Monthly Archives: December 2014

My Mother’s Wedding Gift

A truly amazing thing happened last week. O and I decided we wanted to exchange some gifts that we received duplicates of. We do not know how it happened, but it did, and we wanted to take the opportunity before the wedding to exchange the gifts, so we did not have to worry about it after the wedding!

Our first stop was to a local store in Cincinnati. As I pulled up, O asked if he could stay in the car. I said no, explaining that I wanted his help to pick out the new gift we were getting. O agreed and walked into a store that I swore had nothing in it that he would be interested in. As I waited in line, O decided to walk around and see what the store had to offer. In it, he found the only thing that could possibly be interesting to him; a book containing all the maps of National Parks in America.

Back story: O and I love adventure. Even more, we love to hike. We made a pact together to try and make it to every National Park in America. Instead of taking family vacations to the same beach every year, O and I want our kids to grow up loving hiking, camping, and exploring as much as we do. We want our kids to see Earth’s beauty through National Parks. It is a tradition we already have in the works and one that we will continue the rest of our lives together.

Bringing it back to the store in Cincinnati. O brings the book to me and announces how we HAVE to have the book. I looked at the book and then him with excitement and agreed that we would not leave the store that day without it. I am next in line and the woman asks how she can help me. I explain the situation about the gifts and she reveals it is no problem to grant my request. She asks for my last name to pull up my registry… I spell it out very carefully, as usually people misspell it. When the computer pulls up my last name, she reads out “Ellen?”. My heart stopped. It was bizarre to hear someone say my mom’s name. It is not often that I hear her name these days…

I correct her and tell her my name, Sarah. She explains how the only name that came up in the computer system was my mothers. She goes on and says how my mom also has store credit from 2006, the year she passed away. I was floored. I had been in the store at least 10 times since my mother’s passing. I have registered there, where store employees took down my name. However, it was not until this day that a connection was made that in 2006 my mom had returned something to receive store credit, only having her life end too soon for her to use it.

I explained the situation to the clerk and requested to use my mother’s store credit, as I knew she would not be using it. In addition, I would rather use what belongs to my mom than let the store have it. The woman agreed to give me my mom’s store credit. I asked “How much is the store credit for?” where she answered “$60”. I looked at O, who was present the whole conversation and just as stunned as me, and asked him how much the book was. He looked down and looked back up with a huge smile and revealed that it was $60. O and I tried to keep our excitement down, but in the moment we realized what was happening. My mom’s soul was present. She was there, in the store with us, giving us this gift. It was the most magical moment of this whole wedding process, and it was even more magical because O was there to experience it with me. We left the store, and got in the car where I broke down realizing that my mom had just bought O and me the best wedding gift we could have asked for.


A bittersweet symphony

Since the last time I wrote (which has been a while, my apologies) a lot has happened in my life, and the life of my family.

Wedding details:
I had my Bachelorette party in New Orleans in October. It was a beautiful time of the year to go, the weather was nice and warm, a nice break from dreary Ohio. Also, I was surrounded by the love of my best friends and family. The weekend was perfect and the only thing I wish I could have changed would be to make it last longer. I had both my bridal showers which were gorgeous and filled with love. However, with the wedding bliss there was also a lot of sadness.

My Aunt Susie, my mother’s only sister, was in and out of the hospital due to heart complications. Before long, it was discovered that she was carrying a rare and mysterious heart disease. Our family was hopeful for a recovery, though we all understood it would not be easy, especially on her. After multiple surgeries that didn’t take, she passed away surrounded by her amazing children, devoted husband, and of course, her two brothers, brother-in-law, and nieces and nephew. I do not want to dwell on that time, as it is something I would not be upset with if I forgot bits and pieces. Like my Mom, I do not want to remember my aunt during her weak times, rather I want to remember her when she was a strong woman, which was the majority of her life.

When my Mom passed away eight years ago, my aunt came to me and hugged me so tight. I remember the moment, the place, even the time of the day this happened. She looked at me and said “I am your surrogate mother, I will be here.” To remember that moment now and it fills my eyes with tears and my heart with sadness. My Aunt Susie and I are both very strong women. So much that when she would give me advice, I would tell her I had it under control and later I would usually take her advice. (For example, she did not like my bolero for my dress, but I told her no way I would change it. I have since decided to not wear the bolero on my wedding day. She was right). In many ways, I was treated like a third daughter. She did not care if I would be upset by her advice, she gave it to me because she thought that was the best thing for me. We did not talk every day, or every week, but when we did talk she would call me and say “Hi Sweetie, what’s going on?” and we would chat about my life, school, O, and most recently the wedding.

My aunt was looking forward to my wedding, and I was looking forward to her being there for me. She was in charge of the gematria, which is adding the numbers of the hebrew alphabet to find meaning in every simcha. She will no longer be able to provide that tradition. As she was in the hospital, she was discussing with others what outfit she was going to wear, and how excited she was. I am my mother’s only daughter, and she knew how important this wedding would have been to my mom. She knew my mom would have taken over and made it the most amazing wedding for me, her little girl. And my aunt wanted to help to make that special in honor of her sister.

In June my aunt called me and asked if I could go to lunch. We met at Parker’s restaurant and talked about everything I still had to do for the wedding. She gave me her advice and then took me on a spontaneous registry spree. We went to Sterling Cut Glass and we registered there. I had no idea what I was doing so I leaned on her to take the lead. She helped me realize what is important to register for and what you should skip. Though I finished registering with the help of my aunt Lisa, my aunt Susie gave me the direction I needed to start it all. Then we made plans to go see my dress that had just come in. We made it a girls day, brought my grandma, cousins Alyce and Layla, and all went down to the bridal salon. We tried on the dress and my aunt let me have a photoshoot with her cell phone. She loved my dress and kept saying over and over “your mother would have just loved this”. I know she was right, because if anyone knew my mother, it was my aunt Susie.

My mom and aunt were best friends. Their relationship made me jealous. I do not have a sister and their tight bond made me long for one. They would laugh for hours and no one would ever know what they were laughing about. They loved taking family vacations together, where they could spend their days together, gossiping, and enjoying the presence of one another. They spoke on the phone more times in a day than could be recorded. Their bond was unbreakable, even when my mom died. My aunt had a difficult time talking about my mom with me, for she could not handle the loss of her baby sister. When she did talk about her though, there was so much pride and love, you could feel it in your bones.

Getting married without my mom was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done. Now, having to get married exactly 2 months after the loss of my aunt, makes me feel so lost. I find myself asking how it is possible to be happy during these times? I am excited to marry the love of my life, a man who is compassionate, hard-working, smart, generous, and handsome. However, the loss feels so overwhelming right now, I am worried about how it will feel on the day. Are others going to be crying because of sadness? Will the day even be happy? The absence of my mother through this experience has been extremely painful. Some days it has been bearable, and others I don’t even want to talk about the wedding because it makes me miserable thinking about doing it without my mom, and now my aunt.

I know I can be negative, but it’s hard being positive when you do not have your mother saying “It’s okay, you’ll get the million of tasks completed in 4 weeks!” or simply helping me get everything completed. Others have offered, and I am so grateful for that. It’s just not the same to do it without your mom, and I guess I would rather do it alone?

My mother and aunt Susie will be honored, along with my grandparents and O’s grandparents at the wedding and in the weekend itself. We will remember them on the wedding day and every day that comes before and every day that follows. And for me, I find some comfort in the fact that their souls will be together surrounding me, Oren, and my family and fill us up with their loving presence. I know they will be there that day, I just wish it could have been different.