What Matters

The GPS was confusing us; we were going to be late. But, even late, we ended up being the first to arrive, and still had plenty of time to cut up mountains of fresh herbs for the salad, which we managed to do without getting our white dresses and shirts dirty.

The rest of the guests begin to trickle in, and the room begins to fill with laughing, excited, happy people. Joy and pain, as is common, arrive together. Then the Hug arrives: it’s been over a year, an intense one. My son’s hugs have always been good ones, carrying the ability to draw out buried emotion. This one, with little regard for carefully applied mascara, is no different.

It’s an occasion to celebrate though, and we do. Then I see his sister disappear, into a dark and quiet room. For respite from the intensity of the smiles and laughter, for a moment to honour her being, the emotions this event has surfaced, her pain. I know this. Through floor to ceiling windows, we watch the skies open, and we remember why the yard is so lush here, and wonder how the outdoor ceremony will go if they open in this way again tomorrow afternoon. They don’t though, and the sun comes out with stunning brightness.

The happy bride navigates the steep and stony steps to the yard with her parents, and then, on level ground now, fittingly and eagerly—almost rushing at this point— leaves them behind to stand with her beloved. Tears soak the face of her young niece, who is standing nearby. The couple vows their love and faithfulness, and then tears soak the face of the lovely bride too, and the faces of many of the guests.

We turn our happy selves to a lavish spread of champagne and oysters. Love and joy, sunshine, and lush Canadian west-coast beauty fill the air. I see my daughter smiling and chatting with her brothers. I’ve been engaged in a wonderfully affirming conversation, one of those that happen with a stranger whose experience resonates deeply with your own, but I leave it to join the kids, to capture the moment on camera. It’s not often I have all of them together at once.

On the way to the hall, missteps: we’re rushing a little, scratch the shiny new Jetta while parking it in a parking lot seemingly made for Smart cars only, forget the speech at the hotel, and have to return for it. The cab driver is happy enough to help out.

We sit at long tables punctuated by stunning wildflowers and surrounded by rugged northern coastal beauty. We line up for tuna tacos from the food truck—divine—and eventually are drawn indoors by the sounds of the band.

We dance and revel in the beauty and joy and music and love, in hugs and words too long left unspoken. Then I see my youngest son with his arms around his sister, tears in both their eyes. She is leaving the party, and I hurt for her. Like most parents, I tried for years to protect her playful, adventurous, and optimistic spirit, but I was no match for the cruel realities of life. I feel her pain, and mine, and then my son offers up another of his extended hugs, all the while talking to me, reminding me that joy never comes unadulterated, that pain always finds its way into the final product. What matters, he reminds me, is not so much that there is pain too, but that we’re here together, that there’s a lot of love, that we laughed and talked and danced and will remember today. So I set the pain aside to stay at the party. It will be waiting for later, this I know.

We dance and dance. Very late, I say good-bye to my son (he leaves early in the morning), and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have seen him again. In the morning, thanks to my fibromyalgia, I am beyond sore. That is secondary though. My daughter and her fiancée come for breakfast, and she is smiling again, which is what I wanted most.

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