Captain and Tenille "Love Will Keep Us Together" was Candice and my wedding song. I must admit that I picked the song! What can I say, I am a 70's love song junky in large part thanks to my grandfather. This is yet one example of Candice's tolerance!!!!
Today (Sept. 30th) would have been our 8 year anniversary. I love Candice so very much. What I can say is the day Candice and I got married, this did NOT create a new found sense of love. We had already been in a relationship for 7 years; so after our wedding, our relationship went largely unchanged. However, what I did feel was an enormous shift in how people viewed our relationship. I could not be closeted about being married to a women but neither could my friends and family. We were legitimate - this was a bigger deal than anticipated.
When we got married, we asked our guests to stand by us and support us. I always thought this seemed odd-to be honest. But when sickness hits, and friends and family gather to help and assist, you quickly realize that a marriage requires that very support.
I also know a day will not pass the rest of my life, when Candice will not enter my thoughts. In a tearful moment in the hospital Candice looked at me and said "I bet you wish you didn't pick me now"---I cried and looked at her and simply said - "if I knew in the beginning that this would be our ending, I wouldn't have changed a thing, because you gave me so much happiness and love and you made me such a better person and I wouldn't trade these years for anything". This is my truth.
Excerpts from our wedding ceremony ~ officiated by my sister
Welcome to everyone on this special occasion. Regardless of the wonderful and loving relationship that Stephanie and Candice have shared up to this point, today, that relationship takes on a dynamic and special form. You have come to witness this exciting occasion as they demonstrate their love and faith in one another. It's a day of hope and celebration. The beliefs and thoughts about love shared by Stephanie and Candice are perhaps best expressed in the words of this poem:
"You were born to be together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in your silent memory.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of heaven dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bondage of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another your bread, but eat not of the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each other be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together.
For the pillars of a temple stand apart.
And the oak and cypress grow not in shadow"
Heather's reading: Stephanie and Candice asked me to say a few words on their behalf before we started the ceremony. For months I have bounced some thoughts around in my head and on paper. Thoughts about some funny stories or some tender moments to share, but when it came right down to it, all I wanted to say is this. To me, one of the greatest gifts in life is having someone to smile and laugh with through all those great moment in life; someone to support and carry you through the bad, and someone to just sit next to you on the sofa for the rest of those days that fall in between. Obviously I have known Stephanie her whole life. I have to say in all honesty, I don't think I have ever known her to be happier, or more secure in who she is as a person. I would think I could probably say the same thing about Candice. But then, that's what makes a successful couple isn't it? When you find that person that you can grow with and share interest with; someone who encourages you and grounds you? Over the past seven years, I have watched them grow into an exceptional couple. You never know what lies ahead or where the road will take you, but I know with all my heart that these two women will see it through together. All I could ask for Stephanie is that she would find someone who would love her whole-heartedly and unselfishly and that she would feel and do the same. I believe with all my heart she has found that with Candice...........
Today marks 6 months since Candice has been physically separated from me and there are days that the pain is unbearable, including today. However, every morning I have gotten out of bed and on the toughest days, I hear Candice tell me to move-just keep moving. Parker is her backup if I ever insist on arguing with her. Whether biking, walking or running; I am always in her company and I see her in many things. Some people are not spiritual in this way, but I can tell you that I have had many amazing memories since Candice has passed away because I have continued to pay attention to her. I know that I am not the only one who has felt her presence. Candice was so strong and so amazing that her energy and love continues in many of our lives daily. With her help, she built an army of love and companionship for me so that I have never felt alone.
Above is a gift that I received today from my sister, Heather. This gift brought me to an "ugly" cry. Ugly in the sense that I know I looked like hell, but not ugly in the sense that she totally captured Candice and my connection and our love for one another. I am so blessed to have the family that I have and when I say family - I extend this to my friends near and far. Thank you all for your love and support these past six months. I could not have stayed as strong without all the constant phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, visits, and invitations, thoughts and prayers.
On another note- in a moment of complete insanity, I applied to join Katie on the BIDMC Team to run the Boston Marathon in 2015! I received the email today that my application was accepted. Stay tune for my progress! However, it just felt right to run to raise money for BIDMC- a hospital that set the stage for the worst year of my life by being full of doctors, nurses and staff who provided a comfort that allowed Candice to be herself and want to "survive" her last days in the hospital with laughter, love and learning. Their team shared the magic of Candice ! I am crazy to do this race but I have no doubt that Candice will be with Katie and I and I am pretty sure she will be disguised with wings and an orange breast!
