During weddings, every mother or father wants the same thing: the most beautiful day of memories for their children. And they, as parents, don’t want to miss a thing in sharing it with them. As I shared in August’s post, after I knew that I would be dressed nice enough not to embarrass the couple, I relaxed and wanted nothing more than to experience everything to its fullest, not missing a thing. To do that, I needed interpreters and SSP’s. (An SSP is a Special Services Provider, a person who guides me and helps me to access the world around me.) For the wedding, my husband was my main SSP helping me to know what was around me. Little Joe, my guide dog, guided me with ease, as usual. My husband filled in by helping me to know where to go. My interpreters made sure I knew what was being said, what was being done, and how it was being done. They filled in the details of sight, sound, and emotion. Through the help of my guide dog,my husband, and the SSP, I was able to experience the wedding to its fullest, chiseling in my mind’s eye detailed memories of a beautiful and important day in the lives of two families. And, along with the memories, some reminders of lessons learned came with them which took me by surprise.
The weekend began that Friday evening at the wedding rehearsal. As mother of the groom, I just needed to walk in at the appropriate time, sit in the appropriate chair on the appropriate side, sit through the rehearsal of events, and then be escorted out in the proper order, at the proper time. It sounds easy enough, right? Well, not when you have no idea where you are, much less where you are supposed to go. I needed some instruction and some orientation and mobility. My interpreters, husband, and guide dog performed the job perfectly. The wedding planner directed the entire group describing and playing out how things should go. My interpreters played the words out in my hands while describing the scene, so I could form a fuzzy picture in my mind of the long winding sidewalk from the main building where the reception would be held, which included either a steep set of steps going up from the building sitting at the lower part of a hill and a wide, cement handicapped ramp with metal railings, another steep set of stairs leading down and a path leading into the open air chapel with a gazebo type roof and a raised stone platform for the wedding party. I chose the ramp much of the time, though Little Joe easily guided me up and down the steps each and every time I chose them.
I knew, though, that the next day I would be wearing a long dress that I might occasionally step on the hem if I was leaning a bit forward. Of course, there was no option other than the stone staircase leading down to the chapel. We practiced that a few times because the steps were not even or smooth. There was one step just below the center that I stumbled on each time. The key would be to not lose my balance and send me, my guide dog, and my husband sprawling down the rest of the way, especially on the big day in front of all those guests. With practice, we handled it well. Little Joe is very good about knowing exactly what speed I need to go and being steady on his feet when I need it. My husband’s supporting arm was a much appreciated extra feature this time.
Rehearsal dinner was all about fun as it should be. My interpreters sat on each side of me to make it easier to take turns signing to me about what was going on around me. We had people at the table with us that were related to my daughter-in-law. We introduced ourselves and tried to have some conversation, but they were pretty quiet. Sometimes, talking through another person as you do with an interpreter to me makes people feel uncomfortable, so they say very little. I have gotten used to it. My husband and my interpreters talked with me a lot about various things, so I wasn’t bored.
After dinner, there was a video of the couple showing pictures of their lives as they grew up. Then they played a game with the couple asking them questions about who would take longer in the bathroom, who would cook, who would pay the bills, etc. The funny part was that the couple each answered the question at the same time holding up a fan with either their name or the other’s name. It was funny because they seldom agreed; and, depending on the question, showed they each thought they could cook better than the other or the other took longer in the bathroom. My interpreters had to work hard to keep up, but they managed. And, don’t think that with taking turns, that one is resting while the other is working. Oh, no, each are listening to everything that is going on around us and the one not signing often has to help the one signing know what is being said with laughter from all over the room. One interpreter not signing to me also lets the other know of things going on around the room that I might have noticed if I was able to see and hear. They do their best to tell me it all. Once or twice, you will get the, “Oh, don’t tell her that. I was just joking.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. My interpreters are trained to let me experience it all. And, experience it all, I did. I laughed just as hard as everyone else because I knew what was happening and understood what was being said.
The wedding the next day was beautiful. We took pictures first. My interpreters then took me through the reception hall and explained how everything was set up and described how it all looked as we waited for the appointed time. I was even able to take part in the special moment where my husband and I took our son aside and told him how proud we were of him and how we loved his bride and prayed with him as we asked God to bless their wedding day and their future together. My interpreter was perfect as she balanced that line of being present and invisible at the same time. She interpreted what my husband said and described my son’s face and demeanor as he listened to him and to my words of blessing, as well. Because she did her job so well, it was obvious that I was informed and part of the moment, but none of us felt that there was a third person intruding upon our private family moment. Thanks, Thai. I will never forget that moment, nor how you brought it to me.
