This past weekend was a really special weekend for the Phelps family. My sweet sister in law, Parker's only sibling, got married to the love of her life. We had been looking forward to this day for months. I was a bridesmaid, and Parker was a groomsmen. We couldn't wait to spend the weekend with family and friends to celebrate their union. And then, life happened. Well really, the military happened. Parker was scheduled to leave for a det with the Navy the day of her wedding. He did everything he could to try to fly out the day after the wedding so he could be there, but a schedule is a schedule and the Navy did not let him go. He missed his little sister's wedding.
I flew down for the wedding to represent the Phelps trio, and it was a beautiful wedding. I am so glad I got to be there, but I have to admit, it was really difficult not having Parker there. Walking down the aisle as a bridesmaid and not seeing Parker standing up there as a groomsmen was tough. Seeing the same unity candle that we lit and not being able to smile at Parker was tough. Hearing one of our favorite songs played during the ceremony was tough, but I could handle it.
I could handle it because Parker took an oath to protect our country. I could handle it because I took vows on our wedding day and promised to stand by him no matter what, and I meant it with complete conviction. Guess what though? Our families and friends didn't take these oaths and vows. Parker and I knew what we were signing up for in this life, and we both did it willingly. It's not fair to expect someone to completely support this lifestyle who didn't sign up for it, though. Part of me was nervous to tell everyone that Parker couldn't come to the wedding. I knew his immediate family would understand, but would extended family and friends understand too? Rationality says if you have something important like your sister's wedding, you take off work and do whatever you can to be there. Rationality says Parker could have made it more of a priority and somehow been there. That works for the typical 8-5 job- it doesn't work for the military.
If there is anything this past weekend taught me, it's this: our families rock. Everyone at the wedding of course mentioned how much they wish Parker was there, but they were so gracious and understanding about why he wasn't. Family and family friends who feel like family came up to me all night to tell me how proud they were of Parker and how much they loved him. They could have chosen to be angry and annoyed that he wasn't at the wedding. They could have refused to try to understand, but they didn't. The love and support they showed me and expressed for Parker made my heart smile and filled me with so much joy. They didn't sign up for this life, but they are invested in us and love us unconditionally, through the things they understand and the things that sometimes don't make sense when you aren't used to this lifestyle. Basically, this is my way of thanking our families and friends for being so supportive. It means more than any of you know.