It’s a hot summer day and I am wearing a long, ruby-coloured dress. My nails are painted and my hair is up, and I’m wearing more make-up than I have in years.
But it’s a wedding, and I am a bridesmaid so it makes sense. After a two year long engagement, my friends are finally getting married, and I am here to witness it.
I walk down a carpeted aisle strewn with rose petals on the arm of my escort, James, whom I am especially thankful for as I trip twice but manage to right myself thanks to his help. After he walks me to my chair I watch as Ana and Aurianne, the two other bridesmaids, and Jamie, the maid of honour come down the aisle, all beautiful in different colours and styles of dresses.
The ring bearer and flower girls are next, and though they don’t take the most direct route, they are fun to watch. At last it is my friend Sofia’s turn, and I watch my friend Jeff’s face as his eyes follow his bride coming down the aisle.
Sofia is radiant with her hair swept up under a lace veil and her flowy dress, and when she joins Jeff under the chuppah everyone can see they are so giddy and happy that they are about two seconds away from kissing each other even though it isn’t that part of the service yet.
Their fingers intertwine as they listen to the readings and say their solemn vows with an air of light-heartedness and joy. I wonder what life has in store for them as a couple, and applaud when they finally kiss after everything has been said and signed. Jeff breaks the glass under his shoe, and my fellow bridesmaid Ana shouts Mazel Tov! loudest of all of us.
Jeff and Sofia are first back up the aisle, then Paul, the best man who had to stand at the front in the heat the longest, then Jamie and her escort, Jeremy, Aurianne and David, Jeff’s brother, Ana and Miguel, Sofia’s brother, and then once again I am back walking up the aisle with James. Thankfully this time I don’t trip, but by the time I get to the end of the aisle my leg muscles feel like they are melting into nothingness and I know James’ arm isn’t going to be enough to keep me upright.
Although he offers to walk me to my walker, instead I have to ask James to get my walker for me so I can sit quickly instead of falling over.
It is hot and I am thankful I am not wearing a tuxedo like the guys, but jealous that they get to wipe their faces with handkerchiefs because they don’t have to worry about their make-up smearing. The photographer takes picture after picture, as does my friend Ipek, and I manage to last through most of it, only needing my walker near the end. When my legs get weak again, Aurianne puts her arm around me to give me some stability, and I am grateful.
Breezes flow intermittently, and each time I close my eyes and enjoy the relief the cool brings and the light caress it makes on my skin. I am thrilled when it is time to sit and eat, even when it turns out my table is at the farthest possible point from where I have been for the pictures. I weave a bit unsteadily through the crowd and the other tables, this time on Ana’s arm and walker-less.
The table is adorned with wonderful flowers in various shades of pink, but my favourites are still the ones that make up the wedding party bouquets. Dinner spins by in a flurry of speeches, music, incredible food, and, thanks to Ipek, a vast amount of picture taking. I enjoy what Paul and Jamie have to say about the bride and groom because it is heartfelt, true, and funny.
After a chocolate lava cake with a truffle centre and raspberry sorbet for desert, Ipek and I make our way into the ballroom, securing ourselves front-row seats for the first dance. There is a live band and Jeff and Sofia glide across the floor to “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra. I love the way Sofia’s dress twirls when Jeff spins her, and they both have large smiles on their faces.
The dance ends with kissing and the band slides seamlessly into their next song. Knowing my legs will not hold me if I try to get up and dance, I chair-dance instead, throwing my upper body into the music, and singing my heart out with Ipek. Ipek mentions to me that there is such a feeling of love and joy at this wedding, not just between Jeff and Sofia, but among their families and friends as well. I agree.
More and more people leave, because it is still very hot and getting later on a Sunday night. I am thankful I work from home so I can sleep in the next morning. I am kissed on both cheeks many times by various people I have never met before, as is the custom for Sofia’s Portuguese family.
As I chair-dance I soak in all the sights, the people talking, the couples dancing, the three year-old flower girl who is still a bundle of energy even at eleven o’clock at night. Jeff and Sofia stay longer than I expect them to, considering they are leaving for their honeymoon late the next morning. By the time they depart shortly after midnight, the only guests left are the members of the wedding party and Jeff and Sofia’s parents. We wish them well, and Ipek takes the last pictures of them departing because the professional photographer left a long time ago.
My dad is kind enough to come and pick Ipek and me up. Ipek and Dad help me to my seat in the car, and I am so excited from the day that I am just bubbling over with details about everything that happened from getting ready at the hotel in the morning to Jeff and Sofia leaving.
I feel happy and content. I also feel extremely proud of myself for physically getting through the day because I know it was no small feat. I did it, I was able to be Sofia’s bridesmaid and attend Jeff and Sofia’s wedding, and after all that has transpired in my life since they got engaged (going on the heart transplant list, getting a heart transplant, dealing with rejection and then the Cytomegalovirus), I feel the enormity of that accomplishment.
As the car weaves its’ way back to my house, a conversation I had with my heart transplant mentor, Anjeet, about a year ago comes to my mind.
I was at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) for an appointment and I ran into her in the hospital’s food court. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months and we took the opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives. At the time I was near the beginning of my Cytomegalovirus (CMV) journey, still in the phase where the first drug, Ganciclovir, was working.
Feeling overwhelmed by recent events, I flashed Anjeet an incredulous look when she told me that I needed to stop and smell the roses.
For days afterward, her assessment of my life picked away at my brain as I wondered how she could possibly say something like that. Didn’t she of all people know from personal experience that health and physical well-being is the most important part of life? How could I possibly be expected to stop and smell the roses when I needed to focus on dealing with serious medical issues? What could there possibly be in my life at the moment that I should take the time to enjoy?
It dawns on me as I’m enjoying the air-conditioned car that days like today were part of what Anjeet was talking about. Life, even my life, isn’t always about illness and enjoying the new life I’ve been given is also very important. When I breathe in the intoxicating scent of my rose-filled bouquet in a vase on my dresser at the end of my night, I take Anjeet’s advice literally and figuratively.