Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Wedding Guest

As common as it is in our society, remarriage inspires controversy, and I appreciate the comments people have left about it after my last post. On the day of our wedding, Dave and I didn’t pretend for a moment that we stood at that altar free of the baggage that metaphorically surrounded us. It was important to us to be in that moment with as much honesty as we could muster, and that included honoring all of the life experience that brought us there.

So we wrote this poem together. Our friend Trish MacCubbin read it at our wedding in her inimitable breathy, soothing voice:

The Wedding Guest
by Kathryn Williams and Dave Craft

Divorced man
and widowed woman
look back on life’s
unplanned challenges
unwelcome forces
unpredictable events
unstoppable changes
and reflect in gratitude
that God,
whose plan was greater
than their limited vision,
has brought them here today.

This powerful, silent witness
left ample room for soul struggle
cradled them in their fear
patiently received their surrender
and bestowed courage when
quaking hearts
recognized a new life
in each other.

They stand here today
imperfect humans
full of joy
humbly inviting God
to their wedding.

May God live at the heart of this marriage
and create a sacred connection.
May He carry this new family in His hands
and nourish it from the bottomless well of His perfect love.
May this couple never forget that God has
called them here today to fulfill His vision for their lives,
and may they always find peace in His presence.

After the vows we had our children get involved. We placed two bouquets of loose flowers on the front pews on either side of the aisle. As my sons' music teacher sang Steven Curtis Chapman's "Love Will Be Our Home," each of Dave's four children took a turn getting up from their seat, selecting a flower to represent him or her from the bouquet on the groom's side, and placed it in a new vase on the altar; likewise, my sons each took a flower from the bride's side to add.

By the end of the song their combined flowers had created a new arrangement. It stood on the altar, like a gift. It was moving and meaningful and few eyes were dry.

One of my sisters, however, got up and walked out.

She came to the reception later but did not come through the line to greet us. She never lifted her eyes to meet mine nor offered a word of congratulation.

An explanation for this would have to wait until Dave and I got home from the honeymoon, but since I've never been one to tolerate the "elephant in the room" for very long, I asked her about this when I returned the choker and earrings I'd borrowed from her for the wedding. Her perception: that I was trying to erase Ron from the family's memory with the flower ritual.

Metaphor is tricky that way, because everyone brings something different to it.

To her "it had only been three years" since Ron's death. To me it had been "three long, hard years" of therapy, reading, journaling, contemplation about the suicide, and continuing to address its ramifications. I grieved intensely because our survival as a family depended upon it. The life we lived every day was the one Ron no longer inhabited.

My sister's life, which never included Ron on a daily basis, gave her plenty else to think about. She was less motivated to pick up a topic as ugly as the suicide of a family member to study it deeply. So her grieving hadn't progressed at the same pace. I may have been ready to move on, but she was not ready for me to do so.

The ritual worked for the Craft-Williams clan, though. No family life is free of problems, but our new family unit—further symbolized in Dave's and my wedding rings of interwoven yellow, white, and rose gold—has never doubted our loving commitment to one another. We have prospered from it.

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