“The only reason that I’m still holding on”, he’d said to me a few weeks earlier “is that I want to be here to see you and Stephanie get married and be happy.”
On a monday evening in late October, less than a week before my wedding, my dad went into the hospital. I rode with him in the ambulance and walked beside him as they wheeled him into the emergency room, a tradition that had become familiar during the last few months as he battled with cancer. I was taking a walk downtown the next morning when my mom called to tell me that the doctors were giving him two to three months to live, but that he should be home on Thursday or Friday. We talked about getting the whole family together for Christmas, and how to make his last few months as comfortable and happy for him as we could.
Late Tuesday night, I was sleeping on a couch in the waiting room when his nurse came and woke me up. He’d taken an unexpected turn for the worst, and they didn’t know whether or not he’d make it through the night. The next six hours were a blur – and a testament to the fact that I’d chosen to marry the most amazing woman in the world. After everyone had gone home for some much needed rest on Wednesday night, we went for a walk, and out of nowhere she said the exact words that had been running through my mind all evening: “I think that we should get married in the hospital with your dad. It doesn’t feel right to do it any other way.”
Instead of the huge wedding we’d spent months planning, we were married in Room 6 of the ICU, with only our pastor and parents present. My dad was on a ventilator and heavily medicated, and I wasn’t sure that he was aware of what was happening. We stood next to his bed, and I held his hand. As we recited our vows, he squeezed my hand, and I like to think that he was letting me know that he understood what was going on, and that he was happy. When we walked out of the room, married, the entire ICU staff applauded.
Stephanie and I spent our first night as a young married couple sleeping on a couch in the ICU waiting room. Early Friday afternoon, with my mom and brothers and sisters standing at his bedside, my wife held my dad’s hand and read the Bible to him. A few minutes later, he passed away.
We had our ceremony the next day, with a candle lit in remembrance of my dad. And although that night was beautiful, when I think back to my wedding, I think of standing in Room 6 of the ICU with my wife’s hand in my right and my dad’s hand in my left. I think of my wife sitting next to his hospital bed and reading the Bible to him. I have a hard time remembering what we chose for dinner or what color the bridesmaids dresses were or what music our DJ played — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I think a tragedy that takes place all too often in wedding photography is that the trappings of the wedding — the beautiful white dress, a stylish black suit, amazing flowers, beautiful centerpieces — become more significant than the love between a bride and a groom, and their relationships with the family and friends who have come together to recognize that love.
I love it when my couples have beautiful weddings with personalized touches that reflect their personalities, and I love photographing the details that make each wedding unique. My story has enabled me to see that however beautiful the wedding, the love between a bride and groom is far more beautiful, and that it’s ultimately what matters.
My promise to you is that no matter what, I’ll help you to see that your love is the most important thing.