Sunday, November 04, 2007

For Terry

I remember the day I met Dave's parents. We had only been dating for a couple of weeks, but they would be in town for his housewarming party, and even though it was early in our relationship, he wanted me to meet them. So after he took me out for my birthday, we picked up his parents and had drinks. I remember thinking that they were a warm and vivacious couple, and feeling comfortable with them immediately, despite the self-induced pressure of wanting to impress them. We spent the entire next day helping prepare his house for the party, and I had so much fun getting to know them.

I remember our first Thanksgiving together. Dave's parents invited me to join their family at their vacation home in Sunriver. I remember how welcome they made me feel, and what wonderful hosts they were. I remember spending time in the kitchen together and eating a lot of incredible food. And playing games and doing puzzles and trips into the village.

I remember a lot of trips to Portland, and a lot of their trips to California, where we spent wonderful times together.

I remember my bridal shower in Portland. I was unsure at first whether I wanted to do it, since my bridesmaids already had a shower planned at home and I wouldn't know anyone there except my future mother-in-law, sister-in-law and niece. But I decided to go -- it seemed that Terry's friends really wanted to throw this shower for me -- and we had a fun night at the theater, followed by a lovely shower, followed by a fun night at the niece/nephews' school auction. I remember being thankful that I decided to go, and how I felt closer to my new family than before.

I remember having arguments over the wedding guest list. And being thankful that Dave's parents were so willing to help, both financially and logistically, but feeling overwhelmed by all of their input. I remember dinner with both sets of parents two days before the wedding, where they met for the first time. And feeling lucky that they got along so well, and excited about family events that we'd all share together in the future. I remember feeling rushed and completely stressed-out with last-minute preparations the day before the wedding, and not being as kind as I should have been to those who had come out for the rehearsal that morning. I remember arriving late to the beautiful rehearsal dinner that Joe and Terry had put together completely on their own, and not even enjoying that time because I had had such a crazy day. I remember taking a half of a Xanax to help take the day's edge off, and then not remembering much else after that.

But I do remember our wedding day. Everyone remembers their wedding day. It's supposed to be a beautiful day, a culmination of all your planning, the happiest day of your life. I remember hanging out with all the girls in the bridal cottage while we got our hair and make-up done, drinking champagne, rehearsing my vows, talking about the event that evening and the honeymoon and the new life that Dave and I were about to begin. I remember how excited Terry was to see the rings and my dress.

And then I remember her collapsing while I was being laced into my dress in preparation for the photos that we were about to begin taking. And I remember not being able to wake her up. I remember the ambulance pulling up behind our cottage, just in front of the acres of vines, and I remember her husband's face as he left with her to go to the hospital. I remember my fiance's face when he asked me to please tell him what was happening -- the reaction I had anticipated all those months, one of joy to see me for the first time as his bride, was missing; instead he looked scared and shocked. I remember having to tell him about his Mom because everyone thought he should hear it from me, and telling him that no matter what the outcome, I'd be by his side and everything would be ok. And I remember the sadness that fell over everyone there -- our families, our wedding party, the winery staff, the vendors.

I remember Dave's father instructing us to proceed because we didn't know what had happened, or how serious Terry's condition was. I remember starting late so we could all compose ourselves before the ceremony. I remember that it was not a happy ceremony as it should have been, because there was an important set of parents missing. I remember Dave and his sister being rushed to the hospital immediately after the ceremony, because Terry's condition had worsened. I remember greeting our guests at what should have been our reception without my new husband, thanking them for coming, and checking in with my brother-in-law for constant updates. I remember conversations with my Matron of Honor, the Best Man, my father, and the wedding coordinator about our Plan B if the worst should happen. I remember there were no toasts, no photos taken, no dancing. Just dinner, and then everyone left.

I remember arriving at the hospital in my wedding gown and pacing the ICU waiting room and surrounding halls until my husband came out. I remember him asking me not to come into her room, because he didn't want me to remember his Mom that way. So I waited with friends and family outside each time he went in to be with her. I remember our first night together as a married couple, and how it was not romantic, how we didn't get to enjoy our beautiful room, how the sex we had waited for seemed inappropriate and so didn't happen, how we just went to sleep holding each other, crying until there were no tears left. I remember the next day, listening to Joe update everyone who had come to the hospital that his beloved Terry was going to die. That she had had a stroke from a blood clot in her medulla, that she was in a deep, irreversible coma, and that there was no hope that she would come out of it. That all we could do was stand vigil and love her to the end and wait for him to lose his wife. I remember helping the Best Man cancel our honeymoon. I remember the following day, when Joe made the difficult decision to honor Terry's wishes by taking her off the machines that were artificially keeping her alive. I remember many prayers asking the Lord to take her quickly, so she wouldn't suffer long when they removed the breathing tube. I remember Joe's and my dear husband's faces when they told us that Terry had at last gone to Heaven. I remember saying goodbye to her, promising to take care of her son. And how she didn't look like herself -- like her sweet spirit had been gone from the moment of the stroke and her body was empty in the hospital those two days. I remember going out for drinks afterward, to celebrate her life.

I remember spending our first two weeks as husband and wife not on our honeymoon in Greece, but in Portland, staying with Joe so he wouldn't be alone in their house, helping with funeral arrangements, celebrating a very somber Mother's Day without Terry, and attending her funeral.

I remember how it took my husband over a month to even look at a single wedding photo, because the memories of that day were not happy the way they are for most newlyweds. And how we have only a handful of professional photographs of the two of us, and a lot of candids from family and friends of the ceremony, but no photos whatsoever of our wedding party or families, or of the reception that never happened. And how Terry wasn't in any of the pictures we have from early in the day, except in the background. And how we still -- six months later -- haven't watched our video.

But now, above all else, I hope to always remember Terry. And to remember the impact she had on my life and the lives of everyone she met. To be the kind of wife to her son, and daughter-in-law, and (eventual) mother to her grandchildren that she could be proud of.


Sean said...

Very touching post, Nicole. She sounds like a wonderful woman and you certainly are a great wife for being so supportive.

Give Dave our best. Take care.

Tami Rasmussen said...

That was a very touching tribute to your mother-in-law. I am sure it was not an easy thing to write, as I know it brought tears to my eyes remembering that day. You have shown me real faith and strength. All my love.


Miladysa said...

Very touching post and lovely tribute to your mother-in-law.

Congratulations on your marriage.

(hugs) x

The Ebenhoch Family said...

Wow! Only YOU can right something so touching!