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.