I apologize for the impromptu blogging hiatus. I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats wondering how the nail-biter saga that is my birthday turned out. PATIENCE, PEONS! [I’m sorry. The birthday dictator keeps bubbling to the surface. So embarrassing.]
A week and a half ago, one of my very best friends came to visit. Jess was one of my roommates in college, and has enough dirt on me to squelch any aspirations that I’ve ever had of running for political office.
She also led the charge to save my wedding.
Once upon a time in another life, I didn’t ask for help while wedding planning. Oh, dear friends offered time and time again–but I was simply skeptical of the idea that people might actually WANT to spend their spare time tying navy bows and stamping endless piles of cream-colored envelopes. I smiled politely and deftly refused–wholeheartedly believing that I was saving them from themselves.
When Ian went into the ICU for the very last time, I remember sitting on the cold floor beside his hospital bed with my laptop open on a rainy afternoon. I had neither thought nor spoken of my impending wedding since he’d been admitted, fearful that he would hear and begin to panic. I desperately didn’t want him to understand how close my wedding day was, and consequently, how long he’d been sick. In a dark ICU, days and nights bleed together as monitors murmur and flicker, and the passing of time becomes marked only by changing shifts as doctors and heroic nurses quietly ebb in and out of winding hallways.
As I sat on the speckled floor, an email from my reception coordinator popped up in my inbox, defiantly glaring at me from the glowing screen. The steady rush of a ventilator breathed in and out and my heart stopped as the sheer impossibility of it all threatened to drown me. My brother can’t breathe on his own and I am supposed to get married in three weeks. Without so much as a second thought, I hastily responded:
I didn’t even think to ASK Jess first. And the thing is, I didn’t need to. I knew that Jess would take over the remaining three weeks of wedding planning without so much as batting an eye, a suspicion quickly confirmed when she responded “Absolutely.” less than 7 minutes later. The next evening, she, Gretchen, Haley, Ashley, Danielle, Hartley and Michelle [every best-friend-bridesmaid that was in town] all piled into an ICU waiting room with a bottle of white wine and a flock of open laptops, quickly and decisively divvying up remaining tasks. From crafting a seating chart on antique window panes to picking the wine list to coordinating with the photographers and meeting with the reception planner, everything was taken care of. Each woman gathered in the waiting room that night treated my wedding like it was her own, insistently caring about sweet details when I no longer could. My wedding was far from ideal, but I am quite convinced that there has never been more love poured into a single day.
Jess was the tiny, formidable force driving the whole herculean effort. They tied navy bows and called the florist. They painted signs and coordinated chocolate cupcake deliveries. They took time off of work and wrote checks out of their own bank accounts that I wouldn’t find out about until months later–and all, so that I could simply sit by Ian’s bed and hold his hand. They gave me the precious, irreplaceable gift of time with my little brother. I could not have been more grateful for anything under the sun.
Weeks later, when I walked away from room 17 in the ICU for the very last time, they were the phone calls that I made, one by one, as I sat in crushed disbelief on my bedroom floor. I had always believed that somehow, Ian would live, and they had stubbornly believed with me. I remember Gretchen dissolving into tears as I numbly relayed the news, unable to even begin to wrap my mind around the idea that my curly-haired little brother was not coming back.
These are my people. The people that ache with me and belly-laugh with me and know to keep calling if my phone goes unanswered. The people to whom I can say everything or nothing at all. The people who spent hours sitting alone in nearby hospital coffee shops, just in case. I think that God gave them to me as a tangible reminder that in the midst of a world throbbing and aching and blindly reeling with grief, I am never, never alone.
Neither are you, friend.