5 Empty Chairs Part 2

In the last post we left off shortly after our sisters came out to us.  And like the saying goes, it gets better.

We helped my sister in law put together a sweet proposal, and soon they were engaged to be married.  Everyone asked if we were going to hop a plane to another state for the ceremony, since it wouldn’t be a “real” marriage in California, but there was no point.  Whether or not the state recognized it, we were going to party on the day two amazing women decided to join their lives together.  They booked a beautiful garden for the site, started collecting decorations, went dress shopping, ordered invitations… all the things you do when you plan a wedding.

Then the most amazing thing happened.  SCOTUS booted DOMA.  I was sitting in the living room, watching the morning news with my two boys, and my heart pounded like crazy when the banner came across the screen.  I texted the girls right away.  What crazy freaking timing.  Just weeks from the wedding date, all of a sudden the rules changed and they would officially be wifeys for lifeys, as we came to say.

The day of the wedding felt exactly as it should have.  I wrestled my 18 month old into the cutest little ring bearer outfit, dressed my 2 month old in a tiny suit and tie, slipped into my bridesmaid dress, and headed off to their apartment to finish getting ready.  When I walked in the front door, the place was an explosion of bridal happiness!  Shoes, makeup, gowns, gifts, and decor was thrown in every corner, and the photographers floated in the background, snapping away.  The girls were in the bathroom, laughing and helping each other do their hair and makeup, and put their dresses on.  When I think of their wedding day, that’s my favorite image of them.  They were so happy and giddy as they got to wear their beautiful gowns.  So happy to be getting hitched.  So happy that it would be legal!

My toddler was a total pro at the whole going down the aisle thing, thankfully.  And I was right after him.  I got to my place at the front, and that’s when I looked into the crowd and saw it.  There was my sweet husband, cradling our tiny baby.  Next to him were 5 empty chairs.  Chairs that should have held a mother, father, brother, sister, and best friend.

We have photographed many weddings over the last few years, and occasionally a seat will be left empty at the front for a parent who has passed away, a rose or other memorial placed on the seat in memory.  It felt exactly like that.  The smiles and tears and support that should have been there… and the chairs were empty.  My eyes flooded with tears, and I felt my throat constrict.  But the music changed, and the brides entered, holding hands, confidently striding together down the aisle.

Behind them, almost one hundred people sat in support of their new marriage, and the big promises they made to each other that day.  A new family was born, the course of two lives merged into one.

Despite the deeply felt absence of some loved ones, the wedding was a joyous one.  We laughed, danced, stuffed ourselves with delicious food, and toasted the happy couple.  They let me do the honor of delivering a toast, and though there is no recording of the toast, here is the draft I read from:

I met Vanessa when Bryan and I were just beginning to date in college.  We met because she was a senior in high school, checking out college campuses.  She had driven down, and agreed to pick me up from work since I didn’t have a car.  We talked with ease the whole way to campus, and I remember thinking, “If the rest of the family is anything like Vanessa, this thing with Bryan just might work out.”  It is so fitting that on our first meeting, she would be helping me, because that is the essence of who she is.  She is constantly pouring herself out in ways large and small, giving to those around her.  She served in various ministries on campus, and never hesitated to help a friend in need.  Even when it came to choosing her course of study, she picked business, but chose to specialize in studying micro finance- a new way of doing charity work by giving small loans to people in third world countries to help them pull themselves out of poverty.  She constantly looked for new ways to make the world a better place.  The more I got to know her, the more I thought, “Wow.  It’s going to take someone really special to walk by her side.”  Rachel, I can say without any doubt that you are that person.  I have watched Vanessa grow from the spunky teenager I met, to a confident, peaceful woman.  You both make each other better.  It melts my heart to see how much you love my little boys.  You were some of the first people to hold them when they were born, and Parker practically explodes with happiness as soon as his beloved, “Sessah and Coco” come into view.  You will make amazing moms someday.  I have watched you over the last two years as you have gone through the difficult process of coming out to your friends and family.  And I know that sometimes it has been really hard.  You have endured being yelled at, hung up on, walked away from, and more.  People who should be showing you love have said so many hurtful things out of fear, out of misunderstanding, out of anger.  And I have watched you handle it with love, with dignity, and with elegance.  You have said, “No.  I know this is hard, but we’re not walking away from each other.”  You have been the ones to show love.  And what is love?  (1 Cor 13) “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered…”  You have been the face of love to your friends and family.  You have been the peacemakers who gently pry those slammed doors back open.  I thought it was so very appropriate when you decided to change your last names to Vanessa’s middle name- Joy.  Because Joy is how you choose to live your life.  I scoured the Internet for a satisfying definition of Joy, and I found this one- “Abiding Happiness.”  And I liked that.  Joy is the belief that happiness will be present again- even if it is not right now.  Even when times are hard, you know in your heart that happiness is right around the corner, if you’ll just look for it.  To Vanessa and Rachel- may you always treat each other with that love and grace that you have grown over the last few years, and may your last name serve as a reminder to abide in happiness throughout your life together.  To be a world changing power couple who teaches many what love, grace, and Joy really look like.  May God- who is here today- bless your marriage.  Please raise your glasses to the beautiful brides.

And just in case you need to look at some wedding photos now (you know you do), their Pinterest worthy wedding was featured on A Practical Wedding:  http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/08/san-diego-botanic-garden-wedding/


One thought on “5 Empty Chairs Part 2

  1. Crystal, Ann Reinking, here, Elizabeth’s mom….Loved both these blogs about your sister-in-law! As Christians we are called to do two things 1) Love God 2) Love others……good job doing both!
    p.s. I can’t figure out why you moms of pre-schoolers can’t find more time to blog….. 😉

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