Tag Archives: Wedding

Tribute to Mom: Behind The Bucket List Wedding Dress Story

verily magazine


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, this is your story…

There are many treasured moments that I shared with my Mother, and then there were moments that have changed me — even though it has taken time for me to truly understand how. I first wrote this piece that Verily magazine just published back in 2012. Part of my grieving process a year after my Mom passed, I wanted to capture the beauty of that experience. My desire was also to have the story published, which I attempted a few times that spring without success. I knew that in its due season it would be shared, but it likely would still be lying dormant in my archives had the Verily Editor not reached out for another story and my husband not encouraged me to give it another shot. I’m grateful to him, and my friends and family that have shown their love and support.

Read, “I Learned the Secret to a Happy Marriage While Fulfilling My Mom’s Dying Wish” here.

BONUS: Scroll down below the pictures for an unpublished bonus part of this story, an exchange that reminded me God’s loving care and tender mercies in the final weeks of my Mom’s life. It is the Year of Mercy after all.

This story really is a tribute to the woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, Godmother, Aunt, cousin, friend — all of who she was, and the profound impact on our lives and the imprint that she’s left on our hearts. These are pictures captured while I was trying the dresses on for my Mom, as well as a bridal portrait with my Sweet Mother Mary and my Mom’s Rosary, wearing my wedding dress and my birthstone jewelry that she gave me. Also, I had to include a shot with Mary Katherine, the sweet dress shop owner, that made it all possible. {Bridal shot by John Wehlage}

wedding dress hospicemom bucket listmary katherines fine ladiesmonth of maryMary Katherines wedding dresses


…Changing out of the last dress, my heart had expanded.  Humbled, I confided in my new friend, “My mom loves Angels. There are over seventy that she has collected, all over this house. Mary-Katherine, you were our Angel today.”

“No, it was my blessing,” she responded, without hesitation.

“I am a one-year breast cancer survivor,” she told me. She had been a Medical Social Worker for about twenty years, and had served on the Board of Hospice for five years. I was now making it a habit of crying to Mary-Katherine.

Throughout her second battle with cancer that eventually claimed her life, Mom reminded us that we can laugh and find joy amidst the suffering of life. She cherished the opportunities to celebrate life and love in all circumstances. I hardly expected to have a profound experience of love while trying to cross one more thing off Mom’s Bucket List; yet I discovered a love that draws people together and carries them through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.

As it is Mother’s Day, I send love and blessings to all the mothers in their many faces: moms, godmothers, foster moms, adoptive moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers, spiritual mothers. Happy Mother’s Day! I also send my love and prayers to those whose mothers have passed, to grieving mothers, and women who grieve to become mothers – the Lord knows your suffering, may you know His peace.

If you haven’t read my previous article at Verily, 6 Pieces of Hard-Earned Advice I Gained From My Single Years,” check it out.

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Mardi Gras Bridal Shower

Have you heard the expression, “Eleventh time’s a charm?”

No? Maybe I made that up, since I will be standing amidst the Bridal Party in my eleventh wedding (besides my own) in April of this year. But, since it is for one of my nearest & dearest girlfriends, Ms. Kelli, it IS a charm! Both my Hubby and I were asked to be part of the wedding party, and I was asked to be the Matron of Honor.

Yes, it’s my first wedding as a Matron. And I am so glad it is for my Soul Sister and her beloved!

OK, stop thinking of me as the real-life version of Katherine Heigl in “27 Dresses” and let’s get to the Mardi Gras party fun stuff!

So, the Maid of Honor, Julie, and I were co-hostesses in this Mardi Gras Bridal Shower endeavor. Shout out to my co-hort, my other half of our A-Team Party Planners extraordinaire, WHAT WHAT?!! (It’s better when we say that in person…sorry…moving on…).

All of the ideas below were either conceived (or respectfully borrowed) by us, The A-Team. They were put into action through weeks of shopping, planning, coordinating, spray-painting, gluing, favor-making, menu-creating, collaborating, and finally executing SUCCESSFULLY this past weekend!

This is the Bride and I towards the end of the shower, and see the big happy smiles? Ok, it’s hard not to smile when you’re about to eat King Cake.

