Meg was radiant; tough guy Marty’s eyes brimmed with emotion as I walked toward him with her on my arm. The Atlantic created the backdrop behind him while a gentle on shore breeze eased the heat from the mid August late afternoon sun. The emotions were true, lovely, dear and necessary. The wedding was charming not because of the setting or the beauty of the bride, the handsomeness of the groom, but because of the promise. It was a very good beginning, but, still, just a good start.
And I don’t mean a start to the great party afterwards upstairs at the Newport Atlantic Beach Club, although, it, too, more than lived up to expectations. Everyone danced, the food was superior; conversation flowed easily with much laughing, many toasts and more than a few tears from time to time.
Meg and Marty vowed their lives one to the other from this time forward. Meg said this, “I love who I am when I’m with you and strive to make you as happy as you make me. I look forward to seeing you every day and never grow tired of our time spent together. I find myself comfortable and at peace with growing old together…. I love you with all of my heart and before everyone who is most dear to us today, I promise to commit myself to you completely (even during hockey season). I know that happiness in a marriage may come and go – but whatever hardships we face throughout the years, I have full confidence that we’ll face them together, make decisions to love even when it’s hard, and we will both be able to look back and find the happiness we feel today.” I don’t have a copy of Marty’s vows, but they were similarly heartfelt and completely sincere.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the father of the bride is a traditionalist and finds no fault in “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer until death do us part” in a church, but promises of the heart are promises of the heart, and God is in the promises – they are compelling and for the rest of their lives. Meg, Marty and the friends and family who gathered to affirm their promise all know this to be true.
You will reciprocally promise love, loyalty and matrimonial honesty. We only want for you this day that these words constitute the principle of your entire life and that with the help of divine grace you will observe these solemn vows that today, before God, you formulate. Pope John Paul II
The value of a promise is in its keeping: in making decisions to love day after day, year after year, even and especially when we don’t feel ‘loving’ and are tired, discouraged, broke or sad. You have good precedents. Dore and Gloria (Marty’s folks) have loved and kept their promises for over 35 years; Rita and I have as well for 45. This is my prayer for Meg and Marty: keep your promise, trust in one another, cling to your first love when times are hard (and they will be), and you will be all right in the end.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flowers like the flower of the field;
the wind blows, and he is gone..Psalm103
A few years ago a movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson called “The Bucket List” was so popular it added the phrase to common usage. I think most of us have a “bucket list”. Mine has nothing to do with climbing mountains, jumping out of airplanes or visiting Florence (although Florence sounds wonderful). Those have more to do with ego, self image and reputation than legacy. For me, living a purposeful life and keeping my promises with the beautiful bride of my youth, Rita, is far more important. She was also a stunning bride, who has grown in character, virtue, wisdom and inner beauty through faithfulness born of suffering the vicissitudes and challenges of life through the years. I love her more now than then, although at the time, I didn’t think that possible. Would that my children share this blessing.
Of paramount value in my bucket list is seeing my children off to a good start, especially in their choice of a spouse of good character from a loving, laughing, stable family. My Meg did that last week. I know that through age and infirmity, I will be less and less able to help them as time goes by, and eventually be gone from this stage. My children’s spouse and family will see them through.
High on my list, also, is the hope that my four children will continue to be true and there for each other as well. This is from Meg’s older (slightly) sister, Angela, her matron of honor last week, “Throughout the years we’ve had different friends and different tastes, but we share the same family, heritage and the same blood. We’ve been there for each other through first days of school, first kisses, first everything. I will never ever forget the loving support and encouragement you gave me the day I gave birth to Gianna. I’m not sure I would have made it through that day without you. Life may separate us by many miles, but in the words of Jo March in Little Women, (how many times have we seen that movie, maybe 25?!): “I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.”” Link to full text of toast
I say to God, “Do not take me away
before my days are complete,
you whose days last from age to age..” Psalm 102
And so, dear children, this old dad’s heart is full and at peace this Sunday. Be of good heart yourselves and thank you all so much.
The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. St. Athanasius