Honestly, I can’t remember. I don't remember wearing it to our honeymoon, much less the frame of mind I was in at the time. I can hardly remember the year Kevin and I were married in. I have to think about it. It was somewhere around 2001, 2002... 2003 maybe. It’s as if I intentionally block the year from my memory out of guilt or shame. Perhaps it was from staying so busy then, never slowing down enough to come up for air.
I came across this photo yesterday while thumbing through memories looking for ones I have of Joey. The anniversary of his death caught me in a tail swing. I thought I was doing so well. I have been on a healing journey last couple of years, Griefshare meetings just picked back up last week, and I had the serendipitous urge to watch Virgin River. How did I not know what the theme of this movie was about?
Normally it is the man that forgets a wedding anniversary.I have to think hard about it. “What year was it again?” This year is different. It’s an easy one. 20 years this past June. This photo was taken on our honeymoon cruise.
But why did I choose this dress. Tears begin to flow. I am certain Kevin wasn't aware of its origin and meaning. What could have I been thinking?
Looking at it now, I am at a place where I can appreciate that this photo is a reminder of the two loves of my life. I am glad I chose this dress.
Joey bought me this dress. He surprised me with it. It felt like one of those Hallmark Christmas Movie moments. I remember that day vividly. I love this dress. It fit perfectly, and it has angels on it.
He remembered how much I love angels. Our wedding cake had angel figurines on it. When we bought our mobile home together, I insisted thatthey throw in the angel photos displayed on the walls. I later got an angel tattoo to remind me of my guardian angel, his daughter Megan, who we both lost just three months after we wed. I felt that she was always looking after us. Even on the day l learned that Joey was taken from me in the car accident. I felt a sense of peace as I knew he was so over joyed to see her again.
I don’t know if I intentionally wore this dress to have a piece of him there with me. But I do know he was there with me when I walked down the aisle towards Kevin. I remember that moment. Tears just streamed down my face as I felt his presence.
Just like the day Mori Lee was born. Right before they made the first cut for my C-Section, my nurse anesthetist was making small talk to have me relax and distract me. When he asked me if I knew who Al Ledoux was, I gasped. Again, private tears welled in my eyes. Was it a coincidence that in this miracle moment in my life I would be asked about my past father in law from a completely different town than I was currently in? I kept Ledoux as my middle name, since I never was given one. I know it was his way of telling me he was with me. Winks from heaven. I felt his presence. Again I cried tears of sadness and joy.
So, I don’t know if I was just a young adult oblivious of the meaning of the dress she chose to pack for her cruise. Or did my subconscious guide me to choosing it. Or maybe I consciously chose to have him there with me. My memory during those years are few. Between the shock and pain of losing Joey, staying so busy with pharmacy school, remarrying, and having three babies within three years right after graduation, starting a new career, I was not living in the NOW back then. Cherishing every moment. I was always pushing forward. Rushing. Afraid of running out of time. Running out of time to have a family. To be happy again.
Looking back, I am glad I did choose this dress. I am glad I have this photo to memorialize it. It still hangs in my closet after 25 years.
When I read the letters we wrote to one another while he was away in Kuwait, I am reminded of petty fights we would have about me wanting to buy a new dress for a wedding or baby shower. We didn’t have the extra money to spend. Joey thought it was frivolous. He was a guy. I get it now. In one letter, he apologized and told me he wanted me to go out and buy whatever dress that I wanted no matter the cost. And that he loved me and if it was important to me it was important to him. I don't recall if I did or not. The gesture meant everything to me though.
I remember wearing this dress to a bar with Joey one night. We had a huge fight while there. Real marriages are messy. There are good times and bad. I choose to focus on the good. I choose to forgive the both of us for being human. Without the bad we can’t appreciate the good. Without dark there is no light. Like the day he brought this dress home to me. That was a good day.
Just typing and sharing this story gives me so much release and healing.
The journey of grieving is one of a lifetime.
In memory of you, Joey Wayne Ledoux. January 3, 1977- August 19, 1999
I will love you always and forever. Until we meet again,