Mardi Gras Bridal Shower

To get into the true Spirit of this post, I highly recommend listening to some real Cajun’s singing the famous Mardi Gras Song. I loved listening to Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys when I lived in Cajun Country, so here’s what it looks like live!

The time: Bridal Shower was held midday, from 3:00-6:00 pm on the Saturday before Mardi Gras

The place: Lafayette, Louisiana at the home of the Bride’s Mother

The theme: Mardi Gras! Everything colored Purple, Yellow, and Green

The invitation said:

A Mardi Gras fan, come, join, as we celebrate the “Bride to Be”.

Dress for the theme, a bon couer, prizes for joining in the revelry!

Wear your best mask, Mardi Gras colors, costume or ball gown,

Join in the fun, making for the most unique Bridal Shower in town!

The good times need not cease, so be not afraid.

If you’re game, let’s continue, until the evening parade!

We gave the guests beads when they arrived. During that time, I enlisted the help of one of the Bride’s relatives, having all the women fill out a card in the Spiritual Bouquet – our group gift to the Bride and Groom. More on that later.

We kicked off the party with food and fun. The women were invited to participate in a mask making contest, with two tables set up with all kinds of glitter, glue, decorations, and paper masks spray painted in the theme colors by Julie.

Mardi Gras Masks

Decorating Masks

Mardi Gras Mask Making

Mardi Gras Mask

We were happy to see so many of the guests participating! While they decorated their masks, Cajun/Zydeco Fais Do Do music played in the background, and they grazed on the large spread of appetizers.

Mardi Gras Food

Mardi Gras Bridal Shower Candy Bar

Mardi Gras Candy Bar

That’s a Mardi Gras Themed Candy Bar, and it was a hit! Julie and Emily worked really hard to find candies that were only purple, green, and yellow (including lemon heads, sour apple licorice pieces, purple chuckles, etc…). My Hubby and I worked on creating favor bags – small cello bags with labels of the name and date of the bride and groom, with the tri-colored ribbon ties adhered on each bag.

Note on the decor pictured above: That’s a panel of curtain that I laid over a counter top, with some purple runners the Bride had given us to use, and lots of theme-colored bows with ties strewn everywhere.

More decor fun facts. I made that sign, “77 days until I Do” out of scrap book paper, foam board, and paint. The same scrap book paper was glued onto white cardboard scrapbook pages and placed around the sign on draped the purple ribbon, held on by clothespins. (After the Bridal Shower, I gave the Bride-to-Be the 3 metal rings to hold the scrapbook together, and the decor has now become a keepsake gift!) Across the top are hung hand painted paper masks, with the names of the couple and their wedding date, strung together with ribbon.

Mardi Gras Bridal Shower

The appetizers could have fed the crew plus some alone, since it was a fabulous lot of food, but the A-Team knew it wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras party without a proper Gumbo – which was served while opening the gifts! With my catering background, I was in charge of the menu. It included favorites of the Bride and theme-appropriate choices such as:

BarBQ Sausage, Mini Muffuletta Sandwiches, Apple Slices with Carmel Dip and cheese tray, Veggie Tray, Hummus and Pita Chips, Tri-colored Tortilla chips & Salsa, Hot Spinach Dip, Boudin Tray, Deviled Eggs…

But what may have surprised the Bride the most, was this little stunt.

Mardi Gras ChickenOne of Kelli’s oldest friends showed up dressed like the Mardi Gras Chicken! This is a Cajun tradition, as the Mardi Gras chase after a Chicken while they run out in the country.

Our Big Chicken handed out golden eggs that held trivia questions inside about the Bride and the Groom. Each person got to answer their question, and all that participated got a pair of Fleur di Lis earrings.

Bride & Groom Trivia

Afterwards, Kelli made her good-sport-of-a-friend do the Chicken dance before departing


We then had the Bride and her Mama serve as judges in the Mask-making contest, as contest-participants paraded by them while people sang a lively parade song!







By measure of applause, we picked the winner in the middle. But all the masks showed great creativity and were super fun!

Next, we served Gumbo, rice and potato salad while the Bride opened her gifts. The gift that moved her to tears was presented at the end: The Spiritual Bouquet that we all made for her. I decoupaged/painted a pine heart-shaped box (see link to my previous post on that) and printed off cards for all the women to fill out with their Spiritual offerings they would make for the happy couple during their engagement.

