost 80 foot aisle extended forever. Although I was anxious to reach my soon-to-be husband and excited to start our life together as husband and wife, I knew we would have a shared lifetime together. As I turned to look at my grandfather, my lifetime shared with him flashed through my mind.
Upon arrival to the altar, my grandfather placed my hand into my future husband’s, and let go. I smiled at them both and then took my place next to my fiancé as my grandfather took his in the pew next to my grandmother. We went on to have a beautiful ceremony. It was full of meaningful readings by our Deacon and our friends, and many prayers for our future life together. We were blessed to be surrounded by so many people that cared about us.
It is true what they say, your wedding day goes by too quickly. So does life. Almost 3 years later, my grandfather passed away. I try and live by his words. The adage whispered to me as he escorted me into the next chapter of my life. I have slowly learned to take my time, to stay in the moment and enjoy each experience in life for what it is. I thank him for that. I take time for remembrance. I am so fortunate to have such a special memory with him. An instant in time where it seemed as if it slowed down just for us, allowing me to share a few extra moments with a man who made such a large imprint in my life. A moment I will cherish, always.