The wedding-planning process has been one of the most exciting times of my life, but it has been one of the most difficult as well. A little over six months ago I lost my father to cancer.
Before then when I pictured my wedding day, my father was walking me down the aisle, marveling at his little girl, and twirling me around on the dance floor.
He was diagnosed in July 2010. At that time the cancer had already developed into stage four, but somehow I was still optimistic that he would beat it.
The following March Fiance asked my father for my hand in marriage. It still means the world to me that he did that—and I know it meant the world to my dad, who happily gave permission. (He was secretly waiting for Fiance to propose, too!)
After numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, it appeared that my dad was starting to get better; somehow I knew it was too good to be true. A little over a year after his diagnosis, another tumor was spotted, and this time getting rid of it turned out to be unsuccessful. I’ll always remember sitting at Panera with my mom, asking her if he would be a part of my wedding, and having her tell me that he only had another six months to live. (My wedding was a year away at that point.)
It turned out we didn’t have six months. Less than one month after that conversation I received a phone call on a Monday night after work. My dad had suffered a heart attack, and I needed to come home. (He had an existing heart condition, and the year of chemo and recent surgery was too much on his heart.) I immediately called the DJ we were to meet with that night in tears (I had actually never met him face to face) and told him I needed to postpone. Fiance walked in the door and immediately helped me put some items together and get on the road to drive the three hours to my hometown. It was surreal. I didn’t know what to pack, how long I would be home, and if, God forbid, I needed dressier clothes for a funeral.
I hated myself for not putting together a memory book for my father, telling him how much he meant to me. How long had it been on my to-do list, and I still only had a rough draft of a letter written out.
When I arrived at the hospital I was brought into the ICU room where he was and given five minutes alone to say my goodbyes. He was awake, but unable to speak and unresponsive. I held his hand, told him I loved him, and that he didn’t have to fight anymore. Saying goodbye was devastating.
I would never get a chance to walk down the aisle with my father. He would never twirl me on the dance floor and tell me how beautiful I looked in my wedding dress. Another thought that broke my heart—he would never have the opportunity to meet his future grandchildren someday.
My family rejoined me in the room, and together we said goodbye. He passed away about 20 minutes after I got to the hospital.
So while wedding planning is exciting, and I cannot wait to become Fiance’s wife, part of me has a heavy heart while I simultaneously plan the happiest day of my life while still grieving over the saddest.
My dad and me on Christmas morning a few years ago
(I will be doing two more posts about this topic—one on the topic of switching the wedding date to accommodate a sick family member, and one on remembering my father during our wedding day.)