Spiritual Bouquet

We had some Bridal Shower silliness after that, and ate King Cake and delicious Mardi Gras cupcakes provided by dear friends of the Bride. The Bride gave her thanks to all at the end.

Credits: The Mother of the Bride graciously offered her home, so that was our location. Thank you, Ms. Gwen. We had about 3 other lovely ladies offer assistance in various ways, and we took them up on it – thank you, Jeanne, Cherie, and Emily!

As for my attire, I had gotten a bit daring. I stopped by the Thrift Store a few weeks before the Shower. I found a Banana Republic 100% Silk purple dress that was 50% off, so $4.99. The only thing was it was apparently made for someone 7″ taller with Pamela Anderson-like features.

DSC02852 Mardi Gras Dress

I cut off the triangled-tops, and moved the elastic part up that was the empire waist to become the top. I took in the sides, cut down the straps, and sewed a sash with purple, yellow, and green ribbon that I bought at Michaels. I never got a great picture of me in it, since I was so busy that day, but here I am sitting down in my repurposed $4.99 Banana Republic dress, indulging in some King Cake!

King Cake

It certainly was a unique Bridal Shower – befitting a woman who always loves unique ways to celebrate life! Everyone joined in on the fun, and the Bride and her Mom had an amazing time, which was our goal.

Mission accomplished! Chalk it up for a WIN, A-Team Party Planners!

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After the Loss…a Brief Update

Okay, so it’s not just me, right?  I’m just gonna put it out there.  It’s not meant to be a vent, but more of an observation – so please read it through that “lens” if you will.

Sometimes it can be either a blessing or a pain to try and give a true answer to the standard American greeting, “How are you doing?” Especially when it has just been “one of those days”, and the inquiry is paired with a concerned scrunch of the brow, a shoulder rub, and a knowledge that your Mother recently passed away and you’re trying to plan a wedding about 3-months-and-8-hours-south-of-my-current-locale away.  But then if people don’t acknowledge it, it feels like, “Why aren’t they saying anything about that smelly, fat elephant in the room?”  Ugh, let’s simplify it, let me share with you here the latest and not so greatest, but real deal answer.

Honestly, friends, it can be a moment-by-moment or day-by-day fluctuating thing. Mom went back home to Jesus only 7 short weeks ago.  Mike and I left my grieving Father and came back to Dallas about 3 1/2 weeks ago.  It’s obviously still very fresh, mainly uncharted territory, stumbling along on the vast tundra of grieving.  Even though I don’t see the end in sight, and I don’t know when the ache will lessen, I know that she is eternally happy and where she is supposed to be.  That knowledge doesn’t dull the heartbreak, it just puts it into an eternal perspective that can bring peace.

My Mom was a fantastic Mother, and it’s still hard to be at peace with the fact that she won’t physically be present at our wedding…holding the children we hope to have…helping me pick out color schemes for our future home…etc.  Of course I know that she is with me and no longer bound by space and time, among the Saints specially interceding for me and all of our needs.  Some days that is a comfort, and some days it still makes me weep, to be completely honest for those who have been wondering how I’m doing.

The more I travel along this part of my journey, the more that I discover what a tricky thing grieving is.  I can talk and laugh about a memory of Mom one night, and the next morning I can bust into tears at the thought of shopping for Bridesmaids dresses without her.  But I love a conversation that I was blessed by this week, with a Nun that I have never met up in New York.

I had that blessed conversation via phone with this Religious Sister about work-related things; and before I knew it, we began sharing from our hearts.  I confessed that my Mother had recently passed  away, and she began to comfort me by just being herself.  She had such a beautiful spirit…I could even tell that through the phone.  Her words of compassion, based on experience from losing her Mom, and filled with wisdom, brought such love to my little wounded heart.  God continues to show me that even though I can’t imagine where He will send blessings to me from, He still does.  It can be a total “stranger” or a trusted friend, and anyone in between.

