How do you start a story about a man who was buried on his wedding day?
For now, I’ll start with the facts. Solomon Chau died in his sleep on Aug. 17, 2015 eight months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
That was four days ago as of this writing.
This time last year, Chau and his beloved fiancee, Jennifer Carter, were looking forward to their wedding day, which was scheduled for Aug. 22, 2015.
That’s tomorrow, as of this writing. It’s hard to know the proper verb tense when you’re talking about death. I mean that literally, though it is a strangely apt metaphor befitting of the subject matter.
The point is this: Aug. 22, 2015, is the day of Sol’s funeral. In another world, it would have been the start of his married life with Jenn.
Jennifer Carter’s wedding dress. Photo by Red Earth Photography. Used with permission.
I could start this story at the beginning, when Sol and Jenn first met.
According to Sol’s obituary, it was pure happenstance that Jenn was visiting a friend at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, in October 2007 and that she would wind up at a house party celebrating Sol’s 19th birthday.
It was less happenstantial that Jenn would catch Sol’s eye amidst the flurry of the evening. And it was absolutely deliberate when he took a more-than-three-hour bus ride around Lake Ontario during a snowstorm in December just to show up at her door and ask her out.
This is the love-conquers-all version, where the happy not-quite-a-couple-yet overcomes adversity in this case, an actual storm just to end up in each others’ arms.
Jennifer and Solomon together. Photo taken from the GoFundMe campaign run by Solomon’s childhood friend.
I could start their story somewhere in the middle, with the epic flash mob Sol used to ask Jenn to be his wife.
It was the spring of 2014,
as the obituary tells it.
Sol organized a flash mob in the plaza beneath Toronto’s CN Tower, complete with dolphin balloons to match Jenn’s tattoo in honor of her late sister.
There’d be an intermission, of course; a chance for the audience to catch their breath and revel in the couple’s joyous day before the tragic ending in Act III.
Or I could begin closer to the end, with the day that Sol was diagnosed with cancer.
As explained in the couple’s GoFundMe campaign, the news came in December 2014, and in those 48 frantic hours, Sol was diagnosed and rushed right into surgery. The doctors were able to successfully remove the tumor that was poisoning his liver. It was scary, sure, and Sol was weak. But then the New Year came, and things were looking up.
The tumor was gone. The cancer wasn’t.
The truth is, no matter where I start the story, it still ends the same way: Sol died Aug. 17, 2015.
I wish I could tell you about the power of love, or Sol’s miraculous recovery on their wedding day. But I told you up top that that wasn’t how this story went. Real life is ugly, and cancer doesn’t care for poetry or happy endings.
But what kind of storyteller would I be if I didn’t save the best part of their story for last?
You see, Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter did get to enjoy 128 precious days as husband and wife.
Jenn and Sol’s first look on their wedding day. Photo by Red Earth Photography. Used with permission.
It was March 2015 when Sol’s cancer returned just three months after his initial diagnosis and the emergency surgery they thought had been successful. This time, he and Jenn were told that the ending was inevitable, just as I told you.
Less than two weeks after Sol’s fateful diagnosis, the city of Toronto rallied together behind the couple and surprised them with an unforgettable wedding on April 11, 2015.
three days, more than $50,000 was raised on GoFundMe to throw the couple a lavish wedding, and otherwise-expensive wedding vendors like Boundless Wedding video (who shared this story with me) and Red Earth Photography and Liberty Entertainment Group volunteered their services free of charge to give Sol and Jenn the happy day they deserved. The events of the day took place across Toronto, everywhere from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to Toronto’s picturesque Casa Loma castle and featured a brief reprise of Sol’s flash-mob proposal.
All 70 guests kept their spirits high despite the tragic elephant in the room. Because sometimes, that’s the only thing you can do.
And even though Sol was buried on the day his wedding was supposed to take place, Jenn will always have memories of their happy wedding day.
And I’ll leave you with this, something to think about:
Some people joke about their ”
Kardash-iversary” 73 days after the wedding, at which point their marriage has officially lasted longer than that of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. I was recently married, and instead, I’ll be thinking about our Sol-iversary. That will be in October (coincidentally, on Sol’s birthday), 128 days after our own wedding the amount of time that Sol and Jenn had together, and how grateful we all should be for every single day.
I didn’t know of Solomon Chau until Thursday afternoon (which is today, or two days ago, depending how we’re counting). I don’t presume to know what legacy he would have liked to leave behind, and it would be a disservice if I wrote some cliche platitudes about life and love and death. What I can do is what I’ve done here, which is share his story, and hope that maybe Sol’s story could bring some light into your life, too.
Sol is survived of course by his wife, Jennifer Carter, and his family has asked for any donations to be made to the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation or
Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care.