Today is our first wedding anniversary. I suppose it’s time I told this happy/sad story here, despite the fact that I’ve tried exclusively to keep this blog my ‘happy place’. In doing so though, I’ve found much of what I say can be aseptic and without the backbone of truth that goes behind every word. So forgive the heavy topic today, but I’d rather you knew me as I really am.
A year ago today was the most beautiful, bittersweet day of our lives. We’d planned meticulously, down to the finest of details, for our wedding for over a year and were worried from the clouds on the horizon that it might rain. That was the extent of our concerns. We had no idea what was to meet us around the corner.
It was only a matter of seconds. A literal skipped heart beat was all that it took to deprive my mother’s brain of oxygen, and in those terrifying seconds her stroke would plunge us into fear, darkness and despair. On the happiest day of our lives. Her stroke was thankfully a small one, a TIA, but it was enough to leave her bedridden for the next few months, but at the time I didn’t know that. In fact, I oscillated between thinking she had nothing more than a migraine to thinking she might not make it through the night, all the while juggling cake deliveries, flower arrangements and a last minute wedding setup. Somewhere deep inside me I begged and bargained with the Universe to spare her, to make her better and let her be there with me, walking me down the aisle. I was going to look up in a couple of hours and she would just sail through the doors, dressed to the nines and ready to lead me to my new husband. But it was not to be.
We wanted to cancel. There was no way I was going to have my wedding day first without my father and now my mother. My father never seeing me marry was something I’d prepared for for 13 years, but this was too fast. I was blindsided and I had to make a choice, even though I didn’t really have one. Too many people had come for our special day from all over the world, too much non-refundable money had been spent, too much love and care and intention had gone into this one day. So I got my mother’s blessing and we went ahead without her. And it was beautiful. A perfect microcosm for life – messy, unpredictable, frightening, heartbreaking, awe-inspiring and riveting all at once. Perhaps it was even more beautiful because we had to fight back the panic, putting that fear in brackets and choosing instead to focus, for one night, on us and our love.
I don’t know if we would have got through that day without the support of our loved ones who swooped in and carried us through this day. Since it was a DIY wedding, we had no vendors, and were to arrange everything ourselves according to a strict timetable. That went out the window after too many hours lost in the ER, so putting this wedding together from scratch was an all out miracle that wouldn’t have happened without my brilliant, exhausted, selfless team of angel bridesmaids. Between running me a bath, peeling me off the floor, pepping me up, surrounding me with love and confidence, they managed to pull together a stunner of a wedding.
It felt like betrayal, but Tim and I, newly married, even found moments of joy amid the panic. WE WERE MARRIED! All the happy-excitement-joy-adventure-nerves-and-love swept us through a heartcracking ceremony, a gorgeous reception and a few blissful moments alone together, just watching over the festivities and checking in with each other. We did it.
After the wedding, which like most weddings went by in a flash, we were forced back into the reality of what had happened. We weren’t planning on going away yet, but we missed the much-needed honeymoon period, replacing it with two months of crippling ICU and intensive rehab, watching my literary fanatic mom relearn words like ‘fork’ and ‘walk’ and watching my own heart break at the callousness of life’s unexpected turns. It was the worst thing we could have imagined, and a year later we’re still exhausted in this deep, soul tiredness that just won’t let us go. But we persevere.
I don’t count myself an expert on marriage, but one thing I’ve learnt this year is that together, Tim and I can weather anything. We still mourn the wedding day we were expecting, we still wince at wedding pictures, and we still long for a redo of our ‘I do’s’. But we’re also proud.
Proud of how far my mom has come since this day a year ago. Proud that she’s self sufficient and healthy and strong. Proud of how we managed to stand together to get through an unbelievable crisis with grace and poise and dignity. Proud of how we’ve held each other up when times where at their darkest and proud of how despite the endless challenges this year has thrown at us, we just keep getting back up again.
I love you Tim. I love being your wife. I love that we both took each other’s names as a sign that we are equals. That we’re in this together, fully together. Thank you for being my lighthouse amid every storm there is, for making me laugh while we battle through the trenches and for reminding me that it’s all worth it. I’m grateful that we didn’t get the picture perfect wedding and start to a marriage that we hoped for, because maybe we wouldn’t have discovered so early on just how strong we are together, how tenacious and funny and loyal and loving we are in the hardest and best of times. And I’m grateful for my mother, for showing me that life can change in an instant, and we’ve got to be thankful for every single second we have in this life.
Happy 1st anniversary my beautiful, fiercely loving husband.
– Dani ♥
Wedding photographer: Jana Marnewick