Joy and the unexpected

Many plans and hopes and dreams had been imagined and focused toward this March weekend. Our middle son was to be wed to his beautiful, full of life fiancée. Much care and planning and negotiation preceded the four day celebration. The weather forecast was for rain and a dip in the spring temperatures. Many people from many places descended upon St. Louis to stand alongside and be with our boy and his bride. Lots of moving parts, people doing their share, and now it was go time.

As parents of the groom, our big event and responsibility was around the rehearsal dinner. It was time to set up for the evening. As I got into our rental car, youngest son and his beautiful wife in the backseat, I looked into my side mirror and saw this:

If I had been able to see a more accurate and full picture of what actually lurked alongside, it would have been this:

After a screech and scrape of metal against metal, a little advice from the man in the backseat, and a panic response that led to the meeting of a left rear bumper and a brick wall, I took a big, deep breath. “Now I have to tell your dad” came out of my mouth. Heart pounding and feeling a little sick and sheepish, I drove around to meet my most loving and gracious husband.

No one, most of all me, wanted this unfortunate car vs dumpster situation to cloud or color the event before us. After apologies, contrition and an agreement that it was most important to put this aside until much later, we traveled to our downtown destination. I practiced deep breathing and resolved to settle down for this most important celebration before us. My backseat passenger and his dad noticed my elevated stress level and put strong fingers to shoulders to assist in relief. It was a generous and welcome laying on of hands.

After an hour of technology set up, a space in which I can feel most inept, we worked through the issues and were on our way to rehearse for the wedding ceremony. From that point, all went well on this day. The energy was high, relationships were made and renewed, stories were shared and growing up child and couple photos set to music were enjoyed. I went to bed most grateful.

Around 6am, we heard groaning and crying in the loft above our room. Our youngest girl complained of stomach pains and restless sleep. After some discussion, the diagnosis was that it was most likely a case of eating a bit “off diet” the previous night and nervous energy around her groomsmaid (she was going to stand on her brother’s side) role for the day. I headed off to an early AM yoga class – yes, I now have a daughter in law who enjoys this pursuit even more than I – and soaked up the relaxing and centering instruction. A most fitting start to a wedding day.

As I rolled back to our home base, the news of our littlest girl child getting sick in the bathroom and a return to sleep greeted me. I still held out hope that this was a one and done situation. After all, this was a very big day. Her brother was getting married. Dresses, shoes, hairstyles and ceremony had been talked of for months. This was no day for a stomach bug.

The forecasted rain and cold gave way to a day that looked like this:

We were on a fairly unforgiving schedule and continued to march through the day and show up at the places required. We arrived at the bride’s home with dresses in tow, makeup and hair bags ready to roll. Having a sister in law afforded our girls a much more stylish look than mom could provide. Sister in law got to curling and twisting and making beautiful. But the stomach continued to ache.

I felt a great deal of tension and turmoil as we navigated the next hours. Between getting my own clothes and makeup in place, I checked in with our girl. Any change? Do you think you are going to be sick, or the more hopeful do you feel any better now? The look on her face was not a promising one. Trying to isolate her in case we were dealing with contagion while also knowing that if virus was in fact the verdict, she had been all around these people for the past 24 hours. Hoping with all my might that she would be able to be a part. Huddling with my husband to make contingency plans. Clarifying that mother and father of the groom being present as much as possible was the primary goal.

Pictures were made and she was able to be a part. We traveled to the church. She and I located restrooms, talked, wandered and agonized. I tried to comfort and be steady and realistic. It was emotionally draining. It would be devastating for her to miss the wedding or the reception, or both. Our family really likes to eat and dance and celebrate together.

And then, I had clarity. One last trip to the bathroom. This was definitely a stomach bug. Once I leaned into what was and quit straining for what I wished to be, calm came over the mother of the groom. Our dear and gracious and amazing sister and brother-in-law took her to their hotel room. She was in good hands. I was relieved. As much as I wanted her there, now I could be fully present for our son. And the wedding began.

It was beautiful and poignant and my heart swelled with love for this boy who was entrusted to our care for such a short time. He heard words of wisdom, spoke powerful vows and made and received promises as this new family was formed. It was holy ground, a celebration and much delight was imparted to this mother’s heart.

His little sister walked into the reception for a few moments but knew she needed to be elsewhere to give honor to her own body and situation. We all felt sad that she wasn’t among us as we ate and laughed and danced. We were most grateful for family and not one but two unselfish aunts and uncles willing to miss out so that we could fully be there. Our extended family loved us well on this day.

Our youngest girl had made fast friends on Friday with a fellow 6th grade boy from New York City while kicking a soccer ball and playing video games. His mom reported that he had a thing for sassy girls and was so sad to hear of the situation. Our girl’s sass had bowed down to sick on this particular day. He kept voicing hope that maybe she would come to the party for just a little while. I think he had hopes of dancing with our sassy girl.

During other segments of my journey, such an inopportune time for a fender bender and a stomach bug would have thrown me off balance in a more profound way. Though there were both deep disappointment and a wish for a partially different script on these days, the weekend was full of joy and laughter and tears and gratitude. We have another beautiful daughter in law and one more of our children has set up home with the one they love most deeply.

On Sunday morning, our girl woke up after about 14 hours of sleep and was almost as good as new. There were fifteen awful hours that came at a most unfortunate time. As we looked out the window on this day, we witnessed another short-lived snowy surprise. Sometimes the undesired or unpredictable happen.

Despite the twists and unexpected detours along this weekend, we still experienced great joy and true family, permeated with hope and the beauty of new beginnings. I believe this is an accurate picture of life and in particular life in partnership with another. There will be times of exhilaration and contentment coupled with periods of pain and unexpected sorrow. To this most dear to us newly joined husband and wife, when things go a bit or a great deal awry and the unexpected shows up in your days and years ahead, I wish you traveling mercies joined with true love and joy all along the way. We are most honored to be family with you.