I remember when I was in high school, I was a Senior, and I said to my Mom, “I can’t wait for this school year to be over, so I can get to college.” She was sitting at our dining room table, reading the paper, and replied back to me, “Don’t wish your life away Miss Jeffiner, it goes by fast enough.” (Yes, one of my mom’s nicknames for me is Jeffiner.) I’m sure I did the classic teenage thing and rolled my eyes and thought, "what are you talking about, it can’t happen fast enough.”
Now here it is, the day after the Season 15 Premier of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” We joined the show on Season 12. That seems impossible to me. Honestly, Season 12 seem like yesterday.
With this new season starting it’s put me in a reflective mode. As I look back, much has transpired, but it seems like the last three months of 2018 were huge for our family…Sean and Bri got married. Brenna decided on a new career path, while continuing her love of massage therapy. Business wise, we made a few changes, and it’s keeping us on our toes.
On September 15, 2018 Sean married the beautiful Bri. It was a lovely day, in every way. Even the rain and wind couldn’t dampen our happiness and joy.
I always say that life is crazy. You never know what is going to come your way. Some things break your heart. Some things fill your heart. Sometimes the breaking heart is comforted by the sneaky filling of your heart…let me explain that.
I am a sign person. Sometimes they just show up, and they make me smile. Sometimes, I look for signs, or they find me, in times when I need them most. You know, a 4 or a 14 here, a scallop shell there, the name of our company, St. George Marine, or my favorite word popping up randomly. I always see the signs that things are going as they should be.
This wedding story is filled with signs. (It will all make sense by the end of this post, I promise!)
You know, when you have kids, all you want for them is to be happy. There is heartbreak along the way as we teach them life’s lessons, and sometimes life teaches them lessons…in the end, you just hope they are happy.
When Pat was first diagnosed with ALS, Brenna was 16 and Sean was 14. With an ALS diagnosis, the life span is typically 2-5 years. After our ALS diagnosis, there were many things that went through our minds, and a A LOT of swear words. One thing we both eventually realized was that Pat would never be able to walk his beautiful Brenna down the aisle when she got married. He wouldn’t be around to help adjust Sean’s tie, and he prepared to walk down the aisle to await the love of his life. We knew this would be a reality.
We never tried to focus on what Pat would miss. We always tried to focus on what we had. However, for both of us, this was hard. Again all you want is for your kids to be happy, and we both knew that the kids’ wedding day would be a day where he would be sorely missed. It broke our hearts.
Pat lived with his ALS for 8 years. In 2013, he passed away. It was heartbreaking for all of us and there are days that it’s still stunning he is gone. (We know we aren’t unique in this grief and for all of you that have experienced loss…big hugs.)
The days come and go, you learn to move through the heartbreak and the light starts to shine again. Brenna continued on in Montana with her massage therapy and her horse riding. Sean continued working and fishing in the Bering Sea. The business grew and I ventured down some new paths as well.
As it seems to be in our family, boy meets girl, in Alaska, they fall in love and they get married.
In Dutch Harbor Alaska, Sean met the lovely Bri. They spent more and more time together and then when Sean left for Alaska, Bri and I spent more and more time together. Getting to know each other. Our first real weekend together was well…the lovely Bri spent the entire weekend in bed being very sick! We had plans to do girl stuff, but instead, she was tucked in, in Sean’s old room. We bonded over Ginger Ale and then finally crackers.
At one point Sean said, “I think she’s the one Mom.” A bit later, Brenna and I received a text. With three beautiful rings. I of course burst into tears and, said “they are all so lovely honey.” He said, “I know, but which one?!” I picked my favorite, Brenna picked her favorite and Sean had his. We all picked the same one. I figured that that was just one of the signs that the broken heart was being filled by the sneaky heart, or as I say, Hi Pat!
Later, another text, followed by a phone call! Sean had proposed, and Bri said yes! I was with my Mom and sisters in Ketchikan. I shared the news with them. We all shouted and cheered and and the car was filled with happiness. But mixed in with that happiness there was a small pocket of sadness. In moments of happiness, there will be a tug of sadness. I realize It’s just one of those things that will be. Now it’s ok, I get it and understand it now.
Once the news was shared with family and friends, the wedding planning began. It was a count down to September 15th! Wedding showers were had and the decision was made. We decided to have the wedding on Camano Island. It was a place Pat loved and Bri wanted to do it there, so Pat’s spirit could be there. To me, that was very touching that Bri thought to include Pat. She sensed that since Pat couldn’t be there physically, he would definitely be there in spirit. Another sign, in my mind.
Much work was completed by many hands to make the property wedding ready. There was much organization and coordination and grass growing…oh the grass growing. Hot tip. Do not try to grow grass in July…which happens to be the hottest July on record for like 1,000,000 years!
Eventually the grass grew, the tables and chairs arrived as did September 15th arrived…cloudy, cold and with the look of rain in the air. Typically, September 15 on Camano is about 75 and sunny. This one year. It was not. As guests started to arrive, the rain held off. As guests started to get seated for the ceremony, the rain and wind started!
The beauty of the love stories being told made the rain barely noticable. Stories first by Brenna about our love for Camano Island, and how Pat knew that he wouldn’t be around to enjoy it long term, but wanted us to have a place for our family….for days like September 15th. The other stories were told by Sean and Bri as they wrote their own wedding vows and gave us all an insight on their joyous love.
