Whether we are just meeting for the first time or we’ve been friends for years, you probably know that I lost my Dad to lung cancer. In August 2011 my Mom woke me up quietly to tell me she needed to talk to me. Instantly, my heart fell to my knees, I knew this wasn’t good news of any sort. She said something like this, “The doctor thinks your Daddy has lung cancer and we have an appointment for a scan this morning. I don’t want you to worry. Everything is going to be ok. We just need to be there for your Dad.” I gathered my tears and got dressed because I wasn’t letting them go without me. I sat in the waiting room with my Dad as he tried to get down a nasty drink for his test. He was reading the paper and truthfully, I was holding back a flood of tears. My Daddy – The man I first loved. The man that was my rock, my biggest fan. The man I ran to and cried to when I was sad. The man that made me laugh like no one else could. The man that loved his two girls more than anything else. He sacrificed so much for me, for my Mom. He was a lover, a friend, a companion and he was a fighter… but now he is sick. What would I do without him? All I could do was pray for him to be ok and run to Jesus, the only place I knew to run to. I felt like my life had been pretty difficult the year prior to my Dad’s diagnosis and I wasn’t sure what The Lord was doing but I knew He was good and I knew He was sovereign over all. I knew we would get through this. I knew “He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
The next nine months were hard. Really hard. Our lives changed and they changed forever. My Dad immediately started chemo and I held on to every day that we had together. My Mom became a caregiver while still being a Wife, Mother and working full time. I’m not sure how she did it but she did. She showed me what it looks like to be a serving wife in sickness and in health. I know this season was incredibly hard for her but she never let it show. She stayed strong for everyone. I was the one breaking down and she was always there to help build me up.
Although this season was incredibly difficult, we shared really great times as well. Throughout the nine months my Dad was on a variation of different medications. Sometimes his appetite was completely gone and sometimes it was in full swing like a Thanksgiving day, everyday. Let me tell you, he LOVED to eat. Whether that was a trip to Red Lobster for crab legs or Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, he was in hog heaven. Seafood and sweets is where it is at in my Daddy’s world. Although this was a difficult season we made the best of it and we shared many good days together. We shared laughs and conversations that may of never happened if he didn’t have cancer. We shared dreams and passions. We shared prayers every night at his bedside. Our relationship was stronger and deeper than ever before and for that, I am grateful. Dad, you are the most amazing man I’ve ever known. I miss you every single day and there is so much I want to tell you but I have to be grateful for the 23 years we did have together. 23 years is better than none at all. You are my inspiration, my role model and my first love. I love you and I can’t wait to dance together in heaven and eat sweets upon sweets!
My Mom walking me down the isle, I am wearing the strand of pearls that my Dad gave her. My Mom is carrying two white roses, one from each of us, that we placed on an empty chair beside my Mom during the ceremony. We wanted my Dad to be remembered but we also wanted it to be a joyful day. We knew what each item meant but we didn’t want to draw too much attention to the sadness we felt in our hearts for him not being present. Although, he was present in spirit.
This is one of the most private ways to honor a lost loved one—no one will even know unless you tell them. This is a great way to keep that person close to your heart without drawing attention to their absence. For my wedding, I wore my Dad’s blue shirt in the shape of a heart inside my wedding dress, photo above. I had the seamstress place it on the side of my heart. I also wore a strand of pearls that my Dad gave my Mom.
Short and simple; include an “In Loving Memory” section in your ceremony program.
Many couples choose to feature family wedding photos—both of the living and of the deceased—at their reception. It’s a nice way for your guests to take a trip down memory lane and remember those special to you. I had a photo table with a few photos of me and Dad.
Did your loved one battle cancer? A donation in their honor to the foundation of your choice makes a wonderful and meaningful wedding favor. We decided to donate to CarePartners in memory of my Dad instead of purchasing favors for our guests. My Dad battled lung cancer but we also knew how incredible CarePartners was during such a difficult time. They were absolutely amazing with my Dad and my family. Or, consider their favorite treat—a small box of candy from their favorite candy shop will bring back great memories for those who knew them. You can either include a note to inform guests that it’s in someone’s memory, or you can keep that fact private.
A physical reminder of the person you’re missing, perhaps an empty seat in their honor, is a nice way to recognize a lost loved one. Place a single rose on the chair either before the ceremony starts or as a part of the ceremony. As my Mom and I reached the end of the aisle during the ceremony she placed two white roses on the chair, one from each of us. Keep in mind, though, that seeing an empty seat while you’re exchanging your vows may trigger sad feelings. I am glad that I kept a chair open but it did trigger some sad feelings as I looked over.
There are many ways to remember lost loved ones. I’d love to hear how you have remembered someone dear to you. Post below in the comments if you want to share!
All Photos by: Andy & Stephanie Photography