In the last week I have been part of two major life celebrations.
On Saturday I went to a wedding of two lovely young people who are part of our church. They had invited the whole church, whoever wanted to, to come along, so I went. (DH wanted to come too but was stopped by a very inconvenient attack of hay fever.)
The couple getting married were young and beautiful. The bride (of course) was especially gorgeous. Thin, blonde, and radiant, she could have stepped right from the pages of a magazine. The groom was also a dashing young man, and the church was filled with the young and the beautiful, all dressed up to the nines. Now, I’m not that old, and I don’t consider myself to be ugly, but wow – I didn’t hold a candle to all this youth and beauty. But, you know, it was so great to have them all there, supporting their friends as they made their life commitment.
The service started with an announcement that I’ve never heard before.
‘Please, could you turn off your mobile phones’ I’ve heard that bit before, obviously, ‘the bride and groom wish to have all photos during the service taken by the official photographer.’ We weren’t asked to turn off our phones because they might ring, but because they didn’t want us taking photos during the service! That was the new bit. And then came this:
‘And while the bride and groom are happy for you to post to Facebook, please let them post first.’ Brand new. And oh so necessary.
So I’m going to have to make sure they’ve posted before I put this up on my blog, but that’s fine.
Anyway, the wedding was beautiful. It’s just so amazing to see people take the risk, take the plunge, commit to each other for life. And I realised, as they clearly (and a little tearfully) said their vows, that while I love individualised, poetic, beautifully written vows, for me there is something so special about the stock standard Anglican prayer book vows. And the something special is this: I said those vows. DH said those vows. And as I listened to another couple vow to love, cherish, protect, and honour each other for as long as they both should live, I could renew my own vow to my husband too. (It would have been more special if he could have been there, but we can’t have everything).
After the wedding we were all invited to share afternoon tea together, I said hello to people I hadn’t seen for (literally) years and renewed old friendships. I live in a small place and it’s guaranteed that you’ll meet with old friends at this kind of thing.
It was a truly special celebration. An absolutely joyous afternoon.
The other celebration in my week was the celebration of the life of DH’s grandfather. He was 92 and had passed away peacefully at his nursing home with his daughters by his side. We’re so used to having him around, it was hard to say goodbye, and there was so much to celebrate.
Pop had made it easy for us, he had written his own life story, so getting dates and names correct was not the difficult task it sometimes is. And both daughters and several grandchildren, as well as other friends and family, stood in front of the congregation and shared their experience of this outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic man. Even the great-grandchildren got involved – the youngest two stood bravely in front of everyone and sang ‘Down by the station’ as they had been taught to do by Pop.
One of the grandchildren had written her part of the eulogy but there was no way she could read it to us, even through her tears, so her husband read it on her behalf. That led to a fun moment where he told us about the time he was pregnant and Pop came to his rescue. There were a couple of other fun times in the service, particularly when Pop’s poetry was read out. He had so much fun writing his poems, he was quite serious about it, and if rhyming couplets are your thing, then these are the poems for you! But they make pretty hilarious reading.
Once again afterwards we had a morning tea, and then the family went out for lunch. We shared stories and caught up on each other’s lives. I met people who were connected to us through Pop that I probably will never meet again. It was such a joy to meet the pint sized Elsie (Pop’s sister-in-law) who is a tiny woman with a personality as big as a house. “I’m the small one!” she said when we were introduced. And it was good to catch up again with Pop’s elder sister Betty, who is still going strong. One of the great-grandchildren found out that she was the second cousin once removed of one of the teachers in her school. And even though the service was in Launceston, we met Hobart friends there as well.
I love being part of community. A part of a family tree that branches out through parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and down through the children, and grandchildren. A part of a church community that shares each others’ lives, that celebrates together and mourns together, and helps each other through tough times. A part of a friendship group that has been close for over 25 years and that knows each other almost as well as cousins do. And a friendship group that is new and growing as we meet more people that we make a special connection with. I feel connected, established, supported.
Sometimes the community means that you have to put up with irritations, with personalities that you just can’t stand, with little quirks like Pop’s poetry, or with being around people so shiny and beautiful that you have to wear sunglasses. That’s all part of the deal. But I am so grateful for the traditions, the celebrations, the people, that make me who I am and for the reminder of that in the celebrations this past week.