My Dad Died on My Wedding Day – Camela tells her tragic story about losing her father during her wedding meal…
Tragic – Camela’s father Jagan died shortly after walking her down the aisle…
It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
The fairy-tale wedding that I spent months pouring over every detail of – will forever be remembered by something I could never have foreseen. After marrying my sweetheart John, 26, the unthinkable happened. My beloved Dad Jagan, 73, died in a freak accident at our wedding reception – just a few hours after he had walked me down the aisle.
Dad was a quiet but brilliant man. Although not a big talker, he was so supportive of my three brothers and I. We couldn’t have asked for a more devoted father. When we grew up he was always there; helping us save for our first cars and offering advice when we bought our first houses.
The day I told him I had been offered a job in banking he was so proud of me he looked fit to burst. That’s how I met my husband John – we were work colleagues before our friendship blossomed into romance. John and I were never shy about talking marriage, it was something we both wanted and I knew that John was just waiting for the right moment to pop the question.
To celebrate my next birthday John took me out for a meal and he proposed to me over dinner. Like most girls I had been waiting years for this and I lost no time in starting to plan our big day. Sorting through brochures and marking out table decorations, flower arrangements, and colour schemes, I loved every second of it. I was determined to make this a day to remember.
Luckily John was just as enthusiastic as I was, and my parents were always on hand to give a second opinion. As I was the only girl in the family this was their chance to get really involved with a big fairytale wedding. The venue was perhaps the easiest decision of them all. Cooling Castle in Kent was spectacular and I had my heart set on it from the moment I saw it but I still had to show my dad to make sure he loved it too. Everything was in place to make this day the best of our lives.
What was meant to be the happiest day of our lives
On the morning of the wedding I got ready at home while John had a room at the castle with his dad, ushers and bestman. He hadn’t forgotten about me though – he left me a surprise card to open when I got ready. The note inside read: “Don’t be nervous Camela, we’ve been planning our special day for ages and it’s going to be perfect. “I can’t wait to make you my wife at last.” Then at the bottom I noticed he’d added an extra line which made me chuckle, “And please don’t be late!” He knew me too well. As I put John’s card up on the mantelpiece I imagined him sat alone in his hotel suite quietly getting into his suit. It would be the total opposite of the chaos at my house.
Three bridesmaids, two flower girls and maid of honour made for a very noisy morning. But as ever I had everything under control. I’d been up since half past five that morning having my hair done. When I had a spare few minutes I took the opportunity to give my mum a quick call. “How’s dad?” I asked. “Cool as a cucumber” Mum replied.
She had to stop him getting into his suit first thing in the morning because he was just so excited. He’d never worn a proper three-piece suit before. Later in the morning I got to see my parents in their finery for myself. As I made my way downstairs to the sounds of clapping and cheering from my family and bridesmaids below – there was one beaming face that shone out above the rest – my Dad’s. It was the first time he’d seen my dress and his eyes glazed over as he looked at me admiringly. He was struggling to speak so I helped him out, “You look really smart dad” “And you look lovely too” He stuttered. I almost shed a few tears. “You’ll ruin my makeup dad” I joked.
The bridesmaids left with my mum in a limousine leaving me and dad in the house by ourselves. After a frantic morning ensuring everyone was ready on time it was strange to find the house so silent. It was just me and my Dad. I knew our car wouldn’t be long now so I tried to puff my dress up, as the stylist had advised me to, but Dad was edging closer and closer the mirror to admire himself in his suit that he almost blocked me out. “Hey, this is supposed to me my day!” I laughed.
Our giggles stopped short by the sound of the Rolls-Royce pulling up outside. Dad was a taxi driver himself and my friends joked that I should get him to drive me to the wedding for a laugh. But this was dad’s day too and I wanted him to enjoy every second of it. As the car pulled out of the drive and we made the journey to the castle Dad was especially silent. “You’re very quiet Sir,” the chauffeur commented. “I’m just want to take everything in,” he said admiring the car.
As we reached the castle the butterflies really starting flapping in my stomach. “Are you nervous too Dad?” I asked as we waited in a room for the ceremony to start. “No, I’m great” he whispered back with a smile and instantly I felt better. In the distance we heard the organ strike up the first chords, it was time to go. But before we entered the hall I paused for a second. Dad looked at me and I looked back at him. I saw his eyes glaze over once more as he looked at me in my dress. A tear slipped down his face. It was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.
I was so moved the tears trickled down my face too and the pair of us walked down the aisle, arm in arm, in silent happy tears. The room was absolutely beautiful and it felt wonderful to be surrounded by our closest friends and family as we exchanged our vows. After the ceremony John and I had our official photos while our guests waited for us in the reception room.
When John and I joined them we were greeted by huge cheers and applause. That moment was the last time I can remember being happy on my wedding day. As we tucked in our lamb dinner I noticed Dad get up and head outside through the nearest exit. I assumed he was just getting a bit of fresh air. It was such a boiling hot day and my mum had told him repeatedly, “Take that jacket off” He knew how smart he looked in his tails and I knew he wanted to keep it on. But what I hadn’t seen was Dad choking on his food, or my brother passing him a glass of water to ease his coughing.
As John and I sat in our seats our parents, followed by my three brothers, disappeared outside to check he was OK. Every second dragged out until it seemed like they’d all been out there for hours. “I’m going to see what’s going on,” I announced to John but before I could leave my seat the duty manager requested I sit back down. He told me that paramedics were on their way and they were all doing the best they could for my father. “Paramedics?” I gasped.
They told me to stay calm so as not to alarm the rest of the guests. By this point only a handful had realised that half the top table was missing. I couldn’t eat another bite. I just had to sit and wait for news. I had to know what was going on.
The hotel manager led me into another room – it was the same one I had got married in just hours before. My youngest brother was there sobbing on a bench. “Don’t worry,” I assured him, patting him on the back. “Dad is going to be fine.” But he knew more than me.
The parademic walked over and said: “I’m so sorry. We’ve done everything that we could for your father.”
“So has he been taken to hospital?” I replied. The news they were trying to break to me just didn’t register. My mum put her arms around me and let me know, as gently as she could, that the paramedics hadn’t been able to help Dad and he’d passed away.
My dad died on my wedding day by choking on the wedding breakfast
As we all sat in the ceremony room trying to make sense of what had happened it was my mum who broke the silence. She said: “If you feel strong enough Camela, I think you should try to carry on. “Your father would have been so angry if he thought that your wedding had been stopped because of him. He wanted you to be happy on this day more than anything.”
I’ll never know how I managed to get up and leave the room but greeting our evening guests just seemed like the right thing to do. I got by knowing for certain that it’s what my Dad would have wanted. Of course we didn’t stay up all night partying. John and I just thanked our family and friends for their support and headed off to bed.
The next morning as I watched people leave the castle in their cars from the window I didn’t even remember seeing any of them the night before. People always say their wedding is one day they’ll never forget – but I’ve tried to block the memories of mine out because it’s just so painful. Unlike most new brides in the days that followed I had condolence cards coming through the door mixed with congratulations cards.
There was one that I couldn’t bear to open – the envelope marked with my Dad’s handwriting. Opening that card was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Inside Dad had put in some money for our honeymoon but John and I just couldn’t bear to go.
People say to me, ‘Isn’t it awful to have that spoil your wedding day?’ But my dad never ruined a single day of my life. I am just glad that his last day was such a happy one and one that I spent it by his side.
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