I’ve broken down several times while preparing this blog post and even debated scrapping it altogether. This was by far the hardest wedding I’ve ever photographed but the most beautiful as well.
My sister, Amanda, met Ian in one of those romantic comedy scenarios – two single doctors from opposite sides of the country catch eyes from across the room at a wedding they were both attending. They spent the night dancing and laughing, both filled with excitement. Fast forward three months, Amanda quit her job, packed up her car, and moved half-way across the country to be with the man we all knew was the one. No questions, no reservations – they had each found their person. They spent that first year together hiking, riding in hot air balloons, wine tasting, traveling to East Coast crab feeds and California pool parties. They talked about getting married and it was only a matter of time until they would make it official.
Then Ian got sick. And he didn’t get better. When they received the diagnosis, it was a literal punch to the gut that made it impossible to breathe: Stage IV Osteosarcoma. Cancer of the pelvis. Less than 15% survival rate.
My sister told me of a conversation they had the night Ian was diagnosed. He told her that he wouldn’t blame her if she wasn’t up for the fight, went back to California and started over. They were both filled with shock and fear, but she promised that she would walk with him no matter what – and she did. They quickly moved from their home in Illinois to Maryland, to be near Ian’s family and seek treatment Johns Hopkins Hospital, a national leader in sarcomas. They braved the next several months together. Their life became a blur of hospital stays, chemotherapy, mobility challenges, financial stress, and uncertainty about the future. But during this time, they also loved one another deeply. Ian showed Amanda around his hometown and introduced her to his lifelong friends, they adopted a kitty, watched the Caps play, and laughed often. Ian planned a romantic proposal in St. Michaels, MD and they planned to have their wedding when he was better.
There was hope for healing during this year; and then there wasn’t. Then there was only time. And they wanted to be married, to spend what time they had together as the Doctors Montie (they weren’t that pretentious, that was my running joke). So they planned their wedding – an intimate ceremony with family traveling from California, Oregon, Germany, and New York. The day was beautiful and filled with joy, sorrow, laughter, and so much love.
At weddings, we promise to love one another for richer or poorer, in sickness or health, always assuming it will be the former. But sometimes life gives us the latter, and it’s during those trials that the true capacity of love is displayed. Marriage is not tidy or simple or easy – it’s messy and hard and it costs us something. And even when it costs us everything, it’s worth it.
Ian passed away in March, with my sister holding his hand in the home they made together. Sunday would have been their first wedding anniversary.
I don’t want to end on a sad note, because this is not the end of the story. We have every confidence that Ian is in heaven with Jesus. This present life is not all there is, and we know we will see Ian again. There is a happy ending in store for us that will make all the pain worth it. We have hope that love is not lost.
See you again, Ian.