This last week has been one of opposites – opposite views, opposite feelings, opposite personalities, opposite approaches, opposite reactions. If there is one moment or image that sums it all up, it is this – the smashing of a glass at the end of a wedding. Let me explain.
My little brother got married last weekend. I say “little” because he has always been my “little brother”, but in fairness he is 34 and 6″4 so not all that little any more. I have always adored my little bro – we never squabbled as children, mainly because I bossed him around and he complied! That says as much about me as it does about him, I’m sure. Anyhow. He has been with his now wife for over six years and they have been engaged for over a year and a half. No wedding plans were made for quite some time and it was only my secondary diagnosis that fired the starting gun for the happy couple. Opposite number 1 – my wedding was all but planned within a couple of weeks of my engagement.
Once they got going, the bride and groom organised their wedding remarkably quickly. It was a mere 12 weeks from choosing the date to the Big Day itself. This was no mean feat. In some circles this might be considered normal, but not for a traditional Jewish wedding which often takes up to a year to put in place. I am extremely impressed that the happy couple pulled it off – and did such an amazing job. For a couple that usually spend hours debating what to have for dinner and can’t make any decision without agonising, when push came to shove they really stepped up and organised a truly fabulous day.
I’m digressing. What I meant to tell you about is this. At the end of the Jewish wedding ceremony, tradition has it that the groom steps on a glass and smashes it. There are a number of explanations for this, of which the most traditional one is that even at happy times we should remember the destruction of the Biblical Temple, one of the greatest tragedies in Jewish history. Another has it that this is the last time a Jewish husband puts his foot down! It is the epitome of opposite emotions – sadness at a time of happiness.
We then proceeded to have a very happy celebration. The champagne flowed. The food was delicious. The bride was radiant. The groom gave a very witty speech. And my beautiful children – flower girl and pageboy – received millions of compliments. Here are a couple of sneaky pictures:
Everything was fantastic. Everyone was happy. But in the midst of this, Genghis reminded me of his presence. Having got up to join in the traditional Israeli dancing, I suddenly found I needed to sit down. Having chatted and drunk and enjoyed myself, suddenly I needed to go to bed. So I slipped off, far earlier than I had intended to. Opposite number 2 – my new self compared with the old me.
I didn’t go to sleep straight away. I pottered around the hotel room tidying up and getting ready for the next day. The wonders of modern technology and the wonders of my amazing husband meant that I was able to listen to some of the speeches remotely. And then it hit me. A tidal wave of emotion. Of opposites. Would the next time that all these happy family members assembled be at my funeral? Why were there so many healthy older people who were able to stay and celebrate when I am stuck with this terrible disease which limits me so greatly? How could everyone be so carefree when I am fighting for my life? And the only words that came to me, over and over and over, were “I don’t want to go in a box.”
Sleep eventually overcame me and in the morning it was a brand new day. After a fabulous breakfast I headed to work where I rushed around like a maniac trying to get things done. I really enjoyed what felt like a normal day at the office. The next day – the opposite. It was Big White Chair Day. I spent the following days semi-comotose as the chemo hit me hard this time. Another opposite – from busy lawyer to prone patient in a matter of hours. The haze gave me the chance to look back at the wedding and enjoy the memories and photos. And here’s another opposite – the happy couple don’t want their photos shared, preferring to keep them private. How different from my approach to life, in which sharing the most intimate feelings feels like a blessed relief.
Now that I am climbing out of the chemo haze I am struck again and again by the way in which life is full of opposites. I only have to go to Facebook to be presented with evidence. Almost every day there are photos of new babies or snaps of kiddies full of life. And almost every day there are ladies in my online community facing the end of the road. One beautiful girl lost her fight on Thursday. Another two have eloquently written about their proximity to the end and their decisions to enjoy what time they have left. They are full of grace and strength. Happy-sad. Life-death. Private-public. Busy-quiet. Life is full of opposites. We just don’t always see them.