November 27, 2007

First Dance, Final Goodbye


A lot goes into choosing a wedding song. For many couples, they know right away what to play for their first dance, for others they don’t make a big deal of it, and for my wife and I, we chose something we thought would be special. We both knew the song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack and thought it was ideal for us. We imagined ourselves at our reception, embracing on the dance floor and gently swaying as the band played our song. Just talking about it made my then fiancé teary eyed with anticipation

During our long engagement of almost two years, my bride-to-be kept a loose leaf binder full of all the details, orders, plans, and receipts and the like for our giant, New York wedding. There were to be almost two hundred guests, a big band, bridesmaids and ushers, and everything you’d expect for such a festivity. However, we didn’t know that someone very close to us would not be there for our nuptials.

My fiancé’s Mom and Dad were invited over to my parent’s home for dinner so they could finally meet. My folks were much older, but my father and my fiancé’s Dad bonded right away. They shared blue collar values and had similar childhoods as they each grew up in New York City, and they were both in the military. My father told me later after they went home that he noticed something wasn’t right when talking my future father in law.

“Here’s a man who worked hard his entire life, and he told me he just didn’t want to go to work in the morning.” he said.

“Yeah, but Dad, you say the same thing.” I told him.

He shook his head and looked away from me. “No, this is different. He kept holding his stomach.” Then he got up and went into the kitchen. To tell you the truth, I never gave his comments much thought.

Days later, my fiancé called me from work.

“My dad has a doctor’s appointment.” She was worried, I could tell. Her voice lacked that certain confidence she always had. Sure, she had the right to be anxious when it came to her father and his health. But, she works in the medical field. Her job is to diagnose people with diseases; and her specialty is cancer.

I’ll never forget the day her father returned from the last battery of tests to diagnose his problem. For months, he’d been unable to eat or sleep, and he had a feeling of extreme “discomfort,” as he described it” My fiancé did her best to keep from bawling out loud when learning of his prognosis. Yet, it was difficult to hold back.

He had a very curable form of Lymphoma; but he went without symptoms for so long, it was too late to do anything. Because of his relative youth, he was only fifty two years old, they tried chemotherapy, but to no avail. Hope and constant care turned to grief and worry. Soon enough, we kept a vigil at his bedside. In September he lay dying, and we were to marry the next July. I asked my fiancé if we should marry in his hospital room and just have the reception which was already booked and paid for when the time came. She cried and hugged me and said she’s would run the idea past her Mom. The answer came the next day; and as only a father could put it “My daughter will have her day, and I will be there.”

On our last day on Earth, we all want something special to happen. Maybe we want to see angels in our final moments. Or, some look for loved ones who passed away earlier. My father in law quietly fell asleep with his family looking on. My fiancé hurried into the busy hallway just outside his door in tears. She held on to me and sobbed. It was at that moment I heard music.

“Do you hear that?” I asked.
She looked up, as the source of the song playing came from loudspeakers in the ceiling over our heads.
“Oh no,” she said. “Daddy, oh daddy…” Again, she fell into my arms and cried hard. I stood with my bride to be and listened to the last piece of music I never imagined would be playing at that moment; and that was “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, our wedding song.

We eventually chose a different song for our wedding day as neither of us could bear to listen to a tune which played at the exact moment my bride’s father passed away. After all of that, I like to believe something special did happen for my father in law at the moment of is death. As he arose from his body to his final place of rest, he looked down and saw his daughter embraced in the arms of the man she would marry, swaying back and forth to their wedding song.



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21 comments:

The Uneasy Supplicant said...

Beautiful Mike. You certainly know how to weave a story and keep the reader's attention. I think we all have varying experiences like the one you and our wife went through, to some degree. When my mother-in-law passed away, her favorite music box started playing, out of the blue. No one had touched it previously, it hadn't been wound up. It played for 10 seconds. Maybe we all go on to another realm, another level of existence ... just maybe.
~JD

The Uneasy Supplicant said...

Correction
*your wife

Sorry :-)

~JD

josey said...

mike,

i know its been many years, but my condolences to you and your wife. what a heartbreak to endure at such a tender time in your lives, especially for your bride-to-be.

of course being the romantic dreamer and sentimental sap that i am, your story easily moved me to tears. personally i dont believe timing like that happens by chance. to me, that song playing at that precise moment is like receiving a consoling and reassuring hug, if you may, from Above.

obviously your way with words is beautiful, but the fact you shared something so personal makes me appreciate your writing even more.

