“No, this isn’t right, this can’t be my mom’s wedding dress” I mumbled under my breath this past Sunday. Sprawled out over my childhood bedroom’s blue and worn-out shag rug floor was an off-white dress with cap sleeves and a woven top. It looked like it should have been a formal dress from a distance, but the more inspected it, the more suspect of it I became. I started semi-frantically searching around the house to find an old photo of my mom’s wedding dress to confirm what the dress actually looked like. After all, I did have a flight back to Miami to catch a few hours later. Eventually in our dining room I found an old album full of photos taken by a wedding photographer. I started flipping through the photos and I was mesmerized by not only how beautiful she looked, but how happy she was. Alas, through that album I was able to verify that the dress in front of me was not my mom’s dress. Gingerly holding onto the album, I rushed back upstairs to keep looking,
I went back into my brother’s old bedroom closet, which to be honest has essentially become a storage closet. I dug through it and found what appeared to be a heavy gown. My heart skipping a beat, I said to myself “this has got to be it.” Shaking a little, I hurriedly brought it back into my room and took it out of its protective canvas storage bag. I examined the collar of the dress, the sleeves, and the veil and sure enough, after looking through the album again, that was indeed the dress.
I stood over the gown for awhile, running my fingers softly over the fabric. As I was doing so, I started to imagine my mom in this dress. I tried to picture how excited she was to pick it up from the bridal shop, how giddy she must have been. In the photo album, I saw a candid picture taken of her getting ready in the bridal suite on her wedding day, brushing her hair before she put her veil on, flashing an infectious smile. My mom lived one of the best days of her life in this dress, and she’ll never be able to tell me about it. I can only sit there with fabric in my hands and imagine how she must have felt.
I zipped the dress back into the bag and started to finish packing up my luggage to go home. I then went into the bathroom to blow dry my hair. I looked into the mirror with a comb in my hand, and I thought of that picture of my mom. And man, I just lost my shit. Needless to say, the sound of the blow drier masked the sound of my uncontrollable bawling.
My mini breakdown this past weekend was probably prompted by the fact that I was home for basically a wedding extravaganza. To kick it all off, I was the maid of honor for my longtime best friend’s wedding. After that I had to quickly switch gears to my own wedding preparations. For those of you that don’t know, I’m engaged and getting married next spring, May 18, 2018. While I’m incredibly excited, naturally anyone that has gone through this knows there’s a lot of work to do! Over the next few days, between my engagement photo shoot, bridesmaid dress selection, bridal shower brainstorming, and wedding hair consultation, I was in full-on bridal mode. But when I saw my mom’s wedding dress at the end of my trip, it reminded me that not only will I never hear my mom tell me about her wedding day, she will never be able to meet my fiancé, give me wedding advice, and see me walk down the aisle. I am a bride without a mom.
Throughout my life, whenever anyone I met discovered that my mom passed away, they instantly backed off. Getting defensive or worried, they’d backpedal and studder, ” Oh my god I’m so sorry! I hope I didn’t just upset you.” Most of the time I’ll awkwardly laugh and tell them, “No it’s cool, thank you but really, don’t worry about it.” And it’s true, it’s not like at the mere mention of my mom in a standard work, school, or social setting, I’ll break down into a fury of tears and anguish. While I can’t speak for others, I can speak for myself in saying that mourning doesn’t work like that. What will usually break me down is a random moment, usually small and unassuming, that I can never predict, it’ll just wash over me like a tidal wave.
When my mom died fifteen years ago, I had no idea what type of impact that would have on my life. As I get older, I have met a lot of milestones in my life, from graduating high school, graduating college, becoming engaged and soon getting married. Each milestone I hit, I always can’t help but wonder, what would my mom think? What would she tell me? Would she be proud? It was hard enough growing up without my mom, but I always tend to relive the pain during each of these milestones. And that’s what will break me down, the reminder that I have to move forward with my life without her being physically with me, as opposed to some random person talking to me about my mom’s death in casual conversation.
In the middle of my breakdown, I started to get angry, I started to think to myself, this is all breast cancer’s fault. This fucking disease is the reason I’m a bride without a mom. But breast cancer isn’t like a person you can scream at, yell at, and get mad at, it just happened, and it stole my mom’s life. And people wonder why I can’t support the pink ribbon movement…
My mom was a beautiful bride. I’m not even just saying this because she’s my mom, but god was she gorgeous. It’s crazy to look at her wedding photos and get a glimpse of what her life was like before she was diagnosed with cancer. When these photos were taken, she had a whole world ahead of her. When she put on her dress, she thought she was just beginning the next stage of her life. My mom was practically euphoric, beaming, grinning from ear to ear. And now, I can only hope that she will be looking down over me on my wedding day, euphoric, beaming, and grinning from ear to ear. I know that she left me her wedding dress behind so I could one day see it and inherit it. I hold onto that dress now, asking myself what would have been if she were here, and hoping like always that she would be proud.