Recently at my son’s birthday party, my mother asked for help purchasing a veil for her upcoming wedding. I instinctively turned to Amazon and found a simple, elegant one for under $15. “Make sure it’s two tiers,” my mom reminded me, “so that the groom can place the veil over my face.”
My mother is getting married. She entered widowhood 11 years ago when my beloved father died suddenly and tragically at the age of 55. His death was a shock to our system. In many ways, it still is. A decade on, I miss my father every day. Both of my boys are named after him as is my brother’s son. He slips into my thoughts all the time.
My family has been blessed with many simchas, or celebrations—my younger brothers’ weddings, college and medical graduations, and the births of children to expand our family.
Each time these joyful events are somehow diminished by the feeling that something is missing. That something is always my father. He loved celebrations, especially the dancing and the singing portions. He even picked the last song at my own wedding; afterwards, we couldn’t get him off the dance floor. He was a lover of life and love, and believed earnestly in marriage. He noted that he was more nervous at my wedding than his own.
So, as crazy as it sounds, it is unfathomable to picture my mom’s upcoming wedding without my father there. This was a man who went above and beyond as a husband and father–it felt like he had the power to move mountains to support us. It only makes sense that he would try to do the same for his wife’s wedding.
But what’s funny and poignant is, when I think about his role in the wedding, I don’t picture him there as a husband, but in a supporting role instead: as someone who genuinely cares for my mom and her children and unquestionably simply wants the best for our healing hearts.
In some Jewish circles, it is believed that during the ceremony the bride and groom are offered blessings—both biblical and personal—from their families. It is during this beautiful moment just before the bride and groom reunite under the chuppah, that some rabbis suggest where parents release their children from their family of origin to build their own.
The foundation to build this new family is based on the love, guidance and values garnered from their children and will translate into a home of their own. So, as my mother stands under the chuppah with her groom, she takes all the good from her wonderful and loving marriage to my father and uses it as an anchor in her new marriage.
In this sense, it is as if my father is giving away my mother.
As beautiful and true as that metaphor is, reality also hits home. Yes, it’s wonderful knowing my mother has found happiness again. She absolutely deserves it. But the truth is that my father cannot be at her wedding because his absence is the reason my mother is getting married again.
And although he’s not one to miss a great party, he has to sit this one out. In his honor, rather than purchase a new dress to attend my mother’s wedding, I bought a pair of new shoes. My father always loved shoes. Especially for dancing.