It’s 5:00 a.m.
The Bride is breathing softly beside me. In just over an hour I have to wake her, cook her a big breakfast and help put her feet on a path that will carry her through one of the most eventful days of her life. The Bride is Ruth, my second cousin on my mother’s side. She’s one of the brightest shining stars in my word and an unexpected blessing in my life.
I remember another wedding day, eighteen and a half years ago, the last wedding she and I attended together. Today’s bride was a seven year old red head with a high ponytail that bounced behind her when she walked, who peeked nervously out from behind her Dad’s legs when he asked me if she might sit in my lap for a few minutes, as I was the first “real live bride” she’d seen.
It must have been in that moment that our hearts found one another and the seed was planted that would turn her into the little sister I never had, almost twenty years later.
It’s been hard to write this week.
We hit the ground running Sunday night when my mother and I met Ruth and her intended, Bruce, at the airport in Atlanta. Since then it’s been one long whirlwind of flowers and food, dresses and details that has lead us in fast-forward slow motion to this day. At the risk of jinxing it, I have to say that everything has come off without a hitch: from the flowers, to the decorating of the hall, the last minute alteration of the dresses, to the first meetings of the extended sides of this new little family. Ruth has planned carefully, and well, and the results are showing this week.
There aren’t many people I’d fly around the world for, sleep off 36 hours worth of travel and jet lag for, or leave my family for three weeks for. But for Ruth, I’d do anything. When she asked me, a year ago, to be her matron of honor, I was shocked. If you’ve done the math you’ve already figured out that she’s closer in age to my daughter than she is to me. That she’d pick an “old woman” over her bubbly young friends to stand at her side was a very sweet and profound gift for her to give me. Even though I can rarely see where we’ll be more than six months out, I committed to being here, knowing it would mean a round the world ticket. Ruth is worth every penny, every moment, and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Quite literally, I suppose.
Ruth’s parents have chosen not to be supportively involved in her wedding. That’s been unspeakably hard for our family. It has done my heart immense good to see the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents rally around her, buoy her up and lend their voices to the chorus in encouragement to her.
It blessed my socks off (okay, I wasn’t wearing socks, I was breaking in my new wedding sandals) to sit late into the night with a stunning young cellist, two men who’ve flown across the continent and a fuzzy haired dude who declared, “I’ve still gotta get my hair did,” as we parted last evening. To see that Ruth has surrounded herself with chosen family who love and respect her, and would, indeed, have, moved heaven and earth to be here, to stand with her, to honor her new husband and to laugh and love and celebrate with them both.
Here’s a secret: I always cry at weddings.
Not always for the reasons you might predict, but because it’s impossible for me to watch two people unite their lives and not think about the absolute wonder of the universe that leads two specific people to one specific moment, weaving together the threads of untold lives of abject strangers for countless generations into the beautiful tapestry of that one golden moment that changes the history of the world. I have waterproof mascara in my bag.
When I cry today it will be for the beauty of the moment, for the support of her community, for the sadness of those missing, and for the honor of being allowed to spend a bit of my life on the day that is the foundation of a whole new family within our greater family. And I’ll cry a little watching my Daddy walk my sweet cousin down the aisle, much as he did for me so many years ago. There’s something about weddings that makes me believe in the fairytale again for just a moment, and a sweet moment it is.
I hope to dance the night away with the bloke in the kilt, with Spencer and his new hair-do, with my Daddy, my Uncle Terry, my cousin Jerry (who was my children’s first pediatrician, once upon a time.) I’m sure I’ll giggle with my aunts and chicken dance with the children and somewhere in there I hope I remember to take a deep breath, stop time, look around at the room full of twinkling lights and butterfly-like guests and memorize the moment for eternity.
There are a lot of things I’m passionate about in this life, but none more than this: Living in the sacred moment.
At the end of the day, the dress won’t matter, nor will the lights Erin, Jenny and I spent hours stringing from the ceiling, or the flowers I’ve spent days arranging. Nor will the gifts, or the food, or the music.
What will matter, is the only thing that has ever mattered in the history of the world: the relationships.
It is those, the strong webbing of our family that we add to today, that drew me here, that causes me to wake before dawn, contemplating the weighty gifts handed to me by previous generations. It is that communal love the drives me to find quiet space before the sweet Bride wakes to remind myself why I’m here, to breathe in this one moment and prepare for the whirlwind that will be the next thousand moments of this beautiful, life changing day. Here’s hoping I don’t cry when I give the toast.
To Ruth and Bruce, I say:
I love you. I admire you. Your strength and determination, your grace under fire and your kind hearted honor for every member of our family, living and dead, present and absent, is a testimony to the strength of character you both possess. As you join your lives today may you be granted the wisdom to take the very best of two very different families and blend them into something that is unique in the history of the world: Your own family. May the best of your past be the very worst of your future. You are loved beyond measure.