Picture of her son and his love saying, "He is my son but I am not his mother"

Dear Car: Your Groom-Son

Dear Car,

This week, your son gets married. While you have become much more a part of my life since I married your Husband, never more have you been in my/our thoughts than in the last several weeks.  You are missed always, and these days especially.

A week or so ago, your son and his fiancé got their apartment…and her parents and Husband and I went with them to wipe out the cupboards, clean the carpet and wash the windows. I generally don’t like cleaning—who does?

But this was fun…being with a couple on the first evening in their first apartment!

I could hear her giggling with her mom in the kitchen trying to figure out where the dishes would go in the kitchen.  The dads went on an errands and came back, joking with each other.  We admired the space in the cupboards, and commented on the great condition of the floors. After we finished wiping the whole (pretty much already clean) apartment down, we sat down in the furnitureless living room and we discussed assigning the guest list into table groups for the reception.

It was relaxed and celebratory—it was a big deal to be in that apartment that evening.

It was one of those one-of-a-kind evenings that a mom dreams of as she rocks her infant and imagines who he will become.

And I was very aware that I was getting the incredible privilege of enjoying this occasion that was not intended for me.

This was one of the many moments that I have lived in the last year that should have been yours.

Yours to anticipate.

Yours to engage in.

Yours to chat about with Husband after, as loving parents do—to giggle and reminisce in the car on the way home.

Yours to hold in your memory bank and reflect on for years to come.

I struggle with this odd feeling of guilt as I enjoy these moments that you have far more right to than I.  I wept on the way home from that night we cleaned his apartment—you should have been there, not me. It wasn’t fair to you…or to your husband, or to your son.

Life isn’t fair, is it? And you really got the green wiener as my  high school English teacher would say.

There is so much you would have enjoyed these last months leading up to the wedding.

I love getting to watch and be a part of all the action around a wedding.  I loved hearing him plan the proposal to get engaged. It was fun to watch him keep it a secret from his love (and stressful to make sure I wouldn’t blow it). I loved doing my part of the prep to pull the engagement off. She bought my lame excuse for us to go for a manicure the day before he put a ring on her finger!

chinese lantern floating skyward beautifully
This is how the Chinese lanterns were SUPPOSED to look, but didn’t! 🙂

Car, at the very moment he was popping the question, our Husband and I and her parents were below the cliff trying to light these Chinese lanterns that somehow missed the memo that they were supposed to go up. We did our darndest to encourage these things skyward. We were trying to create this magical moment for them and ended up dissolving in laughter as we tripped along the beach in darkness with these lanterns bouncing on the ground in front of us—and then we heard them giggle high up because they could see us stumbling in the dark.

The group toasted the couple with champagne after.

My glass should have been yours.

Husband and I both cried that night in the car on the way home that it wasn’t you that was there.

It was fun to listen to your son’s excitement when he found out he got the apartment they had applied for! I loved watching him rip open the shoebox the moment it was delivered so he could try on his wedding shoes right away—even though he is still in his workout clothes with white socks. I love hearing his chatter about the stress of writing the vows, and how he and her washed and dried all the new dishes in their apartment so they are ready to use. You were dreading missing those moments…and I understand so clearly why.

These are precious moments that are an honor to witness.

I love hearing how he notices the stress of his bride, and is compassionate.  He’s trying to get things done, helping her, so she’ll feel better.  He’s rather like his dad in that way, isn’t he? He’s learned gentleness and caring well.

He’s studied so hard this year.  He mentors young boys and really cares about them.  He struggles when they struggle. He’s helpful and curious and engaging…everything you instilled in him.

For years, I watched you cheer this son on in the bleachers when our kids were younger.  You and I were faithful fans of our sons…sometimes they played on the same team. Often they were on different teams, and we waved to each other across the gym.  Anybody could see how much watching your son grow up meant to you. And anybody who watched you fight the cancer knew how much you wanted to stick around to finish the job of being their mom.

Our Husband is missing you hard these days.

He spent a coupla evenings looking through old photos for the slide show at the wedding.  There were so many pictures of you as a family, together, smiling.  And pictures of you holding this child, playing with him.

