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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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Wedding-Guest Dress for a Bereaved Mother

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a picture of her daughter who died onto a floral design and then gets the photo printed onto fabric so whe can sew it up into a dress.Even though dead for seven years, there was no way my daughter would miss her friend’s wedding. So when my invitation arrived, I knew immediately that I would wear something of Marika’s to the event. I searched through closets and drawers for her black sequined shrug. It would be the perfect thing over my cocktail dress. Only, I couldn’t find the shrug. Anywhere. For two days I pulled apart the whole house, but it didn’t turn up. The only other clothes I still had of Marika’s were her soccer sweatshirts, winter scarves, and a tank-top. Totally inappropriate for a wedding.

I came up with the idea of photo-shopping an image of Marika as a young girl onto a flowery background, and then getting the picture printed on cloth so I could sew it up into a new dress. A Marika Dress. For days I sketched pictures, made a paper pattern, shopped for trimmings, and researched companies that would print photos on fabric. I immersed myself into the project with an energy and enthusiasm that had been absent in my life the past seven years.

“That’s totally inappropriate for a wedding,” a friend of mine said, when I told her my plans. Suddenly, I felt myself sinking into a dark abyss of grief and shame. I was wrong, weird. Out of place. I’d always been a little different, “You’re an artist so it’s okay that you’re kind of kooky,” someone told me long ago. Having my daughter die made me even more unlike most people. More self-conscious about who I was and how I fit in. Less likely to attend parties. I never wanted to call attention to myself or offend anyone. What I wear doesn’t really matter; just being a bereaved mother at an event like a wedding feels like standing naked in a crowd. Now, I was being inappropriate. And about to make people uncomfortable.

But working on the project had given me so much joy, I decided to make the dress anyway. I could wear it to The Compassionate FriendsRobin Botie of Ithaca, New York, has a photo printed on fabric and sews it into a dress. monthly meetings for bereaved parents, where they would understand my wanting to “take” my daughter to the wedding. For the ceremony I would put on the cocktail dress with Marika’s tank-top underneath.

Finishing the project, I scoured the house to find a satin sash to top it off. And during the search for the sash, I found Marika’s sequined shrug. It would be perfect over either dress. So now I have to decide. Or maybe I’ll leave that up to the bride and her mother.

 

Do you think the new Marika Dress would be inappropriate to wear to the wedding?

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