On the evening of Thursday, February 1, I received news that my brother-in-law had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. He was 41 years old, and left behind a wife, a 16 year-old son and a 13 year-old daughter.
While, obviously, our primary concern was for my sister, niece and nephew, as well as my brother-in-law’s mother, brother, and other family members, this also required us to make some major changes in our plans.
I asked my mom if we should even go ahead with the wedding as planned, and her opinion was that we were well past the “point of no return,” that too many of our guests had already made their travel arrangements, and that we really had no choice.
We both immediately contacted our bosses to arrange for more time off from work. They were both great about it, especially considering that Shrike had to start by coming out to her boss, in order to explain exactly whose funeral she was attending, and had to tell her about the wedding, to explain why she would still need the vacation time she had originally planned.
The next day, a couple of her coworkers mentioned that they had heard there had been a death in her family, so she explained the situation to them. They were all great about it, and one in particular seemed really interested in the wedding.
I took off work Friday, so I could finish up with some of the wedding preparations that we thought we’d have another week to work on. I burned the CDs of wedding music (more or less), burned all of our various wedding documents that still needed to be printed (programs, instructions, etc.) onto a CD to be printed at her parent’s house, and started packing.
We were able to change the date of our outgoing flight without too much trouble, but had to leave everything else the same, so on Saturday, we drove about two hours to BigCityTwoHoursAway, flew three hours to New Orleans, rented a car and drove about five hours to my parents’ house in Texas.
On Sunday, various family members arrived in town, we had lunch at my mom’s house, provided by the members of my sister’s church, and the visitation was that evening.
We all thought that my sister had gone a little overboard in scheduling four hours of visitation (4-8 p.m.), but she knew that, since it was a Sunday, many people would be stopping by either before or after church. As it turned out, their pastor canceled evening services, so that people could attend, but there were many people there from other churches, and, although people were coming and going the whole time, the chapel stayed about half-full for the entire four hours, so if it had been any shorter, there probably would have been too many people there at once for her to speak to.
Despite the circumstances, there were actually a few funny moments that evening.
Perhaps the oddest was the woman who “crashed” the visitation. Her first words to my sister were “I never knew your husband. . . .” which was a bad sign to start with.
She had attended the annual Christian music festival that my sister and brother-in-law had organized (there have been three, the fourth is scheduled for next month) and when she saw the obituary (which mentioned his role as a founder of the festival) she wanted to stop by and pay her respects.
This would have been fine, but she wouldn’t leave! She kept talking to my sister, “And what is your name?”
(You’d think she could’ve gotten that from the obituary, too.)
My sister and her sister-in-law (the wife of my brother-in-law’s older brother who died a few years ago – she was “running interference” for my sister, moving people along, getting her out when she needed a break, etc.) thanked this woman for coming, and said “good-bye” types of things several times, and she still wouldn’t leave!
The second amusing moment happened later, when Shrike and I had returned to the house to reheat and put back out the food from earlier. My mom’s cousin, a 70-something Baptist preacher, and his wife had come into town and had already gone back to the house, so we had to sit and make small-talk with them while we waited from everyone else to return from the funeral home.
As you may guess, we are not out to these people. No telling what they might have thought about Shrike flying across the country with me for the funeral, but we did mention that we’d already planned a visit with my family and a trip to New Orleans, so maybe that threw them off.
Anyway, just as I was opening the oven to get some food out, he asked, “So, how did you two meet?” I immediately called Shrike over to help me with the food, and as we were putting it on the table in the other room, told her “Ok, they’re old, maybe they’ll forget they asked.”
No such luck, of course. Later in the evening, he asked again. I mumbled something along the lines of “Well, she was moving, living here, and then before, and that was when I, the thing up there, and . . . .”
In the earlier conversation, they had had to ask us to repeat several things, so we’re hoping that they just assumed the problem with my answer was their hearing!
Oh, and we were also rather amused when the cousin’s wife told us they had videotaped the “coronation – I mean inauguration” to send to their son, who is a missionary in China. It’s pretty sad when his biggest fans refer to it that way!
Monday was about the longest day of our lives. The funeral was at 10 am, in my hometown, then we drove about four hours to my brother-in-law’s hometown for a graveside service. (He was buried next to his brother, father, and several other family members.)
Afterwards, we went to his mom’s house for yet more food, provided by her church, and then drove four hours back to my parents’ house.
My sister, niece and nephew are doing pretty well, all things considered, but we worry about what will happen when it all finally sinks in.
The next few days are something of a blur – as my mom said, it was quite a schizophrenic week, going back and forth between taking care of my sister and the kids and preparing for the wedding, but somehow, we made it through.
Over the course of the week, we finished buying gifts for the wedding participants, met with the minister, printed the programs, tracked down a video camera, ordered the party trays, and finished the music.
