The Morning After

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Somewhere in the past 48 hours, life has changed a lot.

While I have been a bridesmaid several times before, I have never been part of planning a wedding. I don’t know how people do it. I was only involved in the rehearsal dinner, and it was a lot to tackle! Over the past two days, I have assisted my family in planning and executing a rehearsal dinner, spent time getting to know an incredible young woman and her family, ascended and descended a very tall ladder countless times, and stood by my brother as he married his now-wife.

My little brother – the bald, chunky baby I held in the hospital during his first hours on this earth – is married. He is on a plane with his wife right now, starting their honeymoon. That’s a lot to take in.

There is something truly mysterious and beautiful about watching a baby grow into a young man. If you are an older sibling, you will understand what I am attempting to put into words. If you are a younger sibling, I hope you can get a glimpse into what it is like to see a life grow in your mom’s belly, to question and wonder and not quite understand what is about to happen to your family, and to meet someone for the first time and call them brother in the truest sense of the word.

I remember staring at my brother through the rails of his crib. I remember hearing him cry and wondering if he was wet or hungry or upset or uncomfortable or just obnoxious. I remember being ready for him to go back to the hospital. I remember being jealous of his need for care. I remember drinking Coke out of a baby bottle just because he was drinking out of a bottle and it seemed to work for him. I remember teaching him how to play, chastising him for not doing it right, holding him during a tornado, comforting him during scary times, and dragging him around like my own living doll. I remember changing his diapers in the backseat of the car and watching him get flustered by all the sand on the beach. I remember him setting his room on fire, and locking me in my room with a make-shift-boopy-trap, and getting into fight after fight after fight because we were just so different. I remember the time we thought it would be a great idea to build a boat out of Lincoln Logs and then realized that those things stain carpet really badly. I remember sharing a room and wanting to send every Power Rangers VHS tape up in flames. I remember the time he poured orange juice into the VCR. I remember Christmas mornings and birthdays and Fourth of July parades.

As I walked into the church yesterday and started putting on my make up and watching my now-sister-in-law get dressed, I could not wrap my head around whose wedding I was attending. It wasn’t until I started walking down the aisle towards my brother and his groomsmen that I realized my little turd of a brother was the handsome young man standing next to the preacher ready to make a lifetime commitment. It wasn’t until the preacher said, “Sam, you are starting a new family” that I realized exactly what was happening.

A precious couple I have known since childhood approached me at the wedding reception and said they were watching me during the ceremony because I seemed to go through every possible emotion while standing at the front of the church. At first, I felt shame that maybe I had done something wrong or been too dramatic. Then, I realized I actually HAD felt every emotion during the 30 minute ceremony! I was nervous to walk down the aisle. I was overwhelmed seeing my brother in the groom’s spot. I felt loved and relieved when he mouthed the words “Love you” as I approached him. I giggled when I took my place in front of two of my brother’s lifetime friends who were making faces. I was stunned when the doors opened and I saw my brother’s bride approach him for the first time. I felt sadness and anger when the preacher referenced our broken pasts. I felt hopeful when he boldly preached the Gospel in the homily and wondered if anyone would be offended. I felt humbled when I saw my brother’s eyes close during the description of what Jesus did for us and saw a smile cross his face. There was a tinge of grief in my heart when my brother placed a ring on Annie’s finger and I realized he would have his own family from now on and that things would never be the same. And after that, I felt incredible joy seeing Sam dance with his bride, laugh with his friends, sing at the top of his lungs as he danced, and cut his cake.

Standing on the curb at the end of the night, holding sparklers and watching my brother get into his 1997 Chevy Yukon with his wife, I was just in awe. My brother is now a husband. His wife is now family. They have a lifetime of unpredictable ahead of them.

As I drove home after the ceremony, I couldn’t really figure out what I was feeling. After months and months of preparation and prayer and conversation and anxiety, it was done. It happened so fast!

As I sit here in my pajamas, sore from my thighs to my toes from dancing and standing in high heels, tired to the bone, I can’t help but smile and cry at the same time. My little brother isn’t little any more. He is a man and a husband – full of integrity, compassion, faith, and love. Annie isn’t his girlfriend anymore. She is his wife, his companion, his partner, his best friend, and his new family. Life will be different moving forward, but in the most beautiful way possible. Praise God.

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