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I love weddings. They bring out my softer side, and that’s not an easy thing to do. I haven’t been to many weddings though, not in comparison to the funerals. I feel a little out of place sitting in the church pew, staring at the tense shoulders of the grooms back instead of a coffin. I like the atmosphere and even the noise. It beats the flat line silence of a funeral, where everyone’s either crying or trying not to cry. The slow lulling of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ silences everyone. We all stand and turn to see the bride in her wedding dress. She’s clutching her flowers tightly, taking a breath before she starts walking, arm hooked in another man’s arm who looks too young to be her dad. People are getting married older these days. It’s not like a few years ago, where you would have been married with three kids by the age of twenty-one. This woman’s pushing fifty. She’s beautiful, despite the stress of the last few months. I bet she hasn’t been this happy for weeks.
‘She suits being a bride, doesn’t she?’ I ask the woman next to me. She ignores me. The bride’s a little teary. I notice it when she walks past the pew where I stand when she quickly brushes a tear away with her hand. She doesn’t even see me, she doesn’t see any of us. It’s like the only person in the room is her husband to be; He doesn’t look quite so beautiful, I have to admit. His whole body is shaking. I wish someone would just give him a chair to sit on, because I don’t know how he’ll stay standing for an hour. He doesn’t seem phased though. He’s looking at his bride, smiling like nothing’s wrong. He doesn’t break eye contact with her as she walks towards him. It’s like he’s trying to disguise how ill he is, just for her. He doesn’t look one bit self-conscious about the bandage around his neck. He hasn’t even tried to hide the tube that helps him to breathe. He just doesn’t care. When his bride reaches his side, he searches in the folds of her dress for her hand. She meets him half way, twining her arm around his like a vine, becoming his foundation. I heard the bridesmaids gossiping earlier, talking about how he spent every penny he had on her today. His own suit is second hand and untailored… It’s sad to say, but it shows as the suit hangs limp on his skinny body. Had he worn it six months ago, it would probably fit him just right. But this illness has stripped him of his health, his weight and his looks. It’s not a bad suit all things considered though. He did only have four weeks to plan this wedding, with only the savings he had on him at the time. Terminal lung cancer has a deadline after all.
I already know that I’ve left this too long. It’s a shame, I don’t like to make happy stories so sad. I stand from the pew just as he says ‘I do’. I straighten out my black robe, and self- consciously look at crowd, checking if anyone can see me; of course they don’t notice me. They never do until it’s their time.
I look at the couple, exchanging a kiss while the photographer hurriedly snaps photos of them. I figure time can wait. I can give them five more minutes together before I take him. It can’t hurt to let them get a few more photos of the dead man and his widow.