Chapter 7 — The Wedding
On Saturday, December 14, 1974, on a beautiful sunny morning at a small Anglican church, St. Martin’s in the Field, we were married. We had a small reception with champagne and appetizers at our apartment in High Park following the ceremony.
Andres and Juan’s cousin, Michael and his family, attended from Juan’s family. Aunt Roberta and Christina attended from my family. Grandma could not attend because she had an angina attack and was in the hospital again in Blind River.
Juan was devastated that his parents did not attend our wedding. They had decided to remain in Brazil to await our arrival, after our honeymoon and promised us a wedding reception at their residence and a family holiday together.
After giving my bouquet to Christina to carry to my grandmother, Juan and I boarded a plane for Salvador Bahia to begin our three-day honeymoon. We then traveled to the family residence in Brasilia where we joined Guillermo, Alice, Roberto and his wife Charlotte, Andres and Carlotta.
Alice was excited about the wedding reception she planned for us at their gorgeous home and I showed her the evening dress I purchased for the occasion.
“It’s very pretty, Nadean,” Alice said as she inspected my dress, “but it’s not quite right. I think we need something else.”
Alice took me, Charlotte and Carlotta shopping at her favorite boutique and chose a beautiful long white gown that only needed minor alterations.
“This is it,” Alice said as she held the gown. “You will look beautiful in this dress, Nadean.”
Three hundred guests attended our reception including government officials and members of the diplomatic corps. A reporter was in attendance and the glamorous party was filmed. Weeks after our reception, clips of the event were shown as a news item prior to the feature presentation at the movie theater.
On Christmas day, as we sat down with Juan’s family for breakfast, their butler Raj announced that someone was calling from Canada for Miss Nadean.
“Hello, Nadean,” Aunt Roberta said when I answered the telephone, “I am calling to tell you that Grandma died this morning at the hospital.”
At that moment my whole world fell apart. I asked Aunt Roberta if I should try to fly back to Canada.
“No, Nadean. You said your good-byes to Grandma a few weeks ago and she was so happy to get your bouquet. You are a world away. It’s Christmas Day. Everything is closed. By the time you get back, the funeral will be over. Stay with your husband and your new family. Try to be happy there.”
Guillermo and Alice organized a private family Mass for me in Brasilia and we all attended. I struggled with overwhelming sadness and loneliness, yet tried to be as upbeat as I could manage on the outside. During a moment of absolute clarity I realized that Grandma kept her final promise to me: God took her eleven days after our wedding.
The entire family flew to Rio de Janeiro for the second week of the holiday and we stayed at a beautiful hotel on Copacabana Beach.
New Year’s Eve was especially memorable. There is a tradition in Brazil on New Year’s Eve where Brazilians dress in white, go to the beach carrying lit candles and make offerings during a ceremony honoring Iemanja, Goddess of the Sea. They toss gifts of flowers and other items into the sea. If the Goddess accepts their gifts they will have a prosperous year. If their gifts are returned on the incoming tide, the year will not be as prosperous.
After dinner Juan and I walked along Ipanema Beach holding hands and gazing as the Brazilians threw their gifts out to sea. It was a brilliant moonlit night and the locals along with many children were so happy. They joyfully handed flowers to us and gestured to us to throw them into the sea. We stood on Ipanema Beach, held one another closely and welcomed in the New Year!
When we returned to Toronto after our holiday, Aunt Roberta informed me that my grandmother’s will was going to be read at an attorney’s office in Sault Ste. Marie and I needed to be present for the reading.
“Why?” I said. “Can’t you go and just tell me what it says? I have just returned to work after a two-week holiday. I will have to ask for a special consideration. Do I really need to be there?”
“Nadean, this is important. You need to be here,” she said.