This weekend I got to have engagement pictures taken. I also got to have pictures taken in my mom’s wedding dress. The dress she walked down the aisle in. The dress she arguably, made her most life-altering decision in. The dress she committed to spend the rest of her life with one man in. The same man who would take her life.
That dress. THE dress.
There was an unexpected wave of emotions in putting on that dress. I’d seen it many times before. I’d even put it on once before. This time was different. Maybe because my own wedding date is getting nearer. Maybe because I was going to take pictures in it. I was going to seal that dress in that space and time. In some ironic way, it felt like I was going to bring it back to life.
It needed life. It needed dignity.
It was no longer a pristine or creamy white dress. It was a dull cream with brown and yellow splotches. It didn’t fit me perfectly. It wasn’t my style. I don’t even know how it made me look. It wasn’t about me though. It wasn’t even about the dress. It was about Mary.
Her life. Her dignity.
She was a whole person. She was more than just a wife. She was more than just a mom. She was more than just a victim. She was more than any one category I tend to put her in. I forget to give her dignity. To give her memory life and not just labels.
More than anything, when I put on the dress, I had questions. About her life. About her friends. About her family. About her passions. About her dreams. About her life before she met Marty. About her life after. About her wedding day.
What was she thinking? What was she expecting? I’m convinced she didn’t expect her marriage would be where it was 25 years later. How much did she know? When did everything change? Did anything change for her? Was she sad? Was she angry? Was it worse than anyone imagined? Was it better? When was she happy? I wanted to know what she thought her life would be. I wanted to know what everything looked like from her perspective. I wanted to know what she thought of me. What she would think of Will.
I wanted to know what she would feel if she could look at her dress today.
Regret? Shame? Anger? Sadness? Would there be fond memories?
I can’t speak to the majority of my biological parents’ marriage. Or really any of it. I came along 11 years after she donned that dress. I didn’t observe much in their marriage until many years after that. I wasn’t behind closed doors. I didn’t see everything. I couldn’t. I don’t know when things switched. I don’t know if there was a switch. I don’t know if it was a gradual breakdown. Or a gradual build up to an explosive end. I don’t know how she remained. I don’t know how the dress remained.
It’s small. It’s stained. It’s simple. It has not been well taken care of. The years have worn it down. I would imagine the years wore her down. I don’t know her experiences. I can’t speak to them. There are many parts of her life I don’t know. I don’t know all the creamy white parts. I don’t know all the brown and yellow spots.
There are many things I don’t know.
My questions will not be answered in this life. My questions don’t need to be answered. There will come a day when I will be reunited with Mary. When I will be able to ask her about the dress. When we will be able to talk endlessly.
There are a few things I do know. The things, the pieces of her I will be able to hold onto. I will be able to hold onto her voice. I will be able to hold onto our conversations, not what we said but the time we spent. I will be able to hold onto memories. I will be able to hold onto parts of her.
I won’t keep the dress. I don’t need to hold onto all of it.
I will take a piece.
I will take a piece of the dress. It will be made into a veil and I will hold onto it. I will walk down the aisle with a piece of her. I will pass it on to my daughters. I will pass on her memory. I will take a piece of her and weave it into my whole.
More than anything; I will wait. I will wait with her memory until we are reunited in freedom. Maybe she’ll have her dress. Free of stain or taint.
I know she has been made new.
When I look at the pictures of myself in her dress. I will, more than anything, be reminded of the gift I had in her and the gift I have in knowing I will see her again.
And it will be joy.
*Update: our photographer is awesome and gave me some of our pictures early after reading this (www.texturephoto.com)