Family celebrations are a welcome respite in these crazy times in which we are living. My nephew, James, and his bride, Erin, had planned their wedding for March at the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum, on the Auburn campus where they met. That date had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus. Two more times they planned, and two more times it was cancelled. They decided to give it one more shot at a time in the then distant future of September.
However, as the day approached and it still didn’t appear the venue was going to be open for guests, they ran away to Zion National Park for an elopement with a small group of immediate family and friends. Rather than sending out one more cancellation notice to their guests, they decided to keep the September date at a new venue, show the wedding video on a big screen, and then have a socially distanced reception celebration.
By the time hurricane Sally set her course for Alabama, the party plans were set. Come hell or high water, literally, they were going to have the event. All prayers were said and all fingers were crossed that the roof, where the rooftop reception was to be held, would still be intact after the storm passed through. When it was, praises of thanksgiving went up throughout the land!
On the unseasonably cold, cloudy and windy evening this past weekend, with a few sprinkles of rain here and there, there was a celebration. A fraction of the original number of guests arrived in masks, jackets, and umbrellas at the ready, should they be needed. Every one of them determined to celebrate the new union of this couple. A gathering of the gritty, who refused to give up.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When it gives you a pandemic, you get married anyway. When it gives you a hurricane, you dance in the rain. This young couple has been through more in the 6 months of their wedding than most go through the first 5 years of marriage. They should be able to navigate life with flexibility and grace after this experience and the lessons learned about letting go of expectations, going with the flow, and focusing on what is most important in the process.
The evening turned out to be lovely, not despite the weather, but because of it. Somehow standing on that roof overlooking the campus, with the wind swirling all around them, it seemed they were dancing with the wind instead of against it. As if it was there to accompany their first dance. All of heaven and nature sang.
Those of us who were there got to bear witness to the dawn of new love. A beautiful painting of hues and shades, but with added texture that is formed by the friction of this season. Wrought with uncertainty, the times we are living in create anxiety of constant change, but in this moment, love won out over all of that. In this moment, the wind and rain came to the party to participate in it.
When family pictures were being taken, even grief showed up to join the celebration. It tiptoed in with its brush to add some grays to the vivid color and texture, and washed the dawn of new love with tears formed by the sunset of Great Love. Dad, there as a witness, was passing the baton. Standing alone, in the gap between his generation and theirs. Mom’s space filled in with bodies pressed together smiling for the camera, but still a hole in all the hearts in attendance. The place of Mom and Dad’s beginnings as a young married couple was repeated by their grandchildren. