By: Ginger Merante
My sister in law, Jaime was married to a very lucky groom on the 21st. The baby of the family-the only girl, it was a joyous, emotional day that unfolded precisely as planned. The dress, the flowers, the music-all picked with specific relevance to the bride and groom. But, despite all the planning, there was one detail-one flaw that was overwhelmingly obvious to a select few in attendance. A flaw that no planning- no matter how thorough, could correct or diminish on the joyous day.
I met my husband, Fran, when Jaime was twelve years old-only six months after the sudden death of their father, Bob. Entering the family after such a traumatic loss was an honor. I watched them struggle and weep, and over time find their laughter again. Through the years, Bob has remained an active part of our lives, talked about at each family get together; his recipes are recreated on holidays (He was a chef!). His diamond engagement ring ever present on his wife’s finger.
For a long time, I grieved the man I never knew, the grandfather my children never had. Bob was a man everyone loved. People still approach my husband to tell him how much they loved his father, nineteen years later. Just today, we heard of how much he was missed by an acquaintance. Bob left an imprint on his friend’s souls, and he had many, many friends. How blessed they were to all know him. How unfortunate for me and my boys to have missed such an amazing person.
But somewhere along the years, I realized, we hadn’t missed out. Not completely. Bob was living and breathing through family left behind, who have used every opportunity to share Bob with me and my boys. I realized I knew my father-in-law well, and loved him as much as I loved his family. Still, there is no replacing such an important, loved person, and for someone long passed, his presence was never as strongly felt as on Jaime’s wedding day.
From the moment I stepped in the door, Bob’s spirit was almost tangible. You see, Jaime had requested something to carry with her, something that belonged to both her parents. For Doe (my MIL), there was only one thing precious enough for such a special request. Doe had her engagement ring, the one symbol of her husband’s undying love, reset into a pendant for her daughter. And on her last night in her childhood home, Doe presented Jaime with the most priceless gift she could offer. A part of her father, I am sure Jaime never once thought to possess.
The diamond, Bob had given in promise to his wife, glowed bright blue on his daughter’s neck only hours before the ceremony, as if Bob was there, making himself known-present and accounted for with the rest of the family. It was impossible not to feel him there, beaming proudly at his little girl. And that’s when the emotional roller coaster began.
With a one final kiss as a little girl given to her father’s picture in a frame, Jaime walked out her door for the last time for her limo ride to the church. Breaking tradition, Jaime insisted we ride with her- Doe, her brothers, her nephews and me. A ride mostly silent as we all took in the significance of the moment. As a whole, her family was delivering her to her new life. It was more than the passing of the brides hand into her grooms, giving the woman to be a man’s wife. So much more than a symbolic gesture of giving the bride away. We were all that her life had represented up to that moment, and she was keeping us close down to the last second.
At the church, with the brides arrival precisely time, we were quickly lined up and walking down the isle without pause. And it was there- in God’s house, that Bob’s presence, or should I say-his acute absence was the most deeply felt.
On the arms of her brothers, Fran and Rob, Jaime was escorted to her waiting groom down the long isle. On-looking from the pew’s, were uncles and aunts-brothers and sisters of the trio’s father, all with smiles on their faces and unbidden tears in down their faces. All so proud of their nephew’s and niece on their arms. So heartbroken for man who they were replacing- the father who wasn’t walking his daughter down the isle. The flaw that couldn’t be fixed.
The talk of the deceased in the same sentence, or even paragraph of a wedding is not the norm. I know that. And I can tell you there was so much more to that day. Of course Fran and Rob were the most perfect stand-ins for their father. Both handsome and honored by their job. So loved and admired for the men they have become by their family around them. Jaime was gorgeous- an elegant and gracious bride, who radiated of love and joy the entire day. The groom, beaming and excited, and oh so relieved to finally be married to his best friend. The venue on the water overlooking a scattering of islands, beautiful.
Of all the times I’ve wondered if Bob was around, making himself known, never have I felt him so completely as I did on Jaime’s wedding day. I have no doubt he was by Jaime’s side all day, lovingly making sure her dreams were coming true. Even down to the sun shone that one day amidst the weeks of rain before and after. And I know for sure, he walked his daughter down the isle, fixing the flaw to the best of his ability.
So for the beautiful Bride, my little Lou- Jaime, Doe, Rob, and my husband Fran, I’m honored to be a part of your family. To Bob…Dad. I know you hand picked Fran and I to be together. Thank you for giving me your family. I am forever grateful and I promise to take care of them. I love each of you so much. You are all, my world. Oh and to Joe, my new brother-in-law,welcome to our so very special family.
Congratulations Jaime and Joe!
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