Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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The Virtual Wedding Guest

Mom, Kelli, Paige and Terri crowd into say 'hi'

Paige rocks the pink bracelet, and Jared shows his wedding ring.

Missing my niece Paige’s marriage to her honey Jared and instead watching it by Skype yesterday could easily have turned into one big “me” pity party. Instead LOVE and a complete lack of expectation turned it into one of my life’s great experiences.

Just sitting here trying to write about it overwhelms me. The nutshell: from the wedding trumpet call at 3 p.m. California time until 8:30 p.m., when we sadly ended the connection as the NC reception ran down, I savored every moment and was bombarded with love and well-wishes.

First a shout-out to Ronna Pinkerton, whom I’d never met before our virtual experience yesterday. She works for Microsoft, commuting from Charlotte to Seattle, so my sister asked her to Skype the wedding to us instead of enjoying it herself as a guest. Because of Ronna I was able to see Jon escort my mother, looking beautiful in her long lavender dress, Terri, my sister, maintaining uncharacteristic stoicism, and many friends in the church.

With trumpet fanfare Paige and my bro-in-law, Wally, walked in arm and arm as the guests stood to watch. I’m sure sweet Wally was crying right along with me.

Then this: As the wedding drew to close Wally, my niece Kelli (the maid of honor), Jen and some of the other bridesmaids waved up to the camera mounted at the edge of the balcony as they exited the church (More tears at the surprise of my own personal shout-out). Ronna then generously asked if I needed anything else.

Would it be too much trouble, I asked, to see a little of the reception? I had no idea what would be in store from this impromptu request.

At the country club Ronna set up Skype somewhere between the bar and the dance floor. It was hard to hear, so we also had an IM chat box going in case anyone wanted to stop and say ‘hi’ (tho I was prepared just watch).

I figured the novelty would wear off for everyone in about 20 minutes. I figured wrong.

For the next three-and-a-half hours I was bombarded with love and well-wishes from my family, old friends from high school, young people I’ve seen grow up with my nieces, two of my old teachers, and even people I’d never met, especially the cancer survivors in the group. As soon as an old friend left, another would jump in to carry on, even if it was just a quick “I love you. Kick cancer’s ass!!”

The basket of 250 pink rubber bracelets that Paige had ordered from the Susan G. Komen foundation quickly ran out. So many people, guys included, would snap them at the camera as they passed in my view. Even Paige was rocking one with her wedding gown!

As the band churned out oldies, Terry G, Rhonda M, Mike P, my cousin Julie, Lynn HH, Beth, and a dozen or so people I couldn’t make out stopped by to virtually “dance,” allowing me to be caught up in the JOY of the occasion.

Ronna, my new BFF, left her post for only one dance. Occasionally I would insist she shut down the computer and have fun, only to have her IM back: “Making this possible for you means something to me.” Ack. Tears again just writing it.

We had our moments of bittersweet sorrow. Sweet and sensitive Kelli broke down and we shared a good cry over the circumstances of my absence. No matter how you spin it, I wasn’t there to share in this joyous family milestone.

The timing of my diagnosis sucked, but as I said in an earlier post: My goal was to get my overdue physical BEFORE taking off for a week in NC. So in a way, the wedding caught this fast-growing disease before it spread further.

Yes, life’s curveball thrown my way means I missed Paige and Jared’s wedding, but I plan to be there years from now when their children are born. And the grandchildren, too.

The upside: As the missing piece to a perfect puzzle, I experienced how much my many dear NC friends love me, and the intensity of the healing vibes they constantly send my way.

In closing I’ll end on a lighter note. One would have thought that everyone had gotten “the memo” on me by now, especially my sister’s close friends. But when G.P., known for her capacity to consume unlimited vodka and say ridiculous things, stopped by to see me she took one look, then sent this IM note:

“What the hell did you do to your hair?? It is really butch!!”

Duly noted, and gone by Thursday.

Michelle and Tracie dressed up to watch the wedding

Terry Gibson and Ronna Pinkerton dance with me

7 Responses to “The Virtual Wedding Guest”

  • Maria:

    Hey tracey!

    Finally, was able to read through all your blogs and girl, you are an inspiration!!! You keep kicking A** and fight this shitty desease!!! Know that I’m in your corner and wish you well and am praying to the gods to quickly heal you!

    Am so glad you were able to witness your nieces wedding. THat was so cool of your family to do that :)

    stay strong! Sending you positive vibes to you and Michelle :)

  • lynn helderman:

    I agree, it was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad you could share it with us! I hope you have a good week, the garden looks awesome by the way. lovies,

  • SEH:

    So glad you and Michelle could be virtual guests at the wedding. What a great idea to Skype it. That Ronna really rocks!!

  • Joyousness! Love this Tracie, I have no doubt you’ll be there for Paige’s future milestones :) xo, Julie

  • Abi's BF:

    OK T…. reading about the wedding was a blast…..I really felt like I was there too. OK but honestly….who is the gal sitting next to you watching the nuptials? Is that our Michelle dressed up????? I can’t belive my eyes !! And a ponytail to boot??? Keep up the great work and beat the crap out of this thing….Much love,

  • Lynn Arthur:

    What a wonderful day!!! I am so happy you got to share it with everyone…you will be tip top to share in their 1st anniversary celebration… Love you….

  • NBG:

    Do I detect “joy” in your tears? I think that is exactly what the Dr. ordered.

    We are looking forward to a week with Terri and Wally and are checking out a place for all of us to go next year – including BFF’s Ronna and Gayle!


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