Two Weddings and a Memorial
I named this post after a movie I thought I heard called "Two Weddings and a Funeral," but that's actually a South Korean gay romantic comedy film, and the one I was actually thinking of is "Four Weddings and a Funeral," — also a romantic comedy. It doesn't really matter because I haven't seen either of them, and these events are real life, not on any screen.
Just over six months ago, I took a road trip to Los Angeles. All in all, I left Nashville for two months — spending 3 weeks on the road (1 week to get to Los Angeles and 2 weeks to come back) and six weeks in Los Angeles. And I never actually shared much of it. That is, until now.
I'll be going to Los Angeles next Friday for another exciting event: my friend is getting married! And this week marks the six months of a another event when one of my dear friends passed away. So it seems fitting that on this week of remembrance for her passing (not that I don't think about it every week) to finally share a moment from that day.
This passing was unexpected, as life can be. I anticipated going on this trip to Los Angeles beginning with a week-long fun road trip with Matt, and then my time in Los Angeles would be book-ended by two weddings, and my mom's birthday celebration in-between. But with the happy sometimes comes the sad.
So first, the good news: two great friends of mine married two very wonderful guys. And I got to be there.
The First Wedding
The first was Christina and Tyler. They were high school and college sweethearts, so it wasn't exactly a surprise that this was going to happen.
I first met Christina in middle school. We were in Spanish together. Somehow, even after she moved to the neighbor city, switched middle schools, and went to my rival high school, we stayed in touch. Tyler and I were both in pole vault (surprise! imagine me pole vaulting — it's just as bad as you think it would be) and so was Christina and I believe that's where they really started to form a friendship. Those track meets could be long.
Fast forward about six years later: they've been together a long time, Christina and I are both at UCLA, I'm studying abroad in Rome and I realize as it's nearing the end of my study abroad that I have no place to live my senior year of college.
Out of the blue, I get a message from Christina that her and Stephanie (who I had never met at that point) needed another roommate. Was I interested? Yep!
The three of us spent an entire school year together living in a small one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, meaning we all shared one room. And one bathroom. But it was the best choice ever! Steph and I called Christina the ghost roommate because she was so quiet we didn't even know if she was home, and she'd go home each weekend to spend time with Tyler. One time, Stephanie and I were having a serious discussion about something in our room, and all the sudden, Christina — from her hidden position on the top bunk — shared her thoughts and Steph and I jumped a little and looked at each other like "Has she seriously been here the whole time?" haha. We had fun parties, awesome dinners, late-night discussions, last-minute assignments, three turtles, Pretty Little Liars (via Christina), and we generally enjoyed the shared space we had created.
To be able to go back to Los Angeles for her wedding was really wonderful. They had it in San Diego at Point Loma naval base, and it was the perfect day. Matt and I had just arrived in Los Angeles the day before, and opted to fit in a volunteer project in the Mojave Desert in the morning — so it was also a very long day.
We picked up my friend Lori — who I hadn't seen in ages! — and her friend and made it in time to the ceremony #thankgoodness. Steph was there too! It was like a little reunion. I even got seated at the reception with someone Christina introduced me to via Facebook because she lives in Nashville, but never actually met in person. I felt like I already knew her. #thatFacebooklife
The ceremony and the reception were beautiful. Outside, ocean, and blue sky were the backgrounds for the ceremony and couldn't have been better. And then the reception was the simple string lights and a beautiful dinner and dancing. Plus the photobooth...those are always a winner.
One of my favorite moments was the cake. Not just because it was probably the best cake I've ever had, but also because of when Christina put some on Tyler's face. The look was priceless.
The Second Wedding
It was my last weekend in Los Angeles, and I was so happy I could witness the sealing and be there for the reception of my friend Chloe and her now-husband Markus.
Chloe and I know each other from our ex-boyfriends and although those relationships didn't last, I'm so glad Chloe and I did. We've been through a lot together, and seen each other through a lot including those said relationships: me studying abroad in Rome, her serving a mission in France, her moving to Utah, me moving to Nashville; so to see her get married to this amazing suave guy was such a blessing.