very eloquently, and respectfully, written.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD,
"Our" wife, eh? I knew that was a typo. One side of me does not believe in anything supernatural in death which would cause something to happen like what you experienced with your mother in law's passing and what happened shortly after the death of my father in law. But, there are stories such as yours and another one I have that makes me want to believe that there is something on the other side. I'll point you to a previous post of mine called "She Saw Dead People" which is absolutely true and it happened to my wife and my daughter. Yes, I want to believe in life after death, these stories point in the right direction, but Ilack any faith or spiritualism. Thanks, JD for adding your wise comments. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD,
"Our" wife, eh? I knew that was a typo. One side of me does not believe in anything supernatural in death which would cause something to happen like what you experienced with your mother in law's passing and what happened shortly after the death of my father in law. But, there are stories such as yours and another one I have that makes me want to believe that there is something on the other side. I'll point you to a previous post of mine called "She Saw Dead People" which is absolutely true and it happened to my wife and my daughter. Yes, I want to believe in life after death, these stories point in the right direction, but Ilack any faith or spiritualism. Thanks, JD for adding your wise comments. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Josey,
You're very kind and sweet. Thank you for your condolences, and words like that are always welcome, in my book. There is nothing wrong with being a sentimental dreamer or romantic. If I made you cry, then I apologize. What a nice way to view what happened to my poor wife, a "reassuring hug" from her father. I will pass that along to her and I am sure she will appreciate that. I really appreciate the fact that you enjoy my writing. Your compliments are heartfelt. Thank you so much, Josey. I mean it. -Mike.

Andrew said...

Wow Mike. This is one of the most moving pieces I've read in a very long time.

I can't believe that actually happened; it makes me --

That actually happened?! I'm shocked. And taken aback. And amazed. And thinking...and thinking there really is something more out there.

Thank you, Mike for sharing.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Andrew,
How are you? I have some reading to do tonight to catch up with the "White Room" voting. Oh, and yes, that really did happen. uh huh, yep, yes siree. There just might be something out there, huh? Nah.
Thanks Andrew. -Mike

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD, The double response was a total accident. I was being a total spazz and hit the submit button twice. Oops. -Mike.

Andrew said...

So, you've had these things happen to you, yet you still don't buy into it. Why?

Kristyn said...

Thank you for sharing that very touching story, Mike. It can't have been an easy time for you and your wife. I'm more touched by your recounting than I have been by anything in a long time. It made me reflect on my parents, they're both in their early 50's and I can't begin to imagine loosing either of them. Perhaps more so because my little sister, who is only nineteen, is getting married in January.

Very Best,
Kristyn

The Uneasy Supplicant said...

Mike
I read the post in question "She Saw Dead People" and it gave me the chills. My reasoning is exactly like yours but too many unexplained things happen that make you question. Again, excellent posts. Well done.
~JD

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Andrew,
You raise a good question. These things have indeed happened to me and I do still question them because I have doubts about religion in general, and thus the afterlife. I'll tell you what, this would make for an interesting blog post. Do you think you can beat me to it? -Mike

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kristyn,
I want to say an early congratulations to your sister. You must be very proud. It was a bittersweet day for us, and my wife still misses her dad and gets a bit sad on our anniversary. Your
parents are young, and I am not too
far behind them (I'm 44). Your comments and how you feel about my writing means a lot to me. Thanks for your kind words, Kristyn. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD,
I'm glad you read "She Saw Dead People." Whenever either me or my wife tells that story, people get the chills. My daughter does not remember this incident; she is 12 y/o now. Thanks for going through the archives. Have a great night. -Mike.

Diana said...

How strange that we would both post a "strange death experience" so close together.

Your story made my chin quiver and is so sweet. It is almost like Dad was saying that he approved of the wedding.

AntiBarbie.net said...

That was a really beautiful story. It must have been so hard for your Wife not to have her dad there at the wedding.


My grandfather, whom was a father figure in my life, died of cancer too. He also had a very treatable form and signs that his doctor told him were signs of him aging. Had his doctor not been incompetent, perhaps they would have caught it before it was a stage four and spread all through out his body. He did not last very long after the diagnosis.

A few moments after my grandfather passed away while in hospice, there was a very violent thunder storm so close that you could feel the vibrations shaking the windows.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Diana,
Thank you for our comment because I never thought of this experience that way. Maybe her father was aaying that he approved of this wedding. I have somehting else to think of now, and I hink my wife will appreciate your thought on the matter. It is creepy that we both posted strange death situations around the. I read your post os your blog, and I was thinking of telling this story probably around the time you posted yours. Maybe we're both meant to get some sort of message out? Thanks again for stopping by, Diana. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Antibarbie,
I am sorry to hear about your Grandfather. We may or not believe in signs, but I think we sure do get plenty of them. We just need to recognise them when they are presented to us. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, AntiBarbie. -Mike.

Jack Payne said...

Eloquent.

You do have a way with expressive syntax, Mike.

Hits close to home. My oldest son has non-Hodgekins Lymphoma.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,
Thank you for your kind compliment, Jack. My thoughts and prayers are with your son and your family. -Mike