Today, March 21, 2020, I was supposed to attend the wedding of my oldest son in Candler, NC. Instead, I am sitting in the darkness of our finished basement, my laptop warm and glowing, trying not to think about what could have been, or the sheer strangeness of the times in which we find ourselves living.
Since Evan and Audra got engaged last fall, I have had their wedding on my mind almost every day. My younger sons couldn’t wait to attend the wedding of their older brother. Their chosen venue was a beautiful farm in the mountains where they were to be married in the outdoors they hold so dear. There are several beautiful cabins on the property where wedding guests had planned to stay and we had reserved our favorite. For months I played over and over in my mind how we would visit with one another on one of the cozy porches or perhaps stroll along the beautiful grounds. I visited every store in our area looking for a mother-of-the-groom dress. I wanted just the perfect dress — classy, not-too-old and not-too-young, the perfect fit, the perfect color, the appropriate length. Finding nothing to suit in the stores, I turned to scouring every dress I could find online. I found that most MOG dresses were either frumpy, totally inappropriate for our particular occasion, or just downright ugly. In early February, already feeling I was running out of time, I found a website that seemed like a dream-come-true. I loved almost every dress and now had a hard time deciding just which one I should pick. With the help of my daughter I finally narrowed it down to one. These were the early days of hearing about Covid 19. “Back then” most of us were just worried about not receiving orders from China (or receiving them contaminated) with all the chaos going on over there. This new coronavirus was still pretty far removed from us. After reading terrible reviews of this company online, I discovered it was in China and tried to push their beautiful dresses out of my mind. I made the decision not to order them solely based upon my concern that I wouldn’t receive my order in time for the wedding. I finally found 2 dresses at a well-known department store online and ordered one. It arrived on time and in perfect condition, except it was a size-too-big (never trust those online measurement charts) and covered in sparkles (that you couldn’t detect in the advertised picture). I returned it and stressed about them receiving the return and crediting me back the small fortune I paid for it. I then ordered my second choice dress, stressing that it wouldn’t arrive on time or that it wouldn’t fit or that the pale pink would wash me out. It arrived and it was perfect. I tried it on several times, imaging with what shoes it would look the best, with what jewelry, with what dainty little handbag. I imagined the mother-son dance with Evan, us dancing to Idaho by Gregory Alan Isakov, as we had planned.
I spent so many hours, so many days, so many weeks dreaming about and planning for the wedding. So many times I would pause and wonder at the passage of time and that the first of my children was getting married. So many thoughts, so much anticipation, so many prayers. I prayed that everything would turn out perfectly, sometimes apologizing to God but rationalizing that Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water to wine at the wedding in Cana. Fears would occasionally creep into my mind, because that’s how my mind works. What if we had a car accident on the 7-hour trip there, or what if they messed up our reservations for the cabin or the rental for the vacation we were going to take immediately after in Gatlinburg? What if our cats became injured or terrified with us being out of the house for 4 days? What if I forgot something all-important like my curling wand?
Time has been flying by so quickly for me for a while now that I knew soon the wedding would be upon us. As anticipated, soon I could see it approaching only a week or so on the horizon. I finally had a complete ensemble, the boys were ready to go with dress pants, new shoes, crisp shirts and ties. My husband had his outfit perfectly coordinated with mine and ready to pack. The men of my house got haircuts. My nail appointment was only days away. Our cats had new self-feeders so as to ease our minds that they wouldn’t run out of food or water. I talked to Evan about all the people who had committed to be there from so many different states and I thought about how blessed they were to have such dear friends and family. We talked about how he and Audra would drive to New Orleans and then take a cruise to Mexico for their honeymoon.
Covid-19 was also becoming a daily part of lives by this time. It was already dominating the news and media. It was running alongside the wedding and only started to dominate my attention when all the sudden it was in the lead. I looked ahead and saw it like a huge boulder blocking the road to this special day we’d all planned for and dreamed about for so long. All the sudden last Monday the kids could no longer go to school. Toilet paper and things nobody ever used to buy, like Vienna sausage and ramen noodles started disappearing from shelves. We began to hear rumors that North Carolina had more and more infected. We heard rumors about gatherings of 500 or more not recommended by the CDC. And then all the sudden, less than a week ago, Evan called and told me that North Carolina had made it a second-degree felony for gatherings of 100 or more. The wedding as planned would have to be canceled.
I cried for my future daughter-in-law, imagining how I would have felt, if in 1989, the wedding we had been anticipating and planning for almost a year was suddenly canceled. I don’t think I could have taken it! I lamented over their beautiful website, the invitations, all the details of their menu, the venue, the reunions with precious loved ones, the memories that would never be.
We had a small respite for a day, planning that we parents, a few siblings and other close loved ones would attend a small, private ceremony on top of one of the mountains Evan and Audra loved. And then came the text the other night that now North Carolina had made it a misdemeanor for anyone attending a gathering of 10 or more. Everything in Gatlinburg shut down overnight as well. How could we make a 7-hour trip not knowing what awaited us when we got there, or what if something might happen overnight that would prevent us from even getting home? I knew at that point that all the daydreaming I had invested in that one special day was all for naught. The beautiful invitation that still hangs on our refrigerator that says there is a wedding today in Candler, NC at 4:30 pm is no longer valid.
So I won’t see my son get married today. It wasn’t in God’s plan. Our world has changed in the past few weeks and I have a feeling it will never be the same. In the meantime I’ve learned a lesson about fretting and planning and obsessing and daydreaming. Evan and Audra will become husband and wife today without the wedding they planned so carefully. We won’t be there to share this very special day with them, though we did everything in our power to make it happen. They are planning on recreating the whole ceremony and reception again in the fall, and I have already started looking forward to it and new plans are forming in my mind already. But this time I think I will slow down a little, relax a lot more, and accept the fact that, in the end, it’s not my choice. People are terrified and confused right now, and I think one positive thing we can take from it is that they are reevaluating what is truly important. Many people are turning to God in their fear and distress. Our futures are always uncertain. So often, our “best-laid plans” fail. Life is full of sorrows, disappointments, and tragedies right along with times of peace and prosperity. But in the end, God is still on His throne and He has a perfect plan, and whatever will be, will be.
And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28, NKJV