Chloe is LDS (as am I) so they were sealed in the Los Angeles temple (for more about temples & sealings (watch this). The reception was hosted in one of our church building's cultural halls and her family did the most amazing job putting it together. They really covered every inch so you felt like you were walking into the Marriott or something. Chloe and Markus both performed dances with their bridal parties and I think that was my favorite part. It was just so good to see her so happy.
We were driving through the panhandle of Texas, stopped in the middle-of-nowhere-Almarillo with some rusty spray-painted Cadillacs sticking up out of the ground to mark our next destination of the road trip.
I had received a message that morning from her brother like some bad dream: Emi is in a very deep coma, and cannot survive without a respirator. The doctor has said that she will not wake up. She will be transitioning tomorrow night.
Maybe I should have understood that morning. Transitioning. But I didn't. I thought that he meant transitioning to the respirator. She needed help breathing.
At the moment my advisor called me and shattered the illusion I created. I needed help to breathe too.
I had had a plan. I was grateful that I happened to be on my way to LA so that I could visit her in the hospital every day. So that I could pray, so that I could fast, so that I could witness a miracle. I just thought that there was still time for a miracle.
God didn't give me time for a miracle. I didn't understand.
Emily and I became close our senior year of high school where we were co-editor's-in-chief of our high school yearbook. She's the one who came up with the concept "Anatomy" — pieces of a whole. She and I spent every day together working, laughing, on good days and bad days. She is so smart and a supremely talented writer. Her humor and wittiness was all her own. She always inspired me in yearbook with her writing and photography. At that point she didn't know how truly talented she was. She was only beginning.
As we went to college, she started at a community college before transferring to UCLA where I was. I was so happy to have her there with me. She was always working on something creative and cool. We went to a couple art shows together, she became involved in a quarterly magazine called baumtest that highlighted artists and writers, and I watched as she continued to evolve into the person that I knew she would.
I remember she came over and she told me about her online magazine idea. By then she had a great passion for writing, and self-published magazines.
As I sat there in the car with Matt, I suddenly was grasping at anything I could. Every memory I had with her. I couldn't remember. I couldn't remember the last time I saw her, the last thing I said to her. I scrolled through our texts, knowing that it had been recent. I was going to see her in Los Angeles. We were going to go to the desert together. She had another amazing creative idea. She was going to show me a cool project she was working on. There was a future and she was in it.
I just didn't understand. Where was the miracle??
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I remembered an experience I had heard recently. It was a woman who actually did die for a minute. And then she came back. But she didn't have a huge chance at living, it was possible her heart would stop permanently. Her family thought it was the end, and they gathered at the hospital. And the father, her husband, said to everyone: "If your mother lives, it will be a miracle. But if she dies, there is also the miracle of death."
Miracle of death. The phrase stuck with me. I didn't know what it meant. It didn't feel very miraculous then or on days when I'm driving and I forget and I think about calling her or texting her to see how she's doing, what other amazing new project she's thinking about.
But there is.
I saw the miracle at her memorial. All the people that gathered. Inspired words. Her writings and special objects displayed like a museum. Emily displayed. Honored. In my mind, I saw her looking at everyone, I saw her observing, interacting, appreciative and happy.
There is the miracle that she truly does live on. Not only in the remembrance of those she loved and loved her, not only in her writings and thoughts, and experiences she taught me and others, but in eternity. I believe that. I know that. She's transitioned into something greater.
So Matt and I took the spray cans we had previously bought — blue and white — and created something for her in the middle of this nothing. On layers and layers of other spray-painted Cadillacs. "For Emily" it says. In a sky of periwinkle blue and clouds of white. Surrounded by an encircled heart. Because in that moment, it's all we could do.
And no one around us saw, no one realized the depth of my sadness. No one knew what we were doing, who we were doing it for. But it didn't matter. It became. It existed. And it still does. Probably under more and more layers of spray paint. But it's still there. Just as life layers and continues to build. More memories. More happy. More sad.
She is permanently one of those many layers. Influencing all the other ones on top and in-between, whether anyone sees it or not.
She is always remembered.
In honor of this six month anniversary of her passing, her more-creative-than-me friends put together a week's worth of tributes and are compiling more into an online magazine. You can check it out here: http://www.potluckmag.com/
I'm really grateful for the celebrations of life, new beginnings, and the people I can rely on to get me through the harder things.