Sunrise, Sunset

The loss of my grandfather days after our engagement party made us reflect on the real meaning of marriage.

This is the third installment in an engagement-to-wedding journal by Michael Kress.

Our parents threw us an engagement party recently. It was wonderful, amid our busy lives, to be able to take an afternoon and just celebrate with family and friends, those who mean the most to us. It was a time to feel blessed, a feeling we've had so many times during our engagement.

Two people were absent from that party, though, and they were on our minds throughout the day: my grandfather, who was very ill, and my Aunt Miriam, who stayed in Washington, D.C., to care for him. We knew the end was imminent for my grandfather, and it was hard to escape that thought, no matter how lost we got in the festivities, joys, and blessings of the day.

Two days later, on my birthday, my grandfather died.

When we got engaged last spring, Stephanie and I both hoped that Poppa Jack, as the family called him, would be able to attend our wedding. As he grew sicker in recent months and his cancer returned, our prayers turned to the hope that he would at least be alive for our wedding, even if he might not be able to physically make the trip from D.C. to New York. But in recent weeks, we were left hoping Poppa Jack would at least survive past our engagement party. He did that, allowing us to celebrate on Sunday before he slipped away quietly in his sleep two days later.


We will feel his absence greatly at our wedding. At my brother's wedding nine years ago, I remember feeling deeply touched as all four of our grandparents walked down the aisle. Few of my friends have had a similar privilege, and I hoped I would be that lucky. Sadly, neither of my father's parents will be there, my grandmother, Esta, having passed away three years ago. The losses make me cherish all the more my maternal grandparents, who will proudly walk down the aisle July 1, when I, their second-oldest grandchild, get married. But when it comes to that moment during the ceremony when Poppa Jack and Grandma Esta would have walked down that aisle, I will feel their absence acutely.

Poppa Jack wanted so intensely to be there. Recently, when his doctor asked him what he had to live for, among his few answers, I am told, was my wedding. And at the funeral, several family members told me that meeting Stephanie was one of his great joys during his last few months. Whenever I spoke with him, he would have me relate the details of the wedding again and again: where it was, exactly where in the New York area that is, how one gets there from D.C., and so on.

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Michael Kress
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