Not Your Average Wedding Story

Patrick James Lynch recalls how the weekend he got married coincided with the most dramatic moment in his new documentary, Bombardier Blood.

Natalie and I met at an airport on New Year’s Eve and proceeded to have our first three dates in three different cities. So it surprised neither her family in Ohio nor mine in New York when we announced a wedding in Europe, even if some had to buy suitcases to attend.

Portugal promised all the charm, history and culture of Europe without the high costs and inability to navigate using only English, which we knew would’ve been a deal-breaker for some key people. Invites went out and 80 brave loved ones joined us for an unforgettable week of celebration and festivities. We really could not have asked for more; it was the wedding of our dreams! The only complication – the one asterisk to the experience – was simply that I was producing and directing my first documentary, Bombardier Blood, in Nepal, at the same time that Natalie and I were getting married, in Portugal.

The best stuff never happens on convenient timelines.

Patrick James Lynch with Chris Bombardier.

Chris Bombardier and I met for the first time at a dinner party for guys with hemophilia. He seemed nice, and maybe a bit shy. Smiley, unassuming, and disarmingly genuine. That stood out, as did his cap, which said “Adventures of a Hemophiliac,” and his cool last name – Bombardier. That’s about all I knew of Chris until two years later when I got an email from him asking to meet for lunch. By this time, he’d become the first person with severe hemophilia, a life-threatening inherited blood disorder, to climb five of the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains on each continent. He presented me this dramatic and humanitarian concept for a film centered on his upcoming climb of Mount Everest, and since he knew me as “the filmmaker with hemophilia,” he thought I’d make for the right partner. It was a pitch meeting, and between the concept and Chris himself, I was hooked.

The day before the wedding, I needed to pick up cufflinks for the groomsmen. That task had been on my to-do list for months; nevertheless, before our 80-person wedding caravan could decamp from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, for Sintra, the storybook oceanside town that would play host to our ceremony, I needed to go accessory shopping! While not my preferred pastime, it gave me the afternoon to myself. It would be the last such moment of solitude and calm before I became a husband, and before Chris would either summit Mount Everest, or not.

Chris Bombardier climbing in the Khumbu icefall.

Rob was a ridiculously underutilized producer and Swiss Army-knife of talent who was bartending in New York when we first met. When filmmaker Ryan Gielen and I first started Believe Limited, I tried convincing Rob to move to Los Angeles, but he refused to unless it was for a job. That’s how Rob became Believe’s first employee. Rob has either faced or can figure out most everything when it comes to production. When it was clear that Chris’s ascent of Everest – which can only be climbed during a certain spring weather window each year – was going to overlap with my and Natalie’s wedding, I knew that my first film and this really personal project was largely going to be in Rob’s hands. Sadly, I knew it also meant that Rob, like Adam, was not going to be at my wedding, and that I’d have to be OK with all of this, for everything to work.

Through the years: Patrick James Lynch with his younger brother Adam.

Adam was my younger brother by two years and my teammate in life, until he died at 18 from a bleed in his brain. For all my theatre school training, it was Adam’s death that taught me what tragedy was really all about, and it was looking at him in his casket that I experienced true, impotent grief. Losing him to hemophilia, I committed to producing story-driven content and messaging that would enable better engagement, education and empowerment for young people affected by the disorder. By the time Chris pitched me what became Bombardier Blood, my vision had expanded into how entertainment and storytelling could be used to better the lives of all people with inherited bleeding disorders, all across the globe. That’s what made this a project at the intersection of so much of my life, and in just a matter of days, the summit push would be over. Our story would have a conclusion.

My phone buzzed. I’d been half-heartedly window-shopping and strolling along Lisbon’s broken cobblestones (careful not to twist my hemophilic ankles!) for hours. I hadn’t entered one shop. I was expecting a text from someone saying something along the lines of, “You can’t still be out looking for cufflinks, right?” but it wasn’t that at all. It was a video message from Rob and Chris from Everest Base Camp! As it turns out, Mount Everest has gotten some decent internet (a discovery we later took advantage of when producing arguably the film’s most powerful moment). The day prior, Rob and Chris had sent over a funny wedding message, and they were following up to send their wishes a bit more earnestly … well, almost, anyway.

The one-minute video took about 15 minutes to download, but I stopped walking and waited. When it finished, I was cry-laughing. For all the high stakes and emotion, for all the expectation and challenge, for all the pressure and commitment; fear and uncertainty; hopes and aspirations – with all that was swirling, for that one-minute, all I felt was intimate friendship and intense love. From 7,000 miles away and 18,000 feet high, the guys made me feel at home. For 60 seconds in Lisbon, I grounded down in a way I didn’t know I needed, with the help of my friends from Mount Everest. I wiped some tears and took a few breaths. I was finally ready to buy cufflinks.

Natalie was loading bags of loved ones into trunks of cars bound for Sintra when I got back to the hotel. I put the precious cufflinks away and jumped in to help. From the way she received me, I could tell I must’ve looked peaceful. “How was your walk?” she asked with a gentle smile, as though she knew the walk was a more significant event than the purchase. I had a lot to say, but I knew I’d soon have both a lifetime and a film to say it with, so for that moment, I just summed it up by saying, “Lovely.”

Patrick James Lynch‘s latest documentary, Bombardier Blood, is out now on digital. It follows mountaineer Chris Bombardier’s quest to become the first person with hemophilia to complete the Seven Summits, including his ascent of Everest. Lynch is the CEO and founder, Believe Limited, and his film credits My Beautiful Stutter (which he executived produced with Paul Rudd), and the scripted films Elsewhere (director/actor; Best Picture HRIFF; Best Ensemble NYCIFF) and sometimes, i think about dying (EP, Sundance 2019, Oscars 2020 shortlist).