gay-weddings-remembering-loved-ones-bruce-and-kirsten[dropcap letter=”I”] love my dad. He’s my ultimate hero. A brilliant, gentle man and sweet spirit, his life was filled with love for so many people, but when you were with him, it felt like you were the only person who mattered to him. He was my biggest champion, both for my journalism career and in life in general. He cheered me on through anything I was involved in, caught me with a hug and a pep talk when I fell off the proverbial bike, and never failed to be there for me. When I went through my butch phase in high school (yes, this super girlie lipstick lesbian wore khakis, button-downs and a man’s wallet for a time), my dad loved it. He said he thought I looked cool in my grungy ripped jeans and plaid shirts. It was the Kurt Cobain era, after all. And when I came out to him at 19 years old, he embraced me even more. He lifted me up even when I didn’t know I needed lifting. He counseled me through my relationships through my twenties, and when my girlfriend proposed, he couldn’t wait to walk me down the aisle.

It was beyond heartbreaking when he passed away just 8 months shy of my wedding. None of us saw it coming: a relatively healthy 61-year-old man having cardiac arrest. But it happened.

It was devastating to lose him and to not have him by my side at my wedding. I wanted to honor him on that day, but I wasn’t sure how to do so. When Maria and I were with the florist going over the flowers we’d need for the day, I told her I still wanted to have a boutonnière for my father. Our florist offered to make a pillow for it to rest on in the first seat in the first row for our wedding guests—where he would have sat after he gave me a kiss on the cheek and a wish of congratulations. It was perfect. Liz Gudmundsson of Adaptation Floral Design designed such a sweet keepsake. The small pillow was sewn from her grandmother’s silk and then covered on one side with dusty miller, or lamb’s ear, a greenery that was also in my bouquet of pink peonies and ranunculus. Atop the pillow was my dad’s pinned boutonnière of freesia tied with a white ribbon. Today, it rests on a shelf on the wall above a framed photo of my father.

 

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During the ceremony, I really wanted to acknowledge that my dear dad wasn’t with us, but I also wanted to be careful not to make the joyful day a sad one. In addition to mentioning him in the program, along with our other dear relatives who’d left this earth, we had our minister do a moment of silence for all family who’d passed away, especially my father. Afterward, my dad’s older brother did a reading in his honor. It was a lovely poem about how my dad’s presence was in everything: the bright sun, the soft trees and the gentle wind. It was perfect, really, since my dad was such a nature lover, always outdoors. When my uncle got to the part about how my dad was in the blowing of the wind, a breeze flowed through our garden ceremony on a hot June evening in the South. I felt him then, as I do every day. He’s with me all the time.

Not having our loved ones at big life moments is hard, but we can find other ways to have them there with us. What are some ways you’ve planned to honor the people who have passed away before your wedding?

Photos: Kirsten Ott Palladino and her father Dr. Bruce Ott taken by family; memory pillow, Our Labor of Love 

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