When West Virginia resident Sahrah Elswick got married to the love of her life, her grandfather was delighted to be there as a part of her special day.
Elswick and her husband, Zach, had a gorgeous ceremony that included an outdoor reception, and her “Pawpaw,” 71-year-old Billy Gray, joined in for both the ceremony and the meal afterwards.
Instead of sitting with the bride and the rest of the family, though, Pawpaw sat on a bale of hay all by himself—and when Elswick shared the reason, it broke the internet’s collective heart.
Elswick tweeted a pair of pictures after the wedding, explaining that her grandfather had chosen to eat by himself so he could sit with a memorial for his late wife. While he sat on the bales of hay, a rocking chair was set up alongside him with a memorial for Gray’s late wife and a handful of other people that the newlyweds have lost, centered by a framed note explaining that he still wanted to share the special day with the love of his life.
“Pawpaw sat and ate with mawmaw today at my wedding,” Elswick wrote. The framed picture, which she took a closer picture of to post alongside the picture of Pawpaw, says, “We know you would be here today if heaven wasn’t so far away.”
Pawpaw sat and ate with mawmaw today at my wedding 🥺 pic.twitter.com/GEXWMCfgXB
— Sahrah Elswick (@sahrahMichelle) July 7, 2019
The internet fell apart at how bittersweet the scene was, with people sharing everything from condolences for Elswick’s Pawpaw to stories of their own relatives doing something similar during their own special days.
“My nan passed away 3 years ago, and at my aunt’s wedding over New year’s, there was a table set up for her next to the main table,” wrote a Twitter user named Grace. “My grandad stared at it for a good 10 minutes and kissed her portrait. I hope you had a wonderful wedding and I’m sure she was so proud.”
Elswick and her husband had their daughter Karsyn present at the wedding, which was undoubtedly a touching and positive moment for the couple. But as one Twitter user pointed out, the void left by the absence of Gray’s wife was still heartbreaking even amidst such a happy occasion.
“This is beautiful but also I could cry. One of the main reasons I’ve been so hesitant to actually go through w a wedding is bc my dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle or give me away or do a father daughter dance. It makes me so sad. Glad you could have her there somehow,” shared one Twitter commenter.
Elswick confirmed that the void was tough, and the memorial was more than just therapeutic for Gray.
“I couldn’t really imagine having a wedding without them there,” Elswick told Good Morning America of her grandparents. “The people on the memorial were very important people in mine and my husband’s [lives] and even if they couldn’t physically be there, we wanted them to be a part of it in some way.”
When the new bride shared the photos on her Twitter account, she didn’t expect the world to pick up on it so quickly. But since her wedding day on July 7th, the post has picked up over 19,000 retweets and 179,000 likes in addition to the hundreds who have chimed in with condolences and stories of their own.
“That is so wonderful that he’s still have that burning love,” summed up another Twitter user named Lisa. “This just shows the world’s love never dies. Congratulations.”