With everything in me I didn’t want to go to that wedding. It was my youngest son’s best friend’s wedding–he would’ve been the best man. Although, when the groom lost his best friend at age 13, how hard this day would be without him, I’m sure never entered his mind. Or mine. But there we were, less than a decade later. On the groom’s side of the aisle, losing Daniel permeated the celebration as if were part of the decorations. A garland of grief I thought only his grieving parents could see.
The two boys were best friends since they were in diapers. Nevertheless, how could I go to this wedding and see what is there, instead of who was not?
I feared that the entire night I would have to fight grief. Paint a smile on my face big enough not to ruin my best-friend’s special day as mother-of-the-groom.
Not long into the reception, the mother of the groom came to my table. She sat down beside me and placed her hand over mine resting in my lap. Her other arm wrapped my shoulder as she leaned in to warn, “Paul is going to mention Danny. I don’t want it to take you by surprise.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly and nodded.
I had no idea how to react. Or how to brace myself.
Paul was the groom’s older brother. As he stood up to give his best man’s speech, he looked at his little brother, then turned to the audience and said,
“I’m not the Best Man.” His name was Dan Robinson, and a few years ago we lost him in a tragic, fatal accident. He was my brother’s best friend. He would have been here tonight to tell you all of my brother’s best stories of childhood because, they lived them together. So, as I wrote this speech, I decided to stand in his sted. What would Dan say?…”
My Heart Broke
The rest of the speech was given in Paul’s best impersonation of my boy. He told stories and teased.
Tears of joy and grief intermingled as they streamed down my face. It didn’t make the wedding any easier to face. But what it did do, was give me permission to be honest with my feelings that night. I didn’t have to hide them so I wouldn’t make others sad. Instead, I joined the groom. The same tears were streaming down his cheeks.
The honest acknowledgement of pain and loss doesn’t diminish happiness. It embraces life in its fullest. As I look back on that day, even now, tears still leave my cheeks with a salty trail. But, my grieving heart heals just a bit with the sweet memories of the love that filled that room. It was the acknowledgment of a cherished friendship, that should have been part of that sacred day, that brought comfort not only to two grieving parents, but to the groom as well.
There was a deeper layer added to the celebration. That really, wasn’t about my son. It was about the groom. How he was facing a day without his childhood best friend. A day, and a life, he once thought they would enter side-by-side.
Not only do grieving parents have to face holidays and days that celebrate parenthood without their children, but also have to face milestones. If we are not careful, they leave us wandering in our own minds into a world riddled with despair. First day of school pictures. High school proms, and graduations. When the invitation comes to a graduation or wedding, the temptation is shrink away.
Hidden grief becomes a parasite to your soul. Grief shared, in the light of love, can transform sadness into joy.