Love and joy was also woven into the ceremony by Theresa, who officiated over the wedding of Sean and Bri. There was love and joy and a few tears (probably mostly by me and Bri’s mom, Lisa) when Bri’s dad walked her down the aisle to meet Sean. To this day, I will never forget the love and joy on my son’s face as he saw his bride walk down the aisle to greet him and begin their life together.
It was in that moment that I teared up…really I’d been doing ok most of the day. But it was in that moment when I remembered Pat the most. Our wedding day, our excitement. And here it was me, alone.
Pat should have been there…(this is where I swear, and say the big fat F word and combine it with “you” and “ALS.”)
But instead I had all these memories of our life together. For every thing that happened in our wedded, family and business life, the one thing that always kept our spines straight and standing tall was love. I saw that in the faces of Sean and Bri. Love…the love that will keep you standing when you feel like falling.
After the ceremony we gathered under the big white tents that had been set up, in case of rain….thank goodness! The evening started to flow with food, wine, speeches and toasts for the newly married Sean and Bri.
Time rolled around and soon it was my time to make a toast…on behalf of Pat. I had two parts, two things that I wanted to convey. I did fine with the first one. Maybe because I had talked about it before at the rehearsal dinner. It flowed. That second part, that I wanted to say on behalf of me. Well I totally choked. I started to say the words, and suddenly my brain just locked up. I raised my glass and we toasted to Sean and Bri. Then I sat down.
So if you will bear with me, this is what I wanted to say that night….this is the part where all the signs are revealed. This was the part I choked on. There were just too many emotions and my brain was on overload.
“All we want is for our kids to be happy. There are times in life is hard and the sadness on the face of your children is heartbreaking. And I’m talking about before all the big things like a devastating boat loss, cancer and ALS. I’m talking about the time when you skinned your knee skateboarding or horsebackriding. But then those big things slammed into our lives, and it was the soul crushing unfairness that was heartbreaking.
But tonight, even though we all missing the one person that we know should be here and would be leading this party with a joke here, and a laugh there, his blue eyes twinkling…But amid the sadness in our hearts, there is great joy.
Great joy because I am able to reflect on all that Pat has given to me and left me…this lovely venue we are at, a thriving bunisess, memories and love, But mostly for our beautiful BrennaBoo and of course, our SeaniePoo. Great joy because our bouncing baby boy, SP found in his best friend, the love of his life…the lovely Bri.
Sean and Bri, I can see that happiness, the love an joy you have for each other, when you look at each other. I mean like actually see it! Yes, I know that sounds corny, but a mom can just tell a look what’s going on in the eyes of her child…well this mother can. Your eyes reflect your love for each other.
Sean, Remember, all dad and I ever wanted for you was to be happy. Life was hard, you deserve it. I see it tonight, I feel it tonight, in all these people that have gathered here tonight. This is your community. Everyone single person is here because of love, love for you, love for our family, love for Bri’s family, love for Pat. These are the friends who surround your world now. These are the people that will help you when your steel spine is bending. They will help you stand. But they will also celebrate the joys and the highs as you begin your life together tonight.
Bri, I know I have said this many times, but all Pat and I wanted was for our kids to be happy. Thank you for coming into our world, our family, becoming Sean’s best friend, and now his beautiful lovely wife. You make him happy. Your beauty, your confidence, your intelligence, your energy, and your passion is the perfect combination to meld with Sean and together you will be a force. But I think there was a bigger force at work…bringing you two together.
I’m a believer in signs. Some days I feel like Pat is always dropping little hints of encouragement along the way. Shortly after meeting you Bri, as we were getting to know each other, I'm pretty sure it was that weekend when you were at my house, we were chatting and I asked you when your birthday was.
You replied, “October 14.”
I said, “Well, there we go, Brenna’s is September 4th, so there is 4 and 14.” Hi Pat!
We laughed and then you said, “yes, my birthdate means I’ll never spend it with Sean as it’s the day before King Crab season starts.” I said, well, let’s celebrate your half birthday, when would that be. You smiled and said, “April 14th.” My eyes got wide and I said, “that’s Pat’s birthday.” We kind of stood there and smiled and I’m sure I started crying. Another Hi Pat!
Then for some reason I asked what your middle name was…for those who know me and those who don’t, my favorite word in the whole English language is Joy. I love it for a multitude reasons, it reminds me of Christmas, it reminds of life when it’s good, and even when it’s not, I know joy will be back. The word joy just makes me happy.
Well guess what, Bri’s middle name is Joy! I stood there, stunned into silence and all I could think of was, “wow Pat you are sneaky and very very good.”
Bri, I think Pat sending you to us was his way of wanting Sean to be happy. I think it was his way of being a part of this wedding day, in his usual sneaky style. I think it was his was his way of bringing joy to us in a way that was completely unexpected and now very much appreciated. I think it was his way of saying “Welcome to the family.” We can be a tough crowd sometimes. I remember telling you a couple times that it wasn’t to late to run away because we are a little crazy sometimes! I think he brought us joy in the form of you because you are spectacular in many ways and in just the ways that will complement Sean. We as a family will be stronger for that. So welcome to the family Bri, may you and Sean live in joy in happiness. During the times that they aren’t don’t worry, happiness and joy will help you find your way and probably a sneaky guy named Pat will be leading the way.
Let’s lift our glasses to Sean and Bri, and love, happiness and joy!
As I finish this blog of 2018 and 2019, I want to say if you are new to my blog, and want to read from the beginning, scroll all the way down to the bottom and read up!
Thanks for reading along and I promise, there will be more soon!