I expected to get emotional when I saw my daughter in a wedding dress for the first time. What I didn’t expect was for the tears to come before I made it all the way through the door of the shop. Before the first dress. Before any dress. Just walking into the store started my eyes filling. My words to myself were, “get yourself together, this is supposed to be a FUN day, not a fall apart one.” I took a deep breath and I stuffed the tears down, but I fully expected them to start up again when the dresses started coming out of the dressing room. I gathered tissues close by, just in case.
The first dress was beautiful. Hannah looked so lovely and I felt the moisture right behind my eyelids waiting for permission to escape, but I didn’t let it out for fear of losing it in front of her soon-to-be mother in law and the consultant at the store. Nothing like a mom meltdown moment to ruin everyone’s day. I was determined not to let that happen. The dresses that followed were all stunning. How are you supposed to even pick with so much beauty to choose from? Lace or chiffon? Sparkle or not? Sleeves or not? What shape? What color? So many combinations. So many possibilities. Hannah went in not really knowing what she wanted, but as she kept trying on dresses a style began to emerge. What she liked about each one, what she didn’t like. In the end, none of them were THE dress, but she is a lot closer to what she does want than what she doesn’t.
Now that I am home after a week of wedding planning in Seattle, I have had some time to process the unexpected emotional moment at the bridal shop. What struck me then, and what I see now, is that it was not a regular “mother of the bride” emotion. It is why I knew I had to stuff it, because if I let it out, I was in danger of an ugly cry collapse. There would be no getting it back without curling up in the corner and sobbing for a while. Right then, I didn’t know why I felt like I was going to fall completely apart. I knew it was not the ‘right’ kind of emotion; it was mismatched for the circumstance. It was much deeper than the happy tears of seeing my daughter in a beautiful dress and recognizing she has grown up into her own woman.
Now I see that I believed I would never make it to this day. When I had cancer I truly had to let my kids go. To release them to God and to know that if I died he would provide someone to be there for them in their major life moments. Every graduation, new job, wedding, birthday, or holiday I get to be with them is a gift. Every one of them is a celebration and I am blessed to be able to be there. But this one, the mother-daughter wedding dress shopping, is a biggie. When Hannah was younger, we used to watch Say Yes to the Dress on TV regularly. All the wedding shows, really. I guess being in a house full of boys we used it as an oasis of femininity. Just something the two of us loved to watch together. I couldn’t wait until it was our turn to pick out Hannah’s dress, but when cancer came, I put that aside. I don’t think I even knew I had done it, until this past week when the tears showed up unannounced. It is a scar from the battle. I wasn’t aware I was unhealed emotionally from all that happened to my body and what dreams I had given up. Now, here is one of those dreams right in front of me…the days we had looked forward to since she was a kid. It is overwhelmingly beautiful.
When we went to the venue last week, I had the same feeling in my stomach. The place is stunning. It is exactly what she wanted, and once again I felt the welling up of emotion. We walked to the ceremony space through the woods and the light was filtering down through the trees just like fairy dust. We hiked all around and it was like being in another world, like Narnia or something. The fact that I was there, getting to be a part of it all, just made all the sentiment come right to the top.
Now that I am home, I can let the emotion come in waves. I have done some processing of why the feelings are so deep. Cancer kind of forces you to give up some of your dreams. Whether it is physically, because you cannot do whatever you want, or emotionally, because you don’t know if you will be alive long enough to make it to the moment. I think I have been holding my breath for 15 years, and will probably keep holding from now on, to some degree. Reoccurrence is an unconscious thought that is always in the back of your mind somewhere. Every year when you get your check-up. Every little pain you feel. Every time you say goodbye to your children (especially those far away) that little place in your mind makes note that you don’t know how many more times you will get to be together. It sounds morbid I know, but it isn’t really a conscious thing. It is more under the surface, like background music on low that you aren’t really listening to, but it’s there.
Then, when I get to do one of the things…wedding dress shopping for example…all the subconsciousness I live with on daily basis comes flooding to the top. Tears emerge by the ocean. Releasing them lets go of the pain, but it also fills me with gratefulness that I have lived to see the day my daughter is a bride. To see her so very happy. To see the two of them together, loving each other so well. It is all so beautiful. The gratitude I feel to be alive and to be a witness to this love is a tangible presence in my life. Tears are close to the surface these days, a river waiting to overflow its banks, but even the waterworks prove that I am alive, so I embrace them and thank God for the blessing of emotions, of happiness and tears mingled together.