*This week, instead of writing to Anne, I write to my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s mother, who passed away when Alexandra was 14. Alex’s father died a year later.
Wedding plans are humming along here, just days to go now. Alex is handling all the last-minute details and stress like a champ. Not a bridezilla moment in sight, despite a few curveballs thrown her way. (Losing a favored priest and a maybe-misplaced wedding dress? Lesser brides would be reduced to a puddle of mush, but not your girl!)
Of course, losing both parents before your 16th birthday gives you a healthy sense of perspective, so I wouldn’t expect her to lose it over the wrong shade of cocktail napkin. It breaks my heart that you can’t share this most special of mother/daughter moments, her wedding day. She’s had to revisit her loss with every vendor–explaining why grandpa is walking her down the aisle or why the photographer shouldn’t plan special mother/bride pictures–and each time she’s handled it with matter-of-fact grace. I hate that it took your suffering to make her strong, but she has strength in spades. Your loving embrace of the short time you had with her left your daughter with a beautiful legacy—she has a deep appreciation of family, she values experiences over things and she doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
Alex misses you terribly, of course, and I expect there will be some wedding day tears. But there will be happy reminiscences, too, and we will keep you there in our thoughts and with our words to ensure that your memory will be a blessing to her. Despite feeling so excited to share her day, I will miss you, too. I’ll miss bonding with you over our children’s union—and eventually our grandkids! How sad to never have a chance to know you, the woman who raised this girl I’ve come to love. But it’s also a comfort to know you are up there to be her guardian angel, and my friend in heaven. Could you put in a good word for me? Because I need a friend with a heavenly in. Anne is great and I love her like a sister, but she’s still flailing around down here like the rest of us.
I’ve joked that my role in this wedding is both mother of the groom and mother of the bride. Of course that’s only true as far as my practical duties are concerned. I can’t replace you. But each errand I run, each detail I go over with Alex, I feel you with me. I feel a duty to you as much to her, to give her the encouragement and support (and yes, a little mom-nudging) that you would if you could be here. I’ve stepped into the void you left, but not too far. I want to grow near her heart, yes, but you will always be wrapped around it.
“So she went on to a place where she could be a guardian angel. She will always be young, she will always be beautiful. And I personally feel much safer knowin’ that she’s up there on my side.”
Annelle to M’lynn in Steel Magnolias
So know that while Alex and Jack are vowing to love and care for each other, I’ll be here to support them both through life’s big and little challenges. (From “What can I grow in a shady part of the garden?” to “Is this really labor?” I’ve got her back.) I don’t know how it works in heaven—do you keep track of those you love? Or maybe now that you understand the mystery of God’s love fully you don’t need to. You know that Alex is in God’s hands and that these things we stress over while we are alive are ultimately pointless. Your sacrifice, your pain and your ultimate death gave Alex a glimpse of that, and taught her not to take those you love, or our time together, for granted. And thanks to you, through Alex I hope I can live that attitude, too.
I think you and I will make a great team. I’ll be here to offer Alex earthly love and support (and make sure she has a great wedding day!) and you’ll be a guardian angel for us up in heaven.
St. Janet, pray for us!