• Dr. Vin

Salvage


“Family: I regret to inform you that we have tested positive for Covid! We also made the decision to have the wedding with masks on and distancing. I will put a notice out on Evite now so people can make their own decisions and protect themselves!” (posted 9:25 am by my sister the day before her wedding)


My eyes grow big as I read this text and my body stiffens in alarm. I call my sister in a panic and want my heart to go right through the phone wires to comfort her.


“Oh No! I am so sorry to hear that.” We had driven ten hours a few days earlier to join other wedding guests, most of whom have already arrived in town. I gesture to my husband who is lying on the other bed in the hotel room, while I put my sister on speaker. She says,

“We can’t believe it. We didn’t feel well yesterday but thought it was just allergies. Then we tested this morning and we have it…I don’t know what to do.”


My mind races in circles for a moment, like ants do when you step on their anthill and all their marching in formation stops and they scramble. Fear grabs my chest as I hear my sister cough. I picture her and her fiancé with masks on, coughing through their backyard wedding vows tomorrow with seventy-five people watching. I shake my head “no”, and sigh as sadness weighs me down. I know she is in shock and putting on the brakes the day before the wedding, a wedding meticulously planned for over a year, is impossible for her brain to accept. It is hard for my brain to accept. It feels like someone just slammed the brakes on our fast-moving train and we are about to tumble off the cliff. I take a breath to steady myself and focus. I want to help my sister face this. I tell her,


“This is so terrible, after all this planning. But the problem is this new variant, BA5. Please read all about it and make your own decision. From what I read, this damn strain is more contagious than any previous ones. The first virus came along and one person infected three others, then a new strain, where one infected ten, now this newest strain, one infects eighteen and unlike 2020, with this latest strain, outdoors is no protection…I am so sorry.”


She let out a loud groan, thanked me, and said they would discuss what to do.

It would be hard to face the truth and let it sink in. They had spent eight months re-vamping their backyard for the big event, and all fees were paid to the caterer, the florist, and the rental company who had already set up the stage, the dancefloor, the lights, and brought the tables and chairs. The groom is originally from a Caribbean island and the wedding had a tropical theme, including palm trees, hibiscus flowers, water bubbling from a red vase, Jamaican food, and sorrel, a traditional island beverage. Men and women had picked out tropical shirts and gowns for the event.


I had this image of a wrench thrown into the works. The momentum of this wedding screeching to a halt like this was jarring and heart-rending. My husband and I just looked at each other dumbfounded and waited in heavy silence, while time was suspended.


Soon all of us guests got the text, “The wedding has been canceled due to Covid.” I needed to hear the voices of others. I called one sister and caught her just as she closed her packed suitcase and was about to get in her car and drive to the wedding. The rest of the day was a blur of reaching through the dust storm to grab hands. I talked to people, including eight of my siblings that day. What do we do now? What could be salvaged from the costly plans? One assertive sister took action and went to the bakery. “I need to cancel the wedding cupcake order.” The clerk answered, “No refunds.” My sister frowned, “Let me talk to the owner”. The baker was more compassionate, “Well, we bought the ingredients but did not begin baking. I will give you a full refund.”


I asked the bride, “What can I do?”

“Can you guys pick up the groom’s suit at the dry cleaner?”

I wore this heavy cloak of sorrow as I walked into the dry cleaners and waited for the clerk to bring me the outfit. She brought out this gorgeous pressed maroon suit with a tropical shirt. “I even ironed the turban”, she said. I felt sad carrying it and had this solemn sense like I was carrying a funeral outfit. We drove to my sister’s house. We had not seen the renovations, most of which they did themselves, except in photos. As pre-arranged we walked through the newly paved side yard, bordered by long palm trees that bowed to let us through. The palms had been potted a day earlier to be part of the entrance of the bride. It was the final touch to complete the setting. I pause, put my hand to my mouth and gulp back a tear before walking through the pathway.


