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A global pandemic canceled our wedding. Twice. I should be getting married today. Instead, I’ll be taking a day trip close to Hamburg, hoping to commemorate this day together with the Prince.
I’m not really sure where to even begin. I’ve been MIA for the past 8 months – no blog posts and very few social media posts on my blog channels. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s been a very hard, stressful, and sad past 8 months (even before the world went into lockdown). I cried to my Dad a few weeks ago that these have probably been the worst 6 months of my life.
My absence started due to total joy – after getting off the high of our engagement, the Prince and I immediately started planning our wedding. Due to my grandfather’s declining health, we wanted to have it sooner than later and needed to do it somewhere close to him. We chose Washington, D.C. – my hometown, easy access for European family members, lots to do, and close to my grandparents. By the middle of October, we’d literally planned all the major details of our wedding – a gorgeous, unique venue that fit us perfectly (tying in our German and American backgrounds), the perfect reception location, a baseball game for guests, a slew of other touristy activities, and the ideal guest list (less than 30 people total!). We’d decided on an intimate, family-only ceremony in Washington, D.C. with a larger party a year later in Germany. Our initial wedding date? May 22, 2020. Even more meaningful was the symbolism behind the date – I was officially declared cancer-free on May 21, 1993. Our wedding was going to be a day after this anniversary just a few miles away from the hospital that saved my life (Children’s National Hospital).
We spent October and November packed with travel – my college roommate’s multi-day Hindu wedding in Florida, Disney World with my family, a romantic trip to Paris, and another wedding in Washington, D.C. (a crazy 48-hour trip where I managed to fit in buying my wedding dress with my sisters). Everything seemed perfect and life was on a high – until it came crashing down on the evening of November 27, 2019.
As I was leaving work, I received a text from my Mom telling me that my grandfather had suffered a stroke and it didn’t look good. I only grew up with my Mom’s parents and was extremely close to my grandfather. I had literally just talked to him a couple of weeks prior and he joked, “Even though my doctor says I can’t drink, I’m going to have a Manhattan (his favorite cocktail) at your wedding.” I then joked back, “Grandpa! Don’t die at my wedding reception!” He was so excited to see me get married and absolutely ADORED the Prince. As a Naval Commander, my grandfather especially loved the Prince’s interest in politics, history, and the military (the Prince’s hometown of Kiel is the location of Germany’s Navy).
After somehow making it through the night and heading to work, I kept checking my phone. During my lunch break, I called my Dad crying and thinking about all the potential scenarios. After getting off the phone with my Dad, I had a waiting text from my Mom to call her. She was crying, I was crying, and I found out that my grandfather has passed away – on November 28, 2020. American Thanksgiving. I was able to call the hospital and give my final farewell to my grandfather – telling him how much I loved him and thanking him for all the wonderful memories. Telling him I would continue to make him proud, that I was going to miss him so much, and that he was the best grandfather in the entire world.
I still haven’t fully come to terms with his death. I’m even crying writing this now. He was the absolute best. The most infectious laugh that I still imagine in my head all the time. My biggest regret is that he won’t see me get married or meet my future children.
It’s been hard. The holiday season was horrible. Christmas is, hands down, my most favorite holiday. Instead, I told the Prince I didn’t even want to get a Christmas tree – I just wanted to curl up in bed and pretend this was all a bad dream. He managed to convince me to get a small Christmas tree and helped me decorate it, bringing a bit of joy through the darkness.
On top of his death, I experienced complete and utter burnout. To the point that I would come home from work, sit on my bed, and literally not do anything for hours. I had no motivation to even open my laptop in the evening. I’m a “Yes” person and had just completely overcommitted myself. It manifested itself into complete exhaustion and sickness. I had a cough that lingered for over a month, multiple colds that wouldn’t go away, and felt continuously lethargic. I’m an extrovert and optimistic person, and this was me hitting rock bottom.
The holidays came and went, my birthday came and went in January, and then the Prince and I flew back to the USA for a whirlwind 42-hour trip to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I think that was my turning point – I finally had proper closure. My sister and I gave a speech on behalf of all my siblings and that was extremely therapeutic to write (much like writing this blog post right now).
At the beginning of February, the Prince and I flew to Edinburgh for his birthday, where we got these wonderful photos from Jill Cherry Porter Photography. She captured us perfectly – the love between us and our love of Edinburgh. She took the photos in all the spots that had meaning to us – the Scottish Parliament (our first date), the Queen’s church while in Edinburgh, my old apartment, the Prince’s favorite bar, our favorite coffee shop, our favorite streets, and the Edinburgh Castle. It felt like such a renewal – we stayed at our favorite hotel, went to our favorite places, and finally got to enjoy a bit of happiness.
I came home a totally new person with new energy. I prioritized the important commitments in my life, I felt a sense of relief at work, I was invited on an awesome blogging trip, and I felt encouraged to do more wedding planning (something I hadn’t done since November). And then came March!
As Coronavirus was moving throughout Asia, I convinced myself that it wouldn’t affect our wedding. I was completely stressed those first couple of weeks in March, trying to predict the future and what was going to happen. The final straw happened on March 11th while at a board meeting for the American Women’s Club of Hamburg – I received a notification that Trump put in place the European travel ban. I knew then that our wedding wasn’t going to happen in May. I broke down in tears after the meeting in the middle of the restaurant.
Thus started the process of postponing our wedding. We decided on September 19, 2020 as our new date and luckily, all of our vendors and service providers had the date available and let us change with no penalty or additional fees. It was stressful and emotional – I probably cried almost every day for a few weeks, asking God why he was punishing me with this and my grandfather’s death. I felt like I couldn’t catch a break with anything. What was supposed to be the happiest time in my life had turned into a complete nightmare.
At the end of April, we made the decision to postpone our wedding – again. We chose our original day, May 22nd, but just a year later. Realistically, we don’t even know if we’ll be able to get back to the USA at all this year. It didn’t make sense to put people at risk healthwise. Also, for my own sanity, I couldn’t deal with the constant unknown of whether we would have to postpone again or not. So we decided to just pull the trigger and postpone until May 22, 2021. Oddly enough, by that point, it was a total pragmatic decision with no tears. I told Peter, “I think we need to postpone again” and starting emailing everyone about changing the date for a second time.
We’ve now been in a semi-lockdown in Hamburg, Germany for over 10 weeks. It’s been such a weird time for everyone but I’m slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Germany is cautiously opening up again (and fared quite well in the Coronavirus crisis). Hamburg, a city with a population of 2 million, actually had a day earlier this week with no new cases!
I’m trying to stay optimistic and remind myself that this too shall pass. On a positive note, the pandemic has forced me to slow down, and I’ve enjoyed rediscovering hobbies and starting new hobbies. It’s been nice to not be overcommitted and really focus on what matters.
Tonight, I’ll have a Zoom call with my entire family to celebrate what should have been our wedding day. It’s strange to think that as I write this, I should have been getting into my wedding dress and getting prepared to marry the love of my life. Instead, the Prince will just have to put up with me as his fiancée for another year! :) At the end of the day, I have my health, my family, my fiancé, my job, and a life I love. As my brother said, “This is going to make a hell of a story in a few years!” So as we continue to wade through this pandemic, I’m counting my blessing and looking forward to what’s ahead.
** Once again, all photos were taken by the amazing Jill Cherry Porter Photography!