I wore a wedding dress to my grandmother’s death bed.
She had been diagnosed with bone cancer only a month before my wedding. She went, very suddenly, from being a happy and active participant in the wedding plans, to lying in a bed in a back bedroom of her home, hospice workers quietly shuffling in and out of the room. How we all had prayed she could somehow be at the wedding, in a pretty dress, in her rightful place of honor.
But she couldn’t.
My entire life, she had been front and center at all my happiest memories. She taught me to paint my nails. She let me use her giant Buick to learn how to drive. She bought me a new dress when Hubs asked me out on our first big date. The day I knew I loved him, she was one of the first people I called.
And yet here she was, on my wedding day, barely hanging on to life. We left our reception as fast as we could, so determined was I to see her on this day of all days. The yards of taffeta rustled as I tiptoed into her room and sat down next to her bed. Her eyes were closed.
"I’m here," I whispered, and I told her about the day. I told her how handsome my husband looked. I told her how he kissed me. I told her about the bridesmaid dresses and the birdseed toss and who caught the bouquet, and I told her that I carried her mother’s Bible with me that day. I told her who all was there, and how good the cake was, and how happy I was, and how much I loved her, and how very, very much a part of this she still was.
And as I leaned over to kiss her forehead, a few pieces of stray birdseed, still stuck to my dress, sprinkled gently onto her gown.
What a picture we must have been in that moment.
The start of one life and the end of another.
A beginning and a goodbye.
Life and death.
I left her bedside reluctantly. My new husband and my new life awaited. Just as I knew in my heart I was telling her goodbye, I knew she would want me to focus squarely ahead. So I did.
She died three days later, while I was still on my honeymoon. Just as she would’ve wished, my family did not call to tell me, knowing there would be time for mourning when I returned. But before they buried her, my mother took one of the pink roses from my bridal bouquet and pressed it in my grandmother’s hand.
Today, my own hand wears her wedding band, nestled against my own.
It’s been a strange and precious blessing over the years, my grandmother’s death and my own wedding bound so tightly together. I look at her ring on my hand and think of the sweetness and sadness that life sometimes serves to us on the same plate.
I wouldn’t separate them if I could.