We walked around to the backyard. Dozens of rental tables and chairs were standing against the fence, never to be set up. I hear the bride and groom from inside their dimly lit kitchen window. “Hi. Awe. Thanks for coming you guys. Oh, you can put the suit on the table over there.” I place the plastic-covered suit on the patio table and turned to see the heartbroken faces of my sister and her fiancé, as they cling to each other. I squint back tears as we stand facing them. My husband says, “We are so sorry. How are you feeling?” The groom answers, “My body feels like I was beaten, all my muscles are sore. We were feverish last night...And my aunt from New York. She will be here tonight and I am so sad that I cannot see her.” He rocks side to side and then places his head near my sister for support. She says, “I feel exhausted and devastated.” We mostly listened, “This is so sad, not the dream you had. We are so sorry.” We stay twenty feet from them and offer our condolences. It feels like we were meant to be there in person to help steady the bride and groom, but I notice small things too. I admire my sister’s long locs and empress-like hairstyle that she had gotten done for the wedding. “Your hair looks so beautiful.” After a while, the groom gestures to the yard and says, “Look at the backdrop we built, the lights, the stage, and the dancefloor. It is shiny. Go see it.” We walk further into the yard and pull back the heavy white cloth covering the reddish-brown parquet floor. He says, “Please dance.” My husband and I dance a sad tango and we giggle a little. They film us from inside their window. We smile and wave before we leave. Driving back to the hotel, my heart feels heavy but rich from grieving with them.


That night we get a call from the bride at 9:30 pm.

“Oh, are you guys in bed?”

“Yes, but just reading.”

The groom gets on the phone, “Can you please go greet my relatives in the hotel lobby? My uncle and his son drove in and my aunt and her daughter are here from New York. They just flew in for the wedding and know no one here.” I said, “Sure.” I told my husband, who was half-asleep. He yawns but says, “We need to be of service to them.” I write down the names of the relatives, then get up, change out of my pajamas, and put on a skirt and blouse. My husband dresses, pockets our room key, and opens the door. “Wait”, I say and grab a blank greeting card with a painting of a hibiscus on it. I write down their names and ask my husband, “What should I say?” He says, “Tell them welcome to the family.’’ I smile. We take the elevator down two flights and saw some tired-looking travelers sitting together in the lobby. I try to be cheerful as we introduce ourselves, and welcome them. The New York aunt looks into my face with sad eyes and says, “We got the text when we changed planes in Utah. I really wanted to see my nephew.” We commiserated, “I am so sorry. We are all so sad that this wedding had to be canceled”. My husband and I enjoy hearing the uncle's island accent and all of us chat a bit. We tell them that we had delivered the wedding suit and visited safely from the bride and groom’s backyard today. One cousin’s eyes light up, “Maybe we can get an Uber, drive to their house and see them from across the street tomorrow. Don’t tell them.” I smile at their plan and we take photos of all of us.


The next morning, which was the wedding day, they did just that. For the rest of the weekend, they visited the sights in town the four of them had a mini-reunion. And that became the thing. Other guests clustered in small groups to visit. In the afternoon of the canceled wedding day, two of my sisters, then my brother and his wife appeared in the backyard of the bride and groom and brought them food. One sister took the outdoor stage with her ukulele and sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” As evening fell, the red, white, and green lights that had been set up for the wedding, brightened the yard. From inside the house, the masked bride and groom blink at the lights and do one slow dance. Not the dance they had planned for this day. Her eyes fill with tears as she lays her head on her fiance’s chest.


I looked into those haunted eyes, which never left the camera and I felt so sorry for her. Their dream wedding was dead, sabotaged by this damn virus, a virus that keeps finding ways to hurt us.


That night I saw a video of the groom light up as he greeted his relatives on their surprise visit from earlier that day. He grins, waves, and jumps with joy as he repeats an island greeting, “Bless up, bless up!” He had found a spark of light in the dark.