The days of summer were winding down. In just two short weeks, I’d be heading back to New Jersey to begin a new chapter at Rutgers. I felt good about everything.
I returned to my young adult grief support group that week (this time with Courtney) and told everyone the good news about how everything had become so very CLEAR. By this time I was feeling like the poster child for how to “do grief.”
“You’ve done all the right things,” our group leader, Diana, said. “Most people don’t get to take time off from work (and life) to grieve.”
She was right, I knew my experience had been special. And because I’d done it so well, I was all better. That was a good night in support group. The group let me know that my presence would be missed and we promised to reconnect in the winter months for a reunion.
Having said goodbye to my young adult grief support group, there were just a few more things that I needed to do before leaving Ohio. One of those things was to fly to Las Vegas for Glitter Pop’s wedding. Gayle was getting married at the Bellagio and I was the presiding minister.
My mother had been asking me all summer if I really felt up to this. “Do you really think you should be doing a wedding right now, given the fact that you’ve just lost Kesner?” Gayle even asked if I still felt up to it. “Of course I do, don’t be silly,” I told them. I could separate my emotion from the joy of this celebration. And I didn’t want anyone else to marry them.
Plus I was better, healed from grief, I would be fine.
I flew to Vegas the following weekend…
I treated myself to a private lunch in a piano bar when I arrived at the Bellagio on Saturday afternoon. I would only have a few moments to myself before the events of the wedding began. As I finished my smoked salmon dish, I heard the click click of heels coming around the corner, and a high pitched:
It was the bride-to-be. Glitter Pop had come to meet me and take me to the chapel to rehearse the ceremony. The wedding would be the following day; a mid morning ceremony, followed by a fabulous Sunday brunch.
The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner were lovely. There was so much love and excitement amidst the wedding party and it was a gift to meet the family and friends of the bride and groom. I was having a good time, except for occasional thoughts I was having about Kesner. I could control them, though.
I was better now, and this was a celebration.
That night I stayed in the hotel room with Glitter Pop; it was just her and I in her room on the eve of her wedding. It was special. Her ivory wedding gown and my ivory preaching robe hung sided-by-side in preparation for her big day.
Before bed, I took off my wig and showed Gayle my jagged two-inch home-cut afro. “I know this hair cut wasn’t part of your ‘vision’ for the wedding, so don’t worry, I promise to wear my wig,” I joked. We had a good laugh about that for a few minutes before bed. My impulsive home-do was definitely not apart of the “vision.” I would continue to hide it..
The next morning I woke up at 5AM; I was still on east coast time. It was dark outside (sans the vegas lights), and the television was on with low volume. Gayle was sitting up in bed next to me with a green avocado mask on her face. “Good morning!!” she said- cheerfully- as I cracked my eyes open; she was so excited.
Rather than go back to sleep, I decided to join her. I got up and put on an avocado mask also; and the two of us sat side-by-side in the bed, with green faces, waiting for the day to begin. We ordered room service and watched television. It was cute.
I was having more thoughts of Kesner though: What if this was our day? What would I be doing right now? What would he be doing? Who would be around us?
I would keep these thoughts at bay. It was only natural that they were surfacing, but this was Gayle’s day. A happy day.
Things moved quickly after that. The bridesmaids came to the room to fetch Gayle. They were already dressed and it was time to get her to the bridal suite to get ready. I stayed back in the room for a few minutes longer to look over my wedding sermon and get myself ready. Then I met the party in the bridal changing area so that we could pray together before the ceremony began.
As we waited in the bridal suite, I got a text from Klay: “hey just arrived, is there anywhere that I can change?” Klay had just been at another wedding on a vineyard in North Carolina the day prior, he’d taken a red-eye flight to get to Vegas just in time for Glitter Pop’s nuptials. “Tell him to meet us here,” Gayle responded. And a few minutes later, in walked Klay.
Everyone errupted into applause when he entered. I am not sure why we were clapping, Klay just has that affect on people. It was a dramatic entrance. The wedding could begin. Klay was there. And I was so happy to see him.
I could do this.
The ceremony was beautiful. It all went so quickly and before long we were at the reception. Klay and I were seated together and we had a great time cutting up and cracking jokes. I needed him there. I was mostly fine, but there was one moment when I got a little teary, wishing it were me. Thankfully that moment was brief and Klay was there.
All was well.
That afternoon, as we were leaving the reception, Klay and I ran into Hazel Dukes walking out to the pool area in her bathing suit. “Come out and join us, Toni and I got a Cabana..” She said. Hazel and Toni are my Link sisters who had been amongst the invited guests at Gayle’s wedding. They were smart to reserve a cabana by the fabulous Bellagio pool for the afternoon. And Klay and I were lucky beneficiaries of their gracious invitation. “We’ll be right there,” we told Hazel.
Klay hadn’t brought any pool attire. We stopped in a store to see if we could find him some swim trunks, but they didn’t have anything that suited his taste. He decided, instead, to go to the pool in his black Calvin Klein underwear.
“Nobody will notice if I just act natural” he told me. And he was right. Klay walked through the Bellagio lobby and sat by the pool for hours in a grey Calvin Klein V-neck Tee and black Calvin Klein briefs and nobody had a clue. It was hilarious.
We had a nice afternoon, with mango martini’s by the pool. And later we went out with a large group for seafood. Everything was just as I’d expected. All was well.
That night, Klay and I stayed at the Flamingo. Our time at the Bellagio was up. We’d paid for a cheap sixty dollar room for our last night in Vegas, but when we arrived, all of the cheap rooms were full. “We’ll have to put you in one of our penthouse suites for the night,” the front desk manager explained. “Of course,” we obliged. The suite was fabulous, the next comfortable place where I would stay. But we didn’t stay up for too long; utterly exhausted, we each climbed into our beds and went to sleep almost immediately.
That night I dreamed that there was a man panhandling in the bellagio looking for change. He was deaf and mute and his face was covered, but you could tell he was young. In my dream, I knew with absolute certainty that this man was Kesner.
This was my first dream about Kesner and he was a deaf mute panhandling in the Bellagio!!??
For weeks I’d been desperate to dream about Kesner. Talithea told me that when her brother died she had frequent dreams about him – visitations from him. Talithea’s brother was shot and in her dream he came to her with one half of his body paralyzed. He told her that this is the way he would have been if he had lived; she wouldn’t have wanted him to live like that.
Well what was I supposed to make of the fact that Kesner was a deaf mute panhandling in my dream??! Would this have been the way he would have lived if I had “saved” him? Would the stroke (I was certain it was a stroke by this time) have left him in that condition? Was this my visitation?
I woke up in tears. I was so not ok! I was hysterical. Nothing about me was ok. Why the hell did I think I would be ok? I was not better at all!!!
I had an early flight and all I had to do was get my few things organized to get out of the room and into the cab. It was the hardest task ever. I cried and cried and cried. At some point Klay got up and sat next to me for a bit, but nothing was helping. I was better off dead!
I proeeded to cry profusely the entire way home: On the way to the airport, in the airport, on the plane, in cleveland airport, and in the car all the way back to my mom’s condo – I sobbed. And for the next two days I sat on the couch under a blanket in the den and watched TV in the dark.
I guess I wasn’t as healed as I thought.
I do not regret performing the wedding, but I wasn’t as good as thought I was. I wasn’t better, I wasn’t healed.
Grief is like a wave and I guess I was just in the calm for a while. But the calm passed; and just that quickly, I was swept up into the darkness once again.
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012