Midwest Voices

In joy and grief, our community is a blessing

Tragedy can strike even in the midst of wedding joy, but our communities are there for us and help us through all circumstances.
Tragedy can strike even in the midst of wedding joy, but our communities are there for us and help us through all circumstances. MCT

I got married three weeks ago, and it was beautiful. We’re both creative, and we have wide social circles; we made it ours.

My husband, Jack, designed the ceremony with the friend who married us, creating transitions and emphasizing meaning. The reception had a garden theme — seed packets made from vintage books and ferns hanging across the venue. It turned out better than I expected.

We’re both 29, and we’ve helped friends and family get married. After witnessing so much wedding stress, I thought myself immune. It seemed irrelevant to the big picture: celebration and gratitude.

I wasn’t as easy-going as I hoped. As soon as I completed one task, I worried about another. A month out, I started waking up every day around 5 a.m. I couldn’t eat, even when I didn’t feel stressed. Wedding details clouded my focus on work, writing, friends. I forgot things. I hated it.

And then we lost my soon-to-be father-in-law unexpectedly two months before the wedding. We are heartbroken. I didn’t feel like having it anymore — or know if we should.

That loss was leveling — no wedding stress compares. It would be easy to write a column that summarizes that neatly: Don’t worry about centerpieces, because there are bigger things. That’s completely true, but I don’t want to write that column.

I could write about the out-of-control expectations Pinterest and blogs create, but I don’t want to write that, either.

I’d rather write about what I learned:

First, we are nothing without our community. We worked hard, but it wouldn’t have turned out full and beautiful without our people. A friend who owns a nursery helped us get ferns and potted herbs. Jack and my 13-year-old sister-in-law wrote a song she performed. My other sister-in-law is an incredible florist and coordinator; she took our ideas and helped us fill in the missing parts.

I could write a 50-point list of the ways people helped without covering everything. Every small deed was supportive, even attending the wedding — the photos as we leave the church show everyone. It’s beautiful.

Next, having people from all the different parts of my life meet was happy-making. I saw my grandpa talking with Svetlana, my best friend from my year in Russia. Jack’s sisters tell me about conversations with my aunt. In one photo, my dad stands next to kids Jack and I mentor.

I never expected any of them to meet.

There are countless moments like this I’ll never know about. Our worlds collided, and in these interactions, communities were soldered together strong, solidified.

Finally, we are more loved and blessed than we can take in. Our family and friends gave us time and resources. They encouraged us.

They did the same thing two months before, too. And that’s what’s most important, more than the beautiful day or gifts that literally fill our home — we are loved and supported without measure.

Despite our still very present loss, there were so many happy faces that day, so much joy. I think the Lord gave us that.

Writing about my wedding feels small and sentimental. And it basically avoids everything happening in our country right now.

Plus, everyone feels this way about their wedding, right?

I sure hope so, because our communities matter.

Whatever the circumstance, whether it’s a wedding or funeral, a new job or losing one, celebration or mourning, I hope you feel people there and lean on them. I hope you’re thankful for them. Whatever the circumstance, I hope you can look before and behind you, and that people are the most of what you see.

Kara M. Bollinger works at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and writes nonfiction and poetry. She blogs about urban and community gardening at WateredLove.com. Reach her at oped@kcstar.com.