I wiped rose scented frosting from my fingers and dug in my pocket for my phone. It was after 11 am already, wedding was at 2 pm and I had to rush home to change clothes and do make-up and hair. I took another glance at the finished wedding cake, delighting in the way the fresh flowers nestled in the creamy frosting. I texted Doug, he was just leaving the house headed to the church.

“Out of time. Can you place headstone saddle and send me a pic?”

He texted back, “yes.”

I was grateful I was home alone and had not started my make-up when he sent the picture.

We weren’t sure how to include Justin in the wedding. It did not feel right to do something public or have a picture of him displayed. He would have been the first to say that the day belonged to Ryan and Diana, not him. He would have been so over the moon with joy at their wedding. Justin loved weddings. He was a groomsman so many times that he kept a file of his tux measurements, his Men’s Warehouse card survived the accident and was returned with his wallet. Some of our most treasured pictures of him are from his friend’s weddings. He loved being part of the preparations and festivities.

I longed to tell him all the details and have him come through the kitchen door and say something funny. He, like us, loved cake, he would have been right in the thick of it having a grand time with all the lists and ideas. Exquisite sorrow, profound joy. Two sides of the same coin. I savored each moment of wedding planning, pinching myself in wonderment, while holding my chest in pain.

Two weeks before the wedding, I rang the florist to add several more boutonnieres to the order and I had an idea. I let it brew for a day and then rang the florist back. I am as tough as nails, but my voice cracked when I asked that a headstone saddle be created in the same flowers as the wedding. I waited a moment and then added that I wanted a boutonniere that matched the groomsmen placed in the arrangement. I told the gal on the phone that I didn’t care about expense, just make it beautiful.

I did not think my heart could break into any more shards, but when my phone pinged and I saw the picture of those glorious fresh flowers cascading on the headstone, my knees buckled a bit because it hurts to have your child in the ground. I washed my face and wished I had time to ice my eyes down, but it was time to get dressed. I couldn’t see straight and twisted the chiffon of my dress so badly that I had to put out an emergency call to my BFF to come and fix my dress. Which she did in 30 seconds. I threw up the safety walls in my head and focused on the fact that the groomsmen and the groom would soon be arriving.

My breath caught when Ryan and his best man walked through the kitchen door. My heart took a picture of the last moment he would be home as a single man. The house filled with masculine voices and laughter, discussions about cuff buttons and how to fold a pocket square spilled through rooms bringing a contagious merriment to the air. For a moment, they each felt like sons and my heart was full.

I chose not to visit Justin’s grave the day of the wedding, we went the day after. The arrangement was breathtaking, filled with blue delphinium, yellow roses, bells of Ireland, and then I saw the boutonniere. A single white calla lily, the symbol of youth and rebirth, holiness and faith. And the tears came, the hot tide that had been held at bay, tears that choke and exhaust a body. His last boutonniere had kept silent watch on the hill behind the church, witness to the vows, the ring, the first kiss. Brothers forever.

12 thoughts on “The Last Boutonniere

  1. Beautiful Terri,
    I certainly thought of Justin that day and knew he was filled with joy for his brother.

    John

  2. Absolutely beautiful and what a wonderful way to honor his memory and keep him part of the ceremony.

  3. Oh Terri, how beautiful. I have no words, just a heart full of love and tears.

  4. Thank you, Terri, for sharing this raw and beautiful event. I can only imagine that Justin would be crying, heart overflowing, if he were witnessing all this. Which he probably was!

  5. Such a loving way to honor both Justin and Ryan!

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