The ceremony began and Little Joe guided me as I held my husband’s arm down the sidewalk and those steep stairs with only a slight bobble on that particularly uneven stone step. Little Joe was excited and I could feel his emotion through the leash as he instinctively knew that something very important was happening and proudly led me down the aisle and to our place where the interpreters were waiting next to our appointed chairs. Again, my interpreters for the evening worked hard to describe everything and give me every spoken word possible. I was relishing every second. Knowing my son like I do and how much he loves the young woman, I kept saying that he is going to cry. My son cried and his lovely bride reached up and brushed away his tears of joy. My interpreter couldn’t see, but working jointly with the one sitting beside me, the moment was seen and brought to me through my hands. I could see the moment in my mind’s eye. The ceremony only lasted a dozen moments, but the memories etched into my mind through sign are just as clear as if I had seen them with my eyes.
The reception that followed was filled with laughs to match the tears. The pictures show my joy as I laughed like I haven’t in years. Friends who have known me for decades said they haven’t seen me laugh like that in a long time and said they saw the “real me” again. Friends who have only known me a few years couldn’t remember me laughing like that ever. Laugh, we all did. I saw and heard every toast, the dance of the bride and father and the dance of the bride and groom, every kooky dance that followed. The food was fabulous and showed the tastes of the young couple. The decorations were gorgeous and reflected the joy of falling in love, growing close, and the moment of proposal for life. I experienced all including the wedding gown as my grand and beautiful daughter-in-law let me touch the beautiful fabric and feel the tapered scrunches, soft flowers of fabric, and the flaring out at the knee to flowing layers to the train. It felt beautiful and was beautiful in every way, and my daughter-in-law was as gorgeous and stunning as anyone can be, and she was enhanced and glowing in that dress.
There was only one fleeting sad second in all of this. It happened the day after the wedding as I was reading the comments of the bride’s father on Facebook, describing his joy. He mentioned his wife was brought to tears as she saw my son’s face as he beheld his bride in her beautiful dress for the first time as she came down the aisle. She described the joy and happiness reflected in his eyes and smile. For a brief second, I realized that I had missed a moment, a moment that no mother ever wishes to miss. My heart broke and tears flowed down my face, and I clutched my husband tightly who had been listening to me read it. I just said, “I missed that look!” For a moment, I was angry again that I had lost my sight. Gently, God reminded me that the most important thing was the fact that I was there. It was just over a year ago that I literally suffered an illness that almost killed me. I won’t go into it again here, but if interested, you can read about it in the archives. I am blessed that God sent the right doctor at the right time and the right surgeon at the right moment to heal me.
I was at my son’s wedding. I am healthy enough to see them grow as a family. That is what is important. It isn’t important that I missed something because I can’t see. I have beautiful memories because I had interpreters, a devoted guide, and a loving husband who helped me access all the happenings. That is what I had. What I had and have is what is important. We all must concentrate on what we have, not on what we don’t have. And yes, I was reminded of more than that through this wedding experience by my friends. Life can be tough. I have had every reason to be sad in recent years and especially months beyond just illness and losing my sight and being deaf. I have to remember that my reaction to life and its struggles is my choice. I am choosing to laugh and enjoy every moment because God has it all under control, and He is looking out for me. It is in that fact that I should and will find my joy.
Oh, and one more thing… You may be thinking, “Yes, I have learned that lesson already. I always work to choose the joyful reaction to life’s struggles.” Or something similar, you may be thinking. Well, I learned this lesson a long time ago, too, but anyone can use the reminder when life decides to give you multiple devastating blows one after the other. You may become in so much physical and/or emotional pain that lasts for longer than a season seemingly should. That is when you may find yourself too tired to always choose joy. When that happens, remember my story here because that has been my experience. It took God to get me through and will take God to continue to get me through because life still keeps coming sometimes. He will come through for you, too, if you just ask. Yes, weddings are a beautiful time to celebrate and obviously, to remember past lessons learned. We need to celebrate more often. This wedding was so beautiful. I am so proud of my children, and I will cherish the memories I have.
Special thanks goes to Thai Morris Interpreting Services of Newnan, GA without whom these memories would not be as vivid. I also highly recommend Andrea Taylor Studios for anyone in Georgia looking for an excellent and professional photography studio.