The Day before the Wedding: Chop, jive, and remember the missing

David, Anthony, Liz, and Elaine before the rain

David, Anthony, Liz, and Elaine before the rain

The morning before David and Liz’s wedding, Tropical Storm Andrea dumps six inches of rain on northeastern North Carolina. Water floods the drainage ditch, pours over the driveway, pounds the oak trees, and pools under the huge white reception tent. The bride and the groom stay cool.

“The rain will stop,” my son David says as he watches the radar reports on his cell phone.

“Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it,” his bride Liz says with a shrug.

“And no matter what the weather, this wedding will take,” I say giving Liz a hug.

Since the storm makes outside set-up impossible, David creates a slideshow of the couple’s lives. Liz works in the kitchen assembling a massive black bean salad while her mom and dad, Ann and David McFarlane, finish the beautiful programs Liz created for tomorrow’s ceremony. The rest of us work in the outdoor kitchen created just for this event on the southern-style wide roofed porch.

Anthony, Pat, Veronica, and Elaine in the outdoor kitchen

Anthony, Pat, Veronica, and Elaine in the outdoor kitchen

I wash piles of lettuce harvested from David and Liz’s garden. Pat Rockwell, David’s second mama or auntie in his childhood, sorts and chops. Lauren Cottrell Banner laughs, packs lettuce into plastic bags, and takes photos. Veronica Christina and my younger son Anthony chop onions and peppers.

“Pass me a serrated knife,” Anthony calls over the rain with a grin in his voice. Lauren passes it down the line.

“How do you want these peppers chopped?” Veronica asks, flipping her long dark waves out of her eyes. Veronica and Anthony are here from California, and it’s the first time she’s met the whole family.

“Ask the bride,” I shoot back.

Wedding preparations“Don’t steal my job,” I tell Lauren as she nudges me aside to work at the sink. I move to the other end of the counter to chop. She snaps a photo.

We prep vegetables according to Liz’s instructions, shredding, dicing, and slicing. It’s a dish-to-pass wedding, but Liz cooks as though she’s feeding all two hundred guests. Bags and bowls fill with maroon tinged lettuce leaves, red peppers, orange carrots, green jalapenos, pale cucumbers, purple cabbage, yellow corn kernels, and diced red tomato.

There is much to do to set up for the outdoor wedding tomorrow afternoon, but that must wait. Hummingbirds buzz over our heads at the feeders that hang everywhere under the porch roofs, rain pounds, and four dogs snooze. We work happily, basking in the wedding glow, sure all will work out.

Along with joy, our hearts ache for Vic’s absence. A father and husband should be here for the wedding of his first son.  David and Liz handled this head on with a five-year death ritual for Vic last nights. Liz made a small altar with a photo of Vic, an oak branch, a few flowers, and a candle. She read the 23rd Psalm, we recited poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, and sang “Let It Be,” Steve Smolen told stories of meeting Vic and our family in 1975 and some of us had a good cry.

Today, the sky weeps so I don’t have to. I work and play with my family. The bride and groom’s infectious love surrounds us. I’m happier than I’ve been in years.

Thanks to Lauren Cottrell Banner for her photos. For other blogs about marriage and creating powerful ritual for love and loss, see Engaging and Letting Go and Love Infusion.

  1. Ohhhhh, Elaine. Mom. I only got as far as your washing “piles of lettuce” before the tears came. Not only do I love your writing in and of itself, but I suddenly realized that your blogs, your evocative words, are chronicling the love story of David and me just as you chronicle your love story with Vic. I’m not a writer nor journal-keeper, so am indescribably grateful for your gifts! I told David that when I’m old(er) and can’t remember, he can read your blogs to me as chapters in our life together. Thank you! xoxoxoxoxo

    • I love writing about you and David falling in love, being in love, celebrating love, Liz. It’s wonderful for our family and friends to share in the glorious celebration. All these parts of life coming together to make one huge tapestry. Glad to be your sometimes biographer. May love rule! And of course fair fights. Have a wonderful honeymoon! I’ll be writing about you, but you can read it all when you get home.

  2. Such a lovely wedding – special in so many ways. Liz & David, your open hearts and open home welcomed me in a way that made me sink into the love of your family. And Anthony & Veronica were/are true treats. Lauren/Elaine – old friends. What a lively, juicy time we all had!

    • “We are family, my brothers, my sisters, and me”–and my sons and their loves, my brother, Vic’s cousin, my mother-in-law, and now Liz’s family, too. I feel my roots digging deeper with extending love. I am forever grateful that you made the huge effort to come from California and be part of this event. It was as much fun creating the food and ritual space as it was being at the wedding. We danced and celebrated and remembered what we’ve lost and all we still have. Thank you, dear friend Pat.

  3. Lovely, Elaine. What a special relationship your family shares, and I’m sure Vic was there in spirit every step of the way. Hugs to all of you, and congratulations to David & Liz!

    • Thank you, Ann. Yes, good family and friend vibes and we’ve always had those, but Liz has brought a healing touch to lighten our sadness. Vic was there all the way. David included him constantly. I write more about that in the next blog. Maybe I’ll be come a wedding blogger. 😉 Probably not since my focus is important, just like yours is. I admire the way you’re becoming a broad advocate for Alzheimer’s issues. Lead the way! And thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply