This is a long post, but I think it’s worth reading all the way through. So bear with me.
Not too long ago, I was honored to capture a beautiful moment. My best friend Kim had finally ended a special chapter in her life: her marriage. Divorce is never an easy decision to come to, but for her it was what needed to happen. While she bears her ex-husband no ill-will, there was still a world of hurt and sadness weighing on her heart. After much though and consideration, she decided that the most cathartic thing she could do would be to burn her dress.
She decided this not out of spite or hatred or anger. But this was a way to celebrate her old life, and then lay that woman to rest.
Kim invited her sisters and closest friends to bear witness. We started off the day with some bad ass girl gang portraits in the park before heading to some private property her sister lived on to burn the wedding dress.
Kim had written a letter to her married self that she chose to read before burning her dress. I can’t say anything more than she said in her letter, and she has allowed me to share it in its entirety. She says:
To the former Mrs. Bandy,
Hello, beautiful. Do you remember the day that you consecrated yourself to your beloved? Do you remember the dress you wore? The flowers? The rings? Like all brides, you were filled with love, optimism…and a touch of naivety. But who could blame you? You were unapologetically blinded by love. First Corinthians says that “love endures all things”. For the last year, you and I have wondered: if this is true, then how is it that we now find ourselves at the tail-end of divorce?
I will not do your marriage the disservice of calling you a victim. You were born a daughter of Aries and a vulnerable woman, YOU ARE NOT. You are impatient, Mrs. Bandy, you want everything your way and in your timing. You can be jealous and possessive and controlling, you cling on too tight. You have an unstoppable rage and when ignited, your scorn will burn even the strongest of men. When you feel wronged, you do not take prisoners. Rather, you raise your sword with intention to harm, and harm you have, Mrs. Bandy. You are at times, a callous woman.
But in the same haste which you raise your sword, you lower it in forgiveness. While you may not forget your wounds, we all know that you simply are too full of anticipation to ever really hold a grudge. The same flame which ignites your wrath burns with incredible passion. You fiercely protect that which you call your own; and you embraced your beloved with an undying warmth. As difficult as you are, Mrs. Bandy, you don’t do anything without giving it your all.
Daughter of Mars, your element is the flame and likewise, a son of Venus is the air. You loved your lofty Libra with all your intensity. He lifted you to new heights and you fell for him twice as fast. There is no doubt that at times your love was a thriving and beautiful thing. And my goodness, wasn’t it a beautiful thing? But what you did not understand six years ago, is that the same breeze which ignites a spark into a raging forest fire can be the whisper which puts out the candle entirely. And the same room which once glowed with warmth and ambiance is now a cold, callous space with a draft in which even the wind wishes to flee.
I know that you love him, but you are tired, Mrs. Bandy. You have poured out your blood, sweat, and tears until there was nothing left. You lashed out with bitterness, towards him yes, but so much more towards yourself. You allowed yourself to become a shell of the person you once were, and why? Because “love endures all things.”
Mrs. Bandy, divorce is not the absence of love, no more than marriage is the presence of it. Love cannot be confined to a piece of paper or be governed by an institution. Your love does not die in these flames, it bursts forward like sparks to be carried wherever the wind takes them. And you must let the wind take them, wherever it may go.
You were never destined to be a struggling candle, you were born a raging bonfire. I want you to know that I do not hate you, Mrs. Bandy. Your mistakes are the wounds which have made me stronger and your love for him has made me a more compassionate and patient person. I forgive you for your trespasses and I thank you for your dedication. Though this may not have ended the way you planned, it has not been in vain.
Mrs. Bandy, your long, beautiful, heartbreaking, exhausting chapter has come to a close. Today, my sisters and I must lay you to rest so that (in the words of that most loved and loathed Libra) I can rise from your ashes as a phoenix and become the woman we were always meant to be.
– Kimberly C.