Februrary 28, 2009. Eleven years ago. I look at this photo and I don’t even recognize the bride, but she is me and I am her.

Her decision to love that man has brought me to where I am today.

At the altar, she mingled her bowl of salt with his, the only way they would be separated was if her grains and his could be separated, one by one. The small box they were poured into still sits in my closet, eleven years later, next to the small box that contains his ashes.

She said her vows to him, on that day. To love him through poverty and wealth, sickness and health, the good and the bad…until death parted them. She knew the sickness would be more prevalent than the health, marrying a man with cancer, therefore, she knew the death would come with it…someday.

Some day, but not on that day, on that day, love covered it all with a veil.

Either way, she vowed to hold his hand, and he hers.

And they did.

He held her hand as they walked into their first home together.

He held her hand as she succumbed to morning sickness when she was pregnant with their twins.

He held her hand when they welcomed their babies into the world.

He held her hand on the late nights when the circus of feeding and changing two babies in the dark never seemed to end.

He held her hand as she told him she was expecting again.

He held her hand, and quietly smiled, when he saw, this time, he was going to have a daughter.

She held his hand when his CT scans came through crystal clear revealing the monster in his body that had finally began to rear its ugly head.

She held it tightly when they were told he was only expected to live six more weeks, a week before their daughter was to be born.

His handhold started to loosen, as he grew weaker. But she held on, for as long as she could.

He wasn’t there to hold her hand when her daughter came into this world. He was in the wheelchair next to her, holding onto life for just a little longer to catch a glimpse of his baby girl.

She held onto that baby and his hand on the late nights she fed the baby and comforted him as his days mixed with his nights and morphine brought with it nightmares and daze.

She held that baby’s hand and his in his last hours. But he didn’t hold it back.

When he took his last breath, she didn’t let go of his hand. For what seemed a second and a lifetime in the same breath, she held on for him, until she had to let go.

She held onto their baby as she walked out of the hospital room. That bride you see in the photo died that day too.

What walked out of the room…well I’m still trying to find her, to pin her down exactly, but I know she’s still me.

I grab hold of our three children’s hands and I am reminded of our vows on that day, February 28, 2009.

They hold my hands in return and I am reminded of vows fulfilled. A lifetime lived in four years.

A life forever changed, because a bride decided to stay and hold her groom’s hand.

copyright 2020: @NicoleHastings/JustAMom

photo credit: Adam HousemanStudios