Being the mother of the bride rekindled my belief that no force on earth is stronger than the power of love.
It began as most weddings do. Willowy as a sapling, twenty-six-year-old Meghan walked toward us in a cloud of satin and lace, her dark hair bound up in white ribbons. She joined hands with her groom. Todd stood ramrod straight in his black suit.
Meghan and Todd spoke the vows they had written: “Before our friends and family, I choose you as the One. The One I will love, encourage, and comfort, when life is easy and when it is hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.”
My throat closed around a simultaneous sob and shout of joy. It was a moment as fragile and beautiful as the yellow rose I clutched against my heart. Meghan had planned every detail—each centerpiece, black sateen ribbon, and romantic French song. On that June evening in San Francisco, I marveled at my daughter’s courage.
I can still picture Meghan as she was fifteen years ago during a crisis point in our lives. On that spring afternoon, I came home to find my little sixth grader huddled in the corner of our sofa, pale and fidgety. As a latchkey kid, she had answered the phone when the hospital called. An emergency room nurse said Meghan’s older sister, Maya, had been critically injured in a fall from a horse. Only eleven years old at the time, Meghan shouldered the terrible job of breaking the news to me.
Maya’s irreversible coma ended in brain death four days later. She became an organ donor at the age of nineteen. And I became a grief-stricken mother, clinging to the shreds of my sanity and my world. As time passed, my love for both my daughters helped me rebuild my life. Love had given me the courage to release Maya and give away parts of her body to keep strangers alive. Loving Meghan had given me the strength to go on living myself, to grieve, and to heal. Now, as Meghan and Todd exchanged their wedding rings, I saw again that love is the most powerful force on earth. I believe it holds us together even when grief tears our hearts apart.
Ever since Maya died, no family celebration is as it seems on the surface. Loss mingles with hope; the past dances with the present. How do I balance the conflicting emotions? Through love for both of my daughters, a mother’s love that spans the gulfs in time and space.
Five years to the day of their very first kiss, Meghan and Todd embraced as husband and wife. “I have a son now,” I whispered to myself. Cheering erupted as the bride and groom walked down the aisle. I followed, almost soaring, and a new wave of cheering began. In front of two hundred people, I jumped for joy. Love’s gravity brought me gently back to earth. It is what holds me here.
Eleanor Vincent is the author of the memoir Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story (Capital Books, 2004). She lives and writes in Oakland, California. Visit her at www.eleanorvincent.com.
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