Grief Tears at a Wedding
Not quite three years ago, my mother took the Ward Clan--all twelve of us--to Hawaii, as a tribute to my father, who had died 18 months before. Me, Karen and Ethan. The younger of my sisters, Willow, her partner Karla, and Willow’s three children, one with his wife. My elder sister Lyra, her daughter Mem and her long-term boyfriend Max.
On the Green Sand Beach, in the wild salty wind, Max proposed to Mem, Karla broke her arm, and Karen was as alive as any of us, revelling in the heavy surf. Now Karen is dead, and Karla is ex, and today Mem married someone who didn’t even exist back then.
At her small backyard wedding, my sneaky, unpredictable grief tracked me down. It caught me as the bride crossed the lawn to embrace the groom (Spencer, a kind, soft-spoken, surfer-biologist); as her father (my sister’s ex) sang “I Need My Girl;” as light rain gave way to light clouds. I cried and Mem cried, and I know that some of her tears were for Karen.
I suppose it was predictable that I would cry at a wedding where my wife should have been--if I had bothered to predict. But I didn’t bother. I had been distracted by life. Which is a good thing these days. Anyway, grief (like wedding day weather) frequently doesn’t conform to the predictions. Want to cry? Can’t. Forget to prepare? Cry. Here are your tears, right here. Logical but unexpected.
(They weren’t wedding tears, by the way. They were certainly grief tears.)
This wedding was the first gathering of the Clan since Karen’s shiva. The first with that singular mind silenced. No Karen to police our pop culture references. No Karen to give Beth lip-readable commentary on the chaos. No Karen to tell us not to walk barefoot outside. No Karen to cry proper wedding tears, and really get to know Spencer. A hole as complex as a person. A hole I’m connected to by 35 years of marriage rope, twisted from mindfulness and forgetfulness and pain and love and care and hair from the shower drain.
I looked towards the hole and I cried.
I looked away from the hole when I could, as the day brightened and the two young lovers pledged to hold and support one another for the long haul. I squinted out towards my own horizon. How can I not try again? It’s what I do. Not the journey of first homes, careers and children. That’s behind. Something, though. Eventually. A new rope. A partnership for the late productive years, and the longest, most interesting route towards the exit.
So I cried at the wedding. For the loss and the challenge. For the bride and the groom. Grief Tears and Wedding Tears. Of course I cried. I need my girl.