EDITOR’S NOTE: Losing a dearly loved one is hard in itself, but losing a daughter (who had just had a baby) while planning another daughter’s wedding day is incredibly tragic. For Tim and Julie, this was a huge blow to their family during what was supposed to be a happy season of wedding planning. Despite the shock wave that hit them, God sustained them and gave them a strength that they never knew they could have.
If someone would have told me that my husband and I would be giving our youngest daughter away in marriage just a mere three weeks after sitting graveside saying goodbye to our oldest daughter, I never would have believed them. I never would have thought that this mother would have the kind of strength required to endure a funeral and a wedding in such a short period of time. I had often heard that during difficult times in our lives, we receive the strength we need when we need it. This proved itself true in my life in the spring of 2011.
The swirl and excitement of bridal showers and wedding planning for a soon-to-be June bride came to a tragic standstill on the eleventh day of May, when our oldest daughter passed away unexpectedly from an unknown heart condition, just four months after giving birth to our first grandchild.
Those first few days following the loss of our precious 22 year old were passed in a strange mix of disbelief and of going through the motions of making arrangements and doing all the necessary things required at such a time. Through all the grief and emotions that our family was experiencing, there was still this awareness in our minds of a chapel that would be filled with wedding guests in a few weeks. The possibility of postponing the wedding was never suggested. I doubt that it was even considered in any of our minds. Despite the horrific sadness and despite the fact that we all knew that Ashley’s absence would be felt so sharply, we also knew that one of the best ways we could honor Ashley was by going forward with the plans to celebrate her sister’s wedding day.
So the next week found us in a surreal mix of planning a funeral and finishing last-minute wedding preparations. One day I would be sitting at a table at the funeral home picking out memorial cards and discussing the arrangement of photographs that would represent Ashley’s life; then the following day I would be with Caitlin at her final dress fitting, with tears running down both of our faces. I remember thinking how unbelievable it was that just a few weeks earlier Ashley had sat in this same room with us while we laughed and joked together during the first fitting.
The floral shop was the hardest. The same florist that was handling the floral arrangements for the funeral was also doing the flowers for the wedding. At the same time that we were picking out a gorgeous array of lilies and roses to adorn Ashley’s casket, we were also discussing with the florist that we needed to have the maid of honor’s bouquet of Gerbera daisies switched to a floral arrangement for a memorial vase to be displayed at the wedding.
At some point in all of the chaos, I half-jokingly made the remark that we could have Olivea stand in for her Mommy as the maid-of-honor. Her Aunt Caitlin loved the idea, so we put our heads together to figure out how to include a four month old maid-of-honor in a wedding ceremony. When the day finally arrived, there was not a dry eye to be seen as the best man came walking down the aisle carrying a beautiful sleeping baby, dressed in pink satin from head to toe. In all of the scenarios we had envisioned, such as “would she cry, would she be scared of all the people,” falling asleep was not even one that we had considered. The precious little sleeping beauty was so worn out from the pre-wedding festivities and photo sessions that she never woke up until half way through the receiving line.
That beautiful June day holds such special memories for me. The smiles on my daughter and new son-in-law’s faces, the coming together of family to celebrate such a special occasion after having gathered three short weeks previously to mourn the passing of a young woman who had touched so many lives. There was such a sense of Ashley’s spirit being present with us and smiling down on us that seemed to permeate the entire day.
I’m sure there are some who would choose to view the timing of these two significant events in a negative light. I choose, however, to believe that God’s timing and purposes are always perfect. I believe that God gave me a special blessing when I needed it the most. A sunny day in June and a sleepy maid-of-honor taught me that life and, yes, even joy, can still be found in the midst of suffering.
If you would like to read more about us and the journey we are on, you can find us at oursimplyabundantlife.com.
Tim and Julie