I had a very interesting and odd day yesterday. Contrary to our usual habit, we had several social engagements on the calendar.
As it turns out, we had to skip the last one, which was a housewarming party/bash out in the hinterlands of the county. This person has such a huge and diverse group of friends that he is planning TWO housewarmings, and we decided to attend the next one, which will feature many of his associates in the caving world. We are sure that this will be an epic party worthy of our attention; we’ll probably end up staying the night, which I look forward to. The place involved has several varieties of frogs in residence who are wont to serenade you the whole night long.
What we did find ourselves doing was attending a funeral in the morning, followed by a wedding in the afternoon and the subsequent dinner-dance reception in the evening.
There was a certain poignancy in the conjunction of two such major life rites. The similarities were striking. Both were well attended by family and friends — oddly enough the head count at both events was almost identical. Both involved religious ritual and a short sermon. Both included music. The major characters in each event were dressed in their best clothes.
The morning engagement was rather odd for me, it was the first time a funeral caused me anger. This is a capsule summary of the situation, done without going into details that would require a long novel to relate. The dead man had two grand-daughters who are both my clients. They are wonderful women who share a strong, supportive, and loving relationship. Their step-mother is a manipulative person who has cast one of these women in the role of satan’s spawn.
In this neck of the woods, it is customary at funerals to show a slide show accompanied by music that gives a capsule summary of the deceased life. The “Bad Daughter” was noticeably absent in these photos, even though the “Good Daughter” was just as notably present. There were photos that had been obviously cropped to eliminate BD. There were a couple where she was in the background, and I almost expected the blank white circle that appears in political photos of the Stalinist era of Russia to be superimposed over her face. The insensitivity and wrongness of this made me very angry, especially since I witnessed the extreme pain that it caused the two sisters.
I expressed my condolences, and went on home to prepare for the afternoon’s festivities.
When we arrived at the wedding, I was interested to note that there was another family attending the wedding who had been at the same funeral as I was in the morning. This really is a very small town.
All afternoon and into the evening, I was constantly reminded of how similar these two events were. Both were bringing families together from a distance. Both were intended to celebrate life, one from the beginning of a union, and the other in retrospect. As I watched the two young people who had just formed their new family, I thought back to the wedding pictures I had just seen, taken back in 1934 of another young couple. As I witnessed the grandfather and father dancing with the new bride, I thought of the elderly widow who sat so alone, even though her son was there and she was surrounded by the generations that followed her wedding, for she sat without her partner of so many years.
Ah, the rituals of life are so important, marking our milestones and celebrating what is good and true and beautiful. When I hear young couples making their vows, it takes me back to the day almost 25 years ago when Jim and I stood under the ash tree “in the sight of God and this company” and made our own vows. I flash forward through all the fun, frolic, fear, frantic activity, fetes and fiascos. I think marriage is not for the fainthearted, nor the fickle or frivolous. It can be folly, or it can be your fate; it can become your fortress in times of peril and sadness. It requires flexibility, faith and faithfulness, and often you must find your way to forgiveness, for you will not be able to spend decades together without sometime faltering and fighting. And ultimately, if your marriage survives all the stresses you put on it, one of you will die and leave the other behind.
And as I muse, I hope for the people who are making those vows that they discover that they have not just made a marriage, that they have formed a partnership, with all the give and take, joy and heartbreak, and mutual support that that word implies.
I came away from the day feeling blessed, renewed, and very thoughtful.
I awoke to walk in the gardens that Jim and I have created together, and feel even more blessed and renewed. I hope I have been able to communicate my thoughts.
You all have a wonderful day. I have to go pick more plums and get them into the freezer.