Oh, about a year ago, we were trying to decide where in the Florida Keys we wanted to get married. Nick proposed on January 30, 2010.
We started talking about getting married within our first year of dating. Fast, right? Way too fast for me. I knew there was something special about Nick from the first time we met, January 1, 2006—but I met him during a very dark time in my life. My divorce was not final, and my mother was about to lose her fight against Cancer. The feeling of absolute abandonment was overwhelming during that time, and I was afraid that I was just searching for somebody else who would have me instead of someone who was worthy of me.
Part of me could not understand why someone would want to get mixed up with someone who still had a lot of rough times ahead. I had a lot of internal struggles about the relationship during the initial months. I talked myself out of ending it a handful of times because the selflessness of his love could be unbearable at moments. I was grieving deeply. I wanted to build a cocoon around myself and shut out the world…but then he was there, forcing me to face the guilt of living, of being able to feel.
I did not end it, obviously. That would have been a very stupid decision indeed, and I would have regretted it forever. By the end of the first year, Nick had ordered information packets for destination weddings at inclusive resorts. They sat in a periodicals basket for years as a standing FYI.
During the years but before he proposed, Nick changed his planning from a destination wedding to a very private affair with a couple of friends. I was busy with school at the time and pretty much gave him carte blanche with whatever he wanted to do. I've always focused on one thing at a time rather than getting involved with details…but that's okay, because Nick is the opposite. I never asked him the reason for the shift because I did not have a strong preference.
So, the Florida Keys it was. We have vacationed there, had fond memories there. When he finally got around to asking the question, we started planning seriously (like, with down payments).
Of course, we first thought of a beach. Using the beach may be affordable, but you are also at the mercy of other beach-goers walking through your ceremony and of course the weather. We know people who own a condo in the Keys and live there during the cold Wisconsin winters. They sent us information about the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, and immediately I fell in love with the idea.
Without ever walking through the conservatory, we booked it and sent a down payment. We had our first walk-through four days before we got married. Even with crowds of people, I was struck by the idea that it reminded me of how I imagined the Garden of Eden. Lovely instrumentals hovered gently above the exotic plants. Light filtered in through the branches creating beams of light splashing on the narrow walkways. The air was so heavy with humidity that it felt like angels' kisses against my cheeks as we moved along the path. And floating above us, and around us, almost as if in a euphoric state, were hundreds of colorful birds and butterflies.
I was so excited that we would have that magical place all to ourselves four days later. Meanwhile, I learned why Nick made the decision to have a private ceremony. He thought that if we had a traditional wedding, I would keenly feel the absence of my mother. He wanted nothing but happiness to enter my mind on our wedding day. See what I am saying? He's a details person! What a sweetheart to think of something that I hadn't quite figured out how to handle yet, and how fitting that I would feel such a spiritual connection to the place where we would make meaningful promises.
When the day came, everything just seemed to fall into place. For two such people—one who never planned to remarry, and the other who never expected to marry in the first place—I guess the lesson is to let life sing its own tune instead of trying to write the score. Butterflies fluttered around us, but I could only focus on Nick who was doing his damnedest not to cry. After the ceremony, a butterfly landed on my dress and stayed there for quite some time (posing for many pictures). I am normally the philosophizing sort, but I was distracted that day (I can only focus on one thing at once, remember?).
Someone told me later that as soon as she saw the pictures, her first thought was that that butterfly was a sign that my mother was there with me.
It may be just that time of year, but that thought makes me tear up.
A few days ago, Nick accompanied me for the fourth time on my annual visit to the cemetery. As with every other year, he walked before me to create a walkway through the snow, bending down to clear the accumulation from the name and dates on her gravestone. The snow began to fall as I knelt upon a blanket and remembered. As I stood up to leave, Nick remarked on the snowflakes that fell upon his black fleece. "Aren't these the most perfect snowflakes you have ever seen?"
I looked down at her final resting place and nodded in agreement, "They are."
I guess all that's left now is happily ever after.