I am still navigating through this, but learning how to better utilize the tools I’ve been given, and to lean into an incredible support system all around me.  By God’s grace, we will continue to move forward.  It has been a long and hard week for me, I won’t say that it wasn’t.  The wedding planning is still slow and ardous right now, wrestling with vendors and what not to get some of the major decisions nailed down.  There is tons of new ground work being laid in every single area of my life, all at once.  Yes, I get overwhelmed at times.  All I know is that I am in good hands.  That much I know.  Oh, and I also know that God will not lead me into something that will be detrimental to me – He wants good things for me, as His child.

Thank you again for asking how I am, whether it be via email, Facebook, text, a card, or through your prayers – please don’t stop.  Just realize that one day I might smile and say, “good”, while the next I may give a little more melancholic expression with a, “hanging in there.”  I truly am a mix of both my parents, with the smiling-optimistic Mom part of me, and the more passionate-melancholic side from my Dad.  Thank you, God, for finally sending me a man who can truly handle both my ying and my yang, and still loves me because of them, not despite them.

The real key to all of this is said so perfectly in this Matt Maher song.  I found this video on YouTube – the editing may appear a little rough in some spots, and the song, “Letting Go”, is longer and even more meaningful; but the horses have a lot of significance for me and it’s a beautiful short.

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The Sorrow and Joy of our Engagement

So I was going to write my annual Christmas letter for family and friends here, but there are other more important things to say and a limit on time right now.  Thanks for understanding 🙂

“God is never late, He’s never early, He’s always right on on time.”  A friend of mine used to tell me that, and I am now more fully grasping the meaning. At 34-years-old, God has now sent me the incredible man that I am to share the rest of my life with!  On Christmas day, Mike Martinez asked me to marry him, as my Mom sat near me “bawling like a baby.”

Mike & Lisa

Mike & Lisa are engaged!

A lot of people get engaged on or around Christmas though, so what makes this so special? Well, for those of you who may not know, my Mom is suffering with Terminal Bone Cancer. Diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer about four years ago, they did a Lumpectomy and a lot of treatment at that time.  Seemingly doing so well, we were all devastated to suddenly learn this past May that she had Stage 4 Bone Cancer, already in 6 places.

Mom is so strong in her faith and in her will to live.  Many people find her an inspiration and courageous, including me.  But she will just tell you, “It’s just me, I’m just doing what I have to do.”  My parents have been married for over 40 yrs, and my Dad is suffering so deeply right now.  It’s beautiful to see him love and serve my Mom, yet so painful to see what he has built his whole life around now begin to prepare for her “journey home” first.

My fiancée, Mike, and I drove here to Florida, planning to be here until New Years; but I now see God’s wisdom in so many things that I have been going through in the past year and a half.  Right before we got here, Mom had a Pet Scan, and after my Dad told her how she has declined since we saw her at Thanksgiving, her Oncologist had to frankly tell her, “It will be downhill from here.”

I never imagined we would be discussing my wedding plans and at the same time seeing what Mom wants as far as funeral arrangements, but then again, much of life is not how we plan.  I am learning to become more grateful for the present moment, that she is here now. How fortunate that my sweet Mom has come to know and love Mike even in a short time.

It’s all very fresh, but I soon will be moving in with my parents to help them:  They need it, and I know it’s where God wants me.  I am abundantly blessed to have a supportive Boss and a best-friend roommate, who’ll put everything that needs to be on hold and do whatever to support us.  Yet Mike, working IT for Corporate America, has a Boss who “doesn’t want that for his team” and said that it’s not “his family”.  He feels called to be here just as much as I do.  My selfless fiancée still wants to go to his Boss’ Boss now to ask – please join us in prayer for things to fall into place.  I know that God will line everything up, because He  is faithful, and this is what we are called to do.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we’d begin our marriage in a Retirement Village of all places, but we don’t want to be anywhere else… Perhaps we will work backwards from here 🙂

I thank you all in advance for your love, prayers, and support.  It has been a swirl of activity and emotion since we’ve arrived – Mom had to be taken into the Doctors office the day after Christmas because we now know that she was having an allergic reaction to the medication.  We are so humbled and grateful that a loving “team” of friends and family have already begun offering their services in helping us plan a Florida wedding as quick as we can.  It will be a special time for some of our very close family and friends to share in the joyful time intermingled with sorrow. Hopefully in Orlando, we are beginning the process of setting that date everyone is asking about…there are just a few things that need to fall into place first!!!

The gift of Mom

Mom is our gift!

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