Bereaved Mother at Wedding

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of her daughter who died onto a screen of flowers to illustrate one of the emotional triggers encountered as a bereaved mother at a wedding.Extra tissues were stuffed into the small purse I’d made to match my dress. The dress sewn with my daughter’s image tucked into the folds so I could ‘take’ her to her friend’s wedding.

I’d set rules for how to conduct myself at this wedding: Be inconspicuous, don’t glom onto any one person, look for others who appear lost or alone. And, to anyone who might ask about the image of Marika on the dress, reply, “It’s too long a story to tell here. What’s YOUR connection to the bride or groom?”

There were some thorny things about weddings I’d failed to think of. Like, how memories would be triggered by rollicking flower girls spinning in shiny shoes and pink twirly dresses. The father-daughter dance. Like having people pop up from my past, from my time with Marika. Plus, I was stunned by how grown up and beautiful her friends had become over the past seven years.

My plan was to leave before the reception. But the ceremony was short and I soon found myself talking to old acquaintances, inching towards the drinks and cheese platters. Besides, it would be rude to go without greeting the mother of the bride who was off being photographed. When I finally caught up with the wedding party, they insisted I stay for dinner, and showed me the seat where my name was written on a handcrafted coaster. The seat next to the mother of the bride.

So, gathering up the skirts of my dress, I sat down for dinner across from the family’s closest friends who all seemed to know about me and my daughter. A woman came over, followed by her husband who told me they’d lost their son, and knew how I was feeling. That’s when I remembered I wasn’t the only one with a story. Weddings are bittersweet events for many. I made silent toasts to Marika and to the son of the kind parents, and then laughed and applauded with the crowd.

Occasionally, my eyes got watery. But I did not have to dig out the tissues.

When dinner was over, just before the cutting of the cake, before anyone could ask me (or not ask me) to dance, I slipped out. Away from the party, dashing down the driveway like Cinderella escaping the ball. But first I grabbed a piece of the bread-pudding cake to-go.

And at home, in the lightest rain, I danced with my dog in the driveway, spinning like a little girl in a twirly new dress.

 

What is it about weddings? That makes you cry? That makes you want to dance?

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Bereaved Mother at Wedding

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    The tears poured when you said you were seated next to the mother of the bride. Oh, Robin. This is so sweetly painful, including escaping before the dancing. Including the cake at home and dancing with your dog and Marika in misty rain. Thanks for being so brave and showing us how that’s done–with lots of hesitation and anxiety, but going for it anyway.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, Elaine. “Sweetly painful.” Is that as bad as “painfully sad”? I really don’t want to be making people cry all the time but a good friend was telling me all my blogs are “painfully sad.” And I’m not really walking around in misery at all. I’m very pleased with my life, mostly, and am comfortable with sadness. If I chase away all my readers and friends because it’s just too painful to keep up with my sad blogs, that will surely make me miserable. Yeesh! I’m simply careening into all sorts of emotions and trying to be aware of them all, and be honest. The world isn’t all funny and happy. There’s a smorgasbord of feelings and experiences out there and I’m after a little bit of everything. Like you wrote, “with lots pf hesitation and anxiety, but going for it anyway.

      Reply
  2. Monica Sword

    Such a tender experience Robin. I love how the family made a point of honoring you (and Marika) in a seat close to the family. You struck the perfect balance of showing up and slipping out. Wedding are always emotional for me. The first one I attended after Lena died was both brutal and beautiful. Thankfully I felt very supported by the family and did my best to enjoy one of the many firsts in my life of “after.”

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I had a feeling well beforehand, Monica, as to how “brutal and beautiful” that wedding would be. But I had no idea of how happy I’d feel afterward, of how I practically skipped home. And dancing with the dog. Strange how the “firsts” can go on happening forever, it seems. There are so many “firsts” in our lives of “after” to consider. Like maybe a first grandchild that would have been Marika’s niece. Like a first time traveling to Greece, the place my daughter really wanted to visit. A first time hearing a song she used to sing. The list of possibilities goes on. I hope you always have hands to hold as you find yourself in the middle of “firsts.”

      Reply

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