When we are grieving, we worry that out hearts will never be quite the same, that loss mars us, leaves our innocence behind, with the hole in our heart permanent. It is true, our fears. But it is a truth like rain on a wedding day. It cleanses everything, leaves all of it fresh and nourished. My niece was married this weekend. The forecast said 90 % sure that the sun would not be out. It is my sister's only girl. My sister died when her daughter was quite young. A wedding is a metaphor for a life lived on, regardless. Lots of days might have been better, if my sis had beat the cancer. This was only one of them. It seemed fitting then that the sky would darken.
My sister loved the mountains, and she passed that on to her daughter. She loved how they stand mighty, and take whatever comes to them. Carmel Valley is surrounded by steep hills that rise beyond vineyards. Doris Day made a home there, for herself, for stray animals that needed rescuing. She knew holy ground, having made a film there in the '70s and finding it a sanctuary. She died there, the week before last.
To my niece, her father said you have your mommy's sweetness. The room struggled to stay present. Half of it, anyway. The other half did not know my sister. If you did not know her, my sister, you would be hard-pressed to see how rough my niece's life had actually been. She did not show it in her lovely white dress. There was no wedding cake, no garter, no throwing of the bouquet. The officiant did not bring God into the room. Flower dogs graced the aisle. The maid of honor was my nephew. He walked with the groom's best man. The bouquet did have a silver charm with a picture of my sister, and the groom's father, who died a few years back.
There are so many days changed by loss. Big Sur will not change, though. It takes what it gets, wind and rain and fire. That is where the couple heads today. I wonder if my girl, a bridesmaid in my niece's wedding, would carry on, were I taken by disease when she was young. I like to think she would, that her smile would brighten up the room, regardless, just the way my niece's does.
Weddings can be huge healing events in the life of a family. Hearts closed tight from sorrow open up, and allow the light and warmth of love and hope in to fill up whole. That is part of the morphing that loss causes. It is palpable, and visceral. But we should not be afraid of it. Embracing all that gives us depth and meaning is part of what my sister loved about the mountains. I bet it's what Doris Day loved, too.