A Wedding Without Her

August 27, 2020

I had the man, the dress, the venue, the flowers, and the intricate elements of my big day. What I didn’t have was her. I didn’t have the person to zip my dress, tell me I’m beautiful, and hold my hand as I anxiously awaited the walk down the aisle. I didn’t have my mother. 

As I stared into the vanity mirror, preparing myself for each element of the big day, I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed by the heartbreak that took place just two months ago, the death of my mother. As I slowly smoothed the eyeshadow on my eyes, I missed her. As I picked a luscious shade of pink to grace my lips, I missed her. With each press of powder, with each curl of my hair, I missed her. 

As I sipped my mimosa, I stared into the mirror, seeing someone new, someone slightly unrecognizable. Not because of the fanciness of the hair and makeup, but because the new woman staring back at me. A woman motherless on her wedding day. A woman vacant of the most important guest, with the exception of my beloved groom. The reflection in the mirror radiated both immense joy and immense pain, as if somehow the two cohabitated perfectly together. The reflection of a woman both smiling in encompassing love, and also aching for pieces of it at the same time. 

As I glide into the lace dress, a dress selected with the assistance of my mother, I feel beautiful and broken, all at the same time. While every piece of my heart is anxiously awaiting the journey down the aisle, to a new last name and life, there is a small piece, in this moment that is overwhelmed by loss and grief. In this moment, I realize the depths of grief. I realize it’s power. An influence to take the happiest days of our lives and sprinkle ache and longing delicately among them, as if an uninvited guest of honor. 

I strap on the sparkly shoes I picked to guide me down the aisle. I prepare myself for the empty seat that will be placed next to my father. I prepare myself for the absence that will surely knock the wind out of me when it becomes concrete and undeniable. The music begins. The chapel doors open as my dad gently grabs my hand and guides me to the man of my dreams. 

The second I take a look at my groom, my future husband, it’s as if my heart is wrapped tightly with comfort, love, and beauty. As I walk closer to the handsome man awaiting my arrival, it’s as if my grief is replaced with romance, hope, light, and delicacy. It’s as if the second we join hands, he knows what I need. It’s having him take my hand and my breath at the same time, and seconds later reminding me to breathe. Somehow, I’m marrying a miracle.

As we say, “I do”, he kisses me just like the movies, and leads me down the aisle. As we leave the chapel, with all eyes on us, I don’t glance at the empty chair. I don’t need to. The moment I set eyes on the love of my life, the moment I agreed to be his forever, I became the happiest woman in the world. The happiest woman in the world who also happens to miss her mother, and I realized I could be both. 

As the evening fades and the dancing slows, we pause, we kiss, we smile. I’m filled with immense love, gratitude and peace. Suddenly the fluttering of the most graceful and elegant butterfly consumes our attention. Beautifully crafted in shades of lavender and captivating us with its flight, as if softly whispering, “Look up. I’m here.”  

I realize my grief has clouded my knowing. This unexpected visitor has shown me this. My mother was there all along. She simply held a different composition and form. She didn’t need to be seated. She didn’t need a chair. She was floating. Soaring with the wings of a butterfly, with a perfect view of each and every detail. She was there, just as she promised. 

Turns out, it wasn’t a wedding without her. 

I always knew she’d gain wings, I simply didn’t realize I’d be blessed enough to see them. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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