If you pay attention, you will find that every person who comes into your life was brought to you to serve a purpose. Sometimes we never get the opportunity to reflect on this and sometimes we don’t get the chance to let people know how they are valued. If you are open to it, one of the gifts of death for a survivor is the appreciation for how precious life is and how important human connections and love really are. Losing something causes great pain, pain that only comes from our abilities to also experience great joys. The two are very connected and often written about. We can make different choices when we suffer from a loss. Some may need solitude while some may reach for support. What I know is there is no wrong or right; there is just what we as individuals need to do in our own way to survive the heart ache.
When my mother died, I was 22 years old and I took a very different path of grieving than I am currently. I was protective, closed, and angry for some time. I was afraid to have that joy again for fear of it being stolen. It wasn’t until I met Candice 3 ½ years later, that I started to truly let new love back into my life. She was hysterical, intelligent, and confident. She also drove a hot sports car and wore short skirts. What else can I say, she was hot and SMART. I fell for her pretty quickly!
We were together 14 ½ years when Candice passed away. We both spent a lot of time the first few years taking turns going to graduate school. The hours of painful studying paid off by allowing us to pursue our career choices that brought us joy. Through the years, we had our losses and our gains, but we always had each other to love and support one another. We were a team and we understood that relationships required some sacrifice, compromise and work. After all, if you made time for the “painful” parts, you would find a connection that would give you just as many joyful moments too.
On August 31st, I had the great honor of witnessing a love that paralleled so many aspects of my relationship with Candice. AC Kim and Kim Pratt tied the knot after a “mere” 14 ½ years together. As a “first” wedding since I lost Candice, I was very scared that I would be so sad for a variety of reasons that I would have to run out. However, to my surprise, I was mostly filled with pure joy.
In order to explain this “pure joy”, I need to explain how these two individuals came to play in Candice and my life. In 2010, I joined a basketball league and honestly, there weren’t many people that would come out and watch the Sunday games. However AC and Candice were loyal and attended and this is how they formally met. It was an instant connection through humor and maybe “kindergarten crushes”. Their affection for each other soon become palpable….literally. They would get these big smiles and hug each other with great ferocity. Kim and I probably should have been a little jealous, but who could get in the way of such happy moments and besides it was adorable! Candice instantly placed AC at the top of the “list” as a great bear hugger. Note: AC replaced my father, who finds this unfair – but mostly because he is uber competitive.
As AC and Candice were busy hugging each other, Kim and I were busy working on a legendary film documentary for the basketball league that included Slumdog street begging, break ups and new connections, basketball trivia and of course our “peeps” affinity for cats. And by “we”, I mean mostly Kim (I played a small cameo role). Kim has an amazing gift for capturing things on film and with her good natured, welcoming and very funny charm, she creates an ease for anyone who meets her.
Shortly after that season, AC and Kim moved back to the Bay area. We would see them a few more times over the years at events like the Gaymazing race in Provincetown and we would always reflect afterwards about what great individuals Kim and AC were but also an amazing couple. Through Facebook, we would occasionally connect but we did not know each other like those in the same circle of friends over many years. I know that Candice and AC connected in 2013 via Facebook when both of them lost their mothers months apart. Although Candice never explicitly told me, I know that she ramped up her annual fundraising and team efforts for the NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coaliton) race in 2013 for AC.
When Candice was in the hospital, I would spend the majority of my days setting daily goals/wishes with Candice. I would do everything in my power to make them happen. These were mostly just simple pleasures, like ordering her favorite foods, having friends visit, ect... However on one particular day, Candice was feeling ambitious and announced a BIG request. She looked at me and said I could use a bear hug from AC. I was shocked! I was quick to tell her that I wish that could happen, but AC was too far away.
Little did I know that my network of human angels would go to work on this immediately. Needless to say, Niki was off connecting with AC and Kim on the task at hand. Candice’s illness was rapid and her time was limited but AC and Kim managed to make the trip from California (for one day!). Candice had already spoken her last words, but she had the ability for one more sign and it was a thumbs up after receiving an AC bear hug. Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for these two women and their enormous act of kindness.
What I knew that day was that AC gave Candice a moment of “pure joy” during a time of extreme pain. This is the kind of thing that I believe only comes from love. Witnessing AC and Kim getting married had moments of sadness for me, but with Candice in my heart and my whole being, I was able to feel pure joy for these two women who I have grown to love so dearly!
AC and Kim share a relationship with the same tenants of marriage that Candice and I tried to live by. I was thrilled that AC paraphrased and applied a quote from my blog into her vows to Kim: In truth though, I never thought our marriage was "equal" to most marriages ……. In fact, I always thought we had a far "superior" relationship. She couldn’t have been more accurate and it made me feel like I was passing them Candice and my baton knowing they would finish off this crazy race we call life with the gold metal.
Although, I couldn’t help being envious that I didn’t have the years ahead of me with Candice, this is my wish for you both as eloquently expressed in your ceremony: -“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” Winne the Pooh
Thank you AC and Kim.
With Joy and Love Always,
Stephanie (and Candice approved)