I came home a few days ago to a letter in the mail with the dreaded “official jury summons” stamp across the front. I sighed and picked it up. I guess it was time to me to have jury duty again. The last time I’d gone, in fact, was just a few weeks after Shawn died. Here’s part of what I wrote that day, from one of my oldest blog posts, Chuck E. Cheese and Jury Duty:
It’s 8:30 am and I’m sitting with 200 of my fellow DC residents, waiting to be called for jury duty. My friends all thought I should defer, that coming to jury duty would be just way too much for me right now. They may have been right.
And yet here I am. The room has salmon-colored wallpaper, florescent lighting and screens that are repetitively showing me coverage of the latest mass shooting. Two strangers just got in a screaming fight in the hallway over their seating arrangements, and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure if I told my therapist that I was feeling overwhelmed right now she would say it was totally justified. I’m pretty sure basically anyone would say that.
In retrospect, going to jury duty when I was actively grieving was probably not a good mental health decision. But then again, you can’t avoid it, at least not in DC! I thought back on this post as I opened the jury summons, wondering how I was going to find a sub to cover my classes while I was out.
But that wasn’t going to be my only issue. Get this – I’d been summoned to jury duty the week of my wedding!
I mean, for chrissakes. This was yet another issue to add to our growing list of wedding-related dramas. I’ve been able to balance some of them, but others – like the difficulty of getting a marriage license – were harder to process. I texted a few friends, lamenting this drama, and added at the end:
Well, if my wedding is cancelled due to Covid, at least I can go to jury duty!
I’m kidding. Mostly. I mean, I certainly have a valid excuse for jury duty that I’m going to use. But also, what once seemed like a great idea (have a fun wedding to celebrate after almost four years of widowhood and more than a year of a pandemic) is now looking much more difficult. People (kindly) bring it up with me all the time. What am I going to do about our wedding, now that the Delta-variant means Covid isn’t over?
Everyone has lot of opinions. Some people even have ideas about to do, which sounds like it should be helpful (and sometimes is) but is mostly just stressful. No matter what, there will be people who are upset, and no matter what, our solution(s) will be imperfect. Of course, when I’m stressed, my mind also goes to dark places where I imagine terrible things happening, like some catastrophe striking Chris or the kids. Or if I manage to rationally talk myself out of that, I imagine other more minor-but-still-terrible things, like Chris or I getting breakthrough cases of Covid and having to cancel the wedding. Hell, we’ve spent a number of sleepless nights trying to figure out if having a wedding at all is even a good idea. In the end, we’ve set up the precautions we can, and are hopeful that things don’t get worse. But the uncertainty remains, as does my anxiety.
When people find out I’m stressed, they often say some version of this:
In the end, it doesn’t matter, right? All that matters is that you’ll get to marry Chris!
And yes, that’s true! I am aware of the immense privilege that I have as a widow who has found real love again. In fact, if you told me the whole wedding was cancelled and I was only able to go to the courthouse tomorrow and get the legal marriage documents authorized and then eat spaghetti at home with Chris and the kids for our celebration, I would still be so happy. I’m so lucky to have him, and I know that what matters is that we get to be together.
And yet, I still want the storybook ending, the one with my dad walking me down the aisle as those we love wipe away tears of happiness.
I know! It’s crazy. I’m a 42-year-old woman who doesn’t even believe in fairytales. I don’t think that you neatly wrap up a story of grief with a picture-perfect moment at the end. I am living proof that widowhood is messy, that recovery is uneven, and that the idea of a “happy ending” isn’t usually like what you see in a Disney movie.
I still want it.
Don’t we all? Don’t we all just want to get to a place where we say, “okay, that bad stuff is officially over and now I’m a happy person!”
I guess I had in my mind that our wedding would be that time – the moment when everyone would just feel total joy for me and Chris, and see that everything was going to be great in our lives. I’m still holding out hope that things will unfold without too much drama, and that we can stand in front of our friends and family and pledge our love to each other. I want to show everyone that we’ve found this perfect, happy ending.
Because we have. I am so incredibly, goddamn happy, and I know Chris feels the same.
But that doesn’t mean either of us are immune from problems in our lives and in the world. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never have sadness or grief in the future. I get that. We may have to cancel our wedding, or restrict it even further. It could happen. And that feels really frustrating, but it is what it is. I’ve learned one thing in this life: Just because you go through pain doesn’t mean you don’t have to experience it anymore.
Even when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you can always get called to jury duty.