Friday afternoon, we went to the church with my mom to set up and decorate. Shrike’s mom, sister, niece and nephew arrived in town later in the afternoon, and that evening was the rehearsal dinner, hosted by my brother.
I was incredibly nervous about our families meeting, but it seemed to go pretty well. Shrike’s nephew ended up sitting next to my dad at dinner. He didn’t seem too sure about that at first, and just looked at me like I was nuts when I told him “That’s my daddy.”
When my dad got out his digital camera, though, he decided he was his best friend, and we’re not sure, but we think we heard him refer to him as “Dad” at one point!
My sister had, quite understandably, decided that she couldn’t handle attending the dinner or the ceremony, but she wanted to meet Shrikes’ family, so they all came over to my parents’ house Saturday morning.
My niece, who’s 13, held Shrike’s niece (8 months) almost the whole time they were there, and, as usual, Shrike’s nephew charmed everyone. He had a ball looking at the pictures from the night before, and when each one that he wasn’t in came up he said, “Dat’s not HisName!” What a little ham!
After we got the families cleared out, we packed our bag for the church and for overnight, and headed to the mall to pick up the party trays and chips and dips from my favorite Mexican restaurant. We met my mom at the church and finished setting everything up just in time.
As we were going out to the car to get our wedding clothes, our photographer friend showed up to start taking pictures. We got dressed
and did our pictures, and by the time we were finished with that, my dad and brother were there to do family pictures.
Just as we finished those, Shrike’s family arrived so we could do pictures with them, and the last of the readers and the minister got there just as we were getting done with that. We couldn’t believe what a good job we’d done in telling everybody when to show up!
We rehearsed the ceremony, and by the end of that, I was thoroughly convinced that I was the only one there, with the possible exception of Shrike, who had any clue what was supposed to happen!
Somehow, we made it through the hour or so of waiting,
and before we knew it, it was time to walk down the aisle. I was an absolute wreck!
Somehow we both made it down the aisle, and I managed to not pass out during the ceremony. At the altar, Shrike kept asking mr if I was okay, and I kept assuring her that I was, but I probably didn’t look very okay at all.
The ceremony went beautifully, everyone figured out where they were supposed to be when, and, despite what seemed like an hour of standing there being stared at while one song played, before we knew it, it was over.
The reception is pretty much a blur of hugs, and by the end we’d decided that we weren’t up to going dancing, but we could sure use a drink, so we went out to Bennigan’s with my brother and three of my friends from summer camp. We got to the hotel around midnight and . . . went to sleep!
The next morning we went back over to my parents’ house to open gifts, pack up the rest of our stuff, sort through everything they’d brought back from the church, figure out what we could pack and what they needed to ship to us, and say good-bye.
We realized that our CDs and tapes and “The Big Red Notebook” with all our planning – and honeymoon – information in it had been left behind, so we got everything wrapped up there, hugged everyone good-bye, and left in time to stop at the church and pick them up and then headed to New Orleans.
New Orleans was, as usual, wonderful. After dropping off the rental car we caught a cab to the gay-owned bed and breakfast where we were staying. We called our families to check in, had a glass of champagne and headed to Pat O’Brien’s for hurricanes.
We then wandered around the French Quarter for hours, ending up at a tiny little bar where an old man was playing piano and singing. There were just a few people there and we were sitting right up front, so he noticed us cuddling and said, “This is for you ladies,” and sang a love song.
Later he sang several more love songs for us; he was just the sweetest guy. After that, we hit Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets and then went back to the hotel, soaked in our jacuzzi and . . . went to sleep!
Monday we woke up just in time for breakfast, returned to our room to finally consumate our marriage, and then went back down to the French Quarter in the afternoon. After much whining from me about my feet hurting, we hung out at one bar for a couple of hours, where we attracted the attention of a group of merchant marines, one of whom, when he found out we were on our honeymoon, told us that we were “the coolest.”
Later, when we were dancing to “We Are Family” some guy came up and started dancing “with us” and touched Shrike’s butt! He asked me “Is this your sister?” We both showed him our rings and I said “This is my wife.”
That must have scared him off, because we didn’t see him again after that! We then wandered down to the gay end of the quarter for a while, hit Cafe du Monde once again and called it a night.
We flew home on Tuesday, dropped off the film to be developed on our way into town, waded through a huge stack of mail, and thanked God that we’d decided to take Wednesday off work, too!
Today we went to the mailing store to send back the other suit that I had ordered (she ordered two different sizes, just to be safe), took the video to be converted to VHS (the camera we finally tracked down was 8 mm and we had no clue what to do with that) and went to dinner.
We should have the photos and the video back tomorrow, and hopefully I will get the rest of the photos posted on the site by the end of the weekend.
In the meantime, we are going back to work tomorrow, so it’s bedtime!