Letting Go

Today I was given the privilege of second-shooting a wedding with another Twin Cities photographer. It was fun, but also hard. The bride and groom were actually going through a ceremony for the second time. Her father had had cancer and was fading quickly, and she had wanted him to be there for the ceremony, so they got married at his bedside in June. He died days later. Today was the originally-planned ceremony, sharing vows before oodles of relatives and friends and celebrating together afterward.

The ceremony was especially hard for me because I lost my daddy two years ago today. He was there to walk me down the aisle. He brought me a rose when I was getting my hair done next door the morning of my wedding. He was SOBBING when he brought it in and couldn’t muster up anything to say but “I love you so much, my little girl.” Mom told me later that he’d been driving around for a long time trying to compose himself. (Obviously it worked well.) He had to let go of his little girl that day.

My daddy had the most tender heart. He was compassionate and kind. He was a great listener, and always asked gentle yet probing questions, and people would just open up to him. He hardly ever had anything bad to say about anyone. He was the kind of guy who everyone called for help. “Scott, can you come help us re-shingle our roof?” “Scotty, can you help us haul some things on your trailer?” And he did.

Mom and I were with him the day he died. He’d been in the hospital for several days, coming in and out of consciousness. That last day was the hardest day for me to bear. His chest rattled when he breathed, he was emaciated, his right eye wouldn’t close, his hands were clammy. I swabbed his tongue with a sponge dipped in water and put saline in his open eye. He simply wasn’t Daddy anymore. Even though we had been waiting for the time when God would take him home, it was still excruciating to watch him breathe his last.

My mom had been a pillar of strength, his constant nurse for 13 months. She did things no woman dreams she will have to do when she says “for better or worse” at the altar. When the hospital nurse let go of Daddy’s wrist and said, “He’s gone,” Mom fell into my arms and let the last 13 months of torture out in long, pained sobs (much like the ones emanating from me as I write this). She had to let go of her husband that day.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

The bride I photographed today strung her daddy’s wedding ring, her own ring, and a little locket that said “My Dad…My Hero!” on a pearl necklace and wound it around her bouquet. Even though he couldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle, she had a piece of “him” with her. Undoubtedly, she was grieving at the same time as she was celebrating her new union. And as she clung to her new husband, she had to let go of her daddy today.

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20 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Oh, Heidi. This was lovely and I am crying so hard right now.
    I am so, so sorry about your dad. He sounds like he was the most wonderful man and father.

  2. Oh Heidi, this was beautiful. I have tears streaming down my face–I can only imagine what it was like to write it. I’m so sorry about your dad. Thank you for sharing this post with us.

  3. Hey, I just linked over from “rocks in my dryer” and loved your Minnesota post. I wrote about Minnesota too! I lived in Minnesota for the first 25 years of my life (although I’m only 27 and living in Southern Maryland now!). I miss MN like crazy, especially after reminiscing a little bit today. I grew up in St. Louis Park but also lived in Edina and Watertown for a little while, and attended college in Owatonna.

    I read the above post about your father. I lost my father this past April to colon cancer. He was 64. He had it for 2 years and didn’t know it, just never got checked out. He thought his symptoms were just a result of “getting older”. They found the cancer in February and he died in April. I captured some of that journey on my blog. I miss him terribly. In fact most nights he shows up in my dreams. Kind of weird, but it’s kind of comforting as well.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi!

  4. That gave me chills, and tears. I was there when my grandma was dying, and it is an experience I will never forget. Although I was not there in the moment of her death, there were hymns playing in the room, and my dad (who was there) said she passed away during “Nearer My God to Thee.” Thank you for sharing in this post…and remember, it’s never “Goodbye”, it’s “See you later!”

  5. What a horrid thought – having to say goodbye to somebody so close and important to you. I can’t even imagine what losing your Dad must have been like.

    This was a really great post though, Heidi. Thanks for sharing what’s on your mind.

  6. ((Heidi)) This was a beautiful post and tribute to your father; I felt as though, through your words, I got to know him a little. Praying that your family will find comfort in the knowledge that you will one day be reunited with the father/husband you all love and miss today.

  7. found your link on onething, came over here to see what you were about since I lived in St. Paul for three years and you have left me in tears….I understand your pain, thank you for sharing your heart with us….

  8. I have been waiting all week to post a comment because I have been on the verge of tears everytime I re-read to gather my thoughts.

    I lost my mom 6 months before I got married. My dad and step dad (who died 6 years and 6 weeks and one day from when mom died – this past november) walked me down the aisle. Both men loved her dearly. Both men were in the same place as we were that day 6 months prior as we walked down the same aisel not to meet my betrothed, but to say good bye to theirs.

    This memory and tribute to your father, and the brides father brings those memories back. What I wouldnt give to have had her there that day. And then months later when one of her final wishes to have a grandson came true when I gave birth to her dream baby.

    Thank you for sharing this. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond – you have that way about you lady!

  9. Are you trying to bring tears to my eyes yet again? I went to a funeral on Thursday and a wedding on Saturday. The only way they were related is that they both took place at 11 a.m. in Tennessee… and they were both for friends of mine.

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