Lots of people have suggested that I journal about this exciting time in my life, and I am a fan of 30 day challenges, so, for the month of November, I am going to write one blog post every day. I will try to capture all of the emotions I feel about this next step in my life.
Today is Dia de los Muertos. In January of this year, we were in San Miguel de Allende (first time for each of us to visit Mexico) and had a wonderful, enchanting time staying at Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada. I expected my beau to propose the whole time we were there. It was so beautiful and lovely and loving, and I felt confident that this year would be ours. I simply needed to be patient.
Several years ago, a girlfriend suggested a relationship/self-help book to me that I remember really enjoying but whose title both of us have completely forgotten. It was the first time I'd read a book about finding a partner, and it was solid advice. A year after I read it, another girlfriend got engaged, and I learned there was a wedding planner version of the book. The premise was something about being a mindful and present bride before "mindful" and "present" were buzz words. I bought it for my friend as an engagement present, because I worried she was planning her wedding and not planning her marriage.
They divorced this year.
One of the exercises in this book (at least according to the amazon reviews, which I may misremember) was to spend some time thinking about the people on your guest list who could not attend because they are no longer alive.
Today, I am reminded of the dead who meant so much to me when they were alive. And I will honor them here by telling you about my people who will be included "in memory of" on our wedding programs.
(in alphabetical order)
We moved to Wilmington, NC in the summer of 1983, when I was three. My mom's parents helped us move. While getting shoes repaired, my grandmother asked the cobbler if he knew anyone who was a housekeeper, because my mother had just moved to town with two small children and was going to need help.
He replied, infamously, "I got me a real nice ex-wife."
And thus came Thelma. But in August, Thelma told my mother she was a janitor and would have to cut back her hours to half days once school resumed. My mother, nearly despondent, told Thelma she was going to have to find someone to work the afternoons.
And that's how we got Elizabeth.
Thelma and Elizabeth were my second mothers. They loved us like children, and we loved them like mothers. Elizabeth was one of the best cooks I've ever known, and I am certain now that my ability to fry was because I watched and learned from her. In the almost 12 years she worked for my family, she never took a vacation day (she just asked to be paid double for two weeks), and she never declined an invitation to babysit/work extra hours. She was home every day after school. She called me "doll," a pet name I've never allowed anyone else to call me.
Elizabeth gave birth to twelve children. One died serving our country. One had terrible kidney problems. She didn't drive, because she'd had or been in an accident and chose not to drive again. She had a drinking problem, but never around me and my brother. Hers was a sad, complicated life. I hope I gave her happy.
Right before Valentine's Day when I was in ninth grade, we got a phone call at 7:30am. I was almost ready for school, and my mother informed me that Elizabeth had had a heart attack, fallen down her stairs, and died.
It was the first time I'd lost someone I loved. Our family was completely distraught. Our dog waited for her every day at noon for months. For years afterwards, I'd go visit her grave. I should, the next time I'm home.
I've lived more years of my life without her than I lived with her, but her legacy lives on every time I successfully fry chicken. I know she's feeding people potato salad and love now. She was very good at both.
Robert Harold Hutchins
Another great part of 1983 was that we moved into a house that was next door to a family with a girl a year younger than me, also named Emily. She was my closest friend in elementary school. I spent as much time at her house as I did my own. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Hutchins, took us to the beach almost every weekend in the summer. I spent every July 4th and Christmas Eve with them.
The therapist I had in my late 20s suggested that my father was my first love. I told her if that was the case, I'd had two first loves.
Dr. Hutchins always seemed happy: happy to be with us, happy to share time with us, happy to love us.
My brother called me in June 2009 when I was at my ex-boyfriend's aunt's house for dinner. I asked if I could call my brother back, and he said no. My heart sank. He told me that Dr. Hutchins had died. He had been sick, but I hadn't known, and hardly anyone had known how sick.
Of everyone who will not be at my wedding, I will miss Dr. Hutchins the most. He would have loved my beau. They are both small town boys with incredibly stylish tastes. They both love their mamas. They both remember where they come from and give back to their communities. They both love their little girls.
I was lucky to be one of his.
Harry Cecil Remington, Sr. and Billie Remington
I mean. "Harry Cecil" was his given name. He had to be a character, right?!
All of my grandparents lived until my senior year of college. My father's father, Pop, passed first. He and my grandmother had married when she was 16. He was a decorated World War II veteran from the Pacific theater; he flew one of those planes that land on water, but on the day he died, he didn't know how to swim. No one had taught him. (!)
My grandmother buried him and then her daughter (see Trudy, below) within 11 months and basically gave up her will to live, and no one blamed her. It was ten long years before the Lord called her home. Hers was a steady, prolonged decline none of us wish for anyone. She was a woman full of steadfast faith, and I wish she had not suffered as much as she did. I am grateful that she is now at rest and without pain and surrounded by souls she loved the most.
I remember that Granmom hand wrote very long letters full of news of my cousins. I remember feeling inadequate that I had such nothingness to report: good grades, no boyfriends. I am 20 years older than she was when she married. But I'd like to think she would approve, because she always seemed to value her family members' happiness. And I am happy.
Trudy Remington Roberts
My father's sister Trudy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. She went into remission shortly after she cleared her five-year cancer free checkup. None of us need a month of pink to remember or to honor her. Her death was one of those that can only be explained by "God needed another angel." Her funeral was the saddest one I have attended, because we all felt such heaviness and darkness and frustration. She was in her early 50s. Losing her wasn't, and isn't, fair. Her daughters were about to marry. Her son was on a great scholarship to college. It wasn't her turn. We deserved to love her longer. We all felt we had earned her presence.
Alas. God needed another angel. And, boy, did He get the best one ever.
Trudy had one of the most infectious laughs I've ever been around. It didn't matter if it was a "tee hee hee" or a belly laugh that made you "tee hee hee" your pants. She laughed hard and unapologetically, and I'd like to think I learned this from her.
Trudy was one of those people who embodied Jesus: grace, humility, kindness. She wanted the best for her children but didn't interfere when they veered off the course she thought was best for them. She was full of positive energy before anyone talked about another's aura. Her life was very challenging and full of hurt, but she radiated goodness. She was content, and she loved broadly.
The light within me is brighter because of the light that was within her. And so is everyone's who knew her.
May their souls rest in peace.
May our souls find peace in their absence.
May we be ever mindful of the beauty they brought to our lives
and may that beauty live on through us.
On this All Souls', All Saints' Day...