So many pictures where Husband could remember what was, and what no longer is.

Husband may be the one who misses you the most on the wedding day …moms and dads dream of the day their child gets married. You and Husband prayed for the woman he would marry since he was a child.  Husband always pictured you there the day your oldest got married.

It’s a funny thing, this two-families-who-are-also-one-family situation that I find myself in. When people ask about my summer, I say, “I have two sons getting married this summer”. Two dresses to buy, two wedding rehearsals dinners to plan, and two of everything else that goes into a wedding when one has sons gets married.

There is unequivocally and completely a double standard in our family, which is something I quite support.

Picture of her son and his love saying, "He is my son but I am not his mother"

I consider him my son. But I don’t consider myself his mother. He already has one. You. Click To Tweet

He doesn’t consider me his mother either.

Don’t get me wrong.  He’s not rude or unkind. I think we actually have a pretty good friendship.  He’s easy to get along with and I enjoy being in the same family with him.  He’s a fantastic young man who I know you were proud of when you were alive—and he’s only given reason since, for you to be even more proud of him.

I care for him—I feed him, check how he’s doing when he’s hurt, pray for him, see if he needs anything…all the mothering sorts of things that I can’t help but do because he’s a kid of mine that I love.

But you’re his mom.

So Car, I don’t know how to take up just the right sort of space this week at this wedding.  Even though I’m delighted and so thrilled for him, I hold back. I wonder…do others think I’m less excited for his wedding than I was for my biological son earlier this month? Do they wonder if this wedding doesn’t matter to me as much because I only became a part of his family a year and a half ago?

missing man airplane formation

Can folks know that I hold back because I refuse to step into your place? I can’t…I won’t step into your shoes. You belong there, and won’t be there…and so it makes sense to have that space be empty, rather like the airplanes that fly in “missing man formation”. There will be a “Car sized” hole at the wedding.

It’s true that the only reason I will be there is because you’ve died…and so it breaks my heart that I’m there and you’re not, even though I can hardly wait to be there for when he gets married.

Car, he asked your mom to do the “mother/son” dance with him…isn’t that wonderful? That’s about as close as he can get to asking you. And what’s even more wonderful is that she said yes.  I saw a picture of them last week at her house, practicing. It would have made you smile, that picture.

But everybody wishes that you would be doing it instead of her.

I don’t know what heaven is like, except there is no suffering and it’s perfectly joyous there. And I’ve no doubt that you are in heaven. This may be sacrilegious to say, but as a momma who knows how much seeing my kids happy is my greatest joy–when I imagine what heaven is like, I just know that part of heaven being perfect would be for mommas to be able to see the joys of their children.

Poster of blue sky saying: "What I imagine what heaven is like, it just seem that part of heaven being perfect for mommas is for mommas to be able to see the joys of their children" Quote by Carolyn Klassen

I’m thinking and hoping and praying that the veil between this world and the next will be thin that day. I trust that you will be able to see through it to see the smile on your son’s face as he commits his life to his love.

He’ll be a good husband—he knows what a solid marriage looks and feels like…because he grew up with you and Husband as parents.

I’m hoping he will know how thrilled you are for him, and how excited you are that he is marrying the one that is perfect for him.


  • Betsy Kilbrai

    This is so beautiful.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Thanx, Betsy. Very much.

  • Gloria Nikkel

    ‘The veil between this world and the next will be thin.’ Love this.
    Good word friend.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Gloria…thanx…aren’t there moments for all of us that we hope the veil is thin so that those that go to the next world before us can glimpse that which would be so perfect and joyful?

  • Jackie Demchuk

    I have 2 sons. The oldest is a stepson. I have never heard the situation expressed so well as when you wrote you considered him a son, but don’t consider yourself his mother. You honor his mother by believing that. As per your fear of being judged: in 18 years of being a stepmother I’ve learned you WILL be judged, but most won’t be so harsh on you as you yourself. It sounds like you did a lovely job at the wedding. Brava!

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Jackie…your comments as someone who is much farther into the experience than I is so very valued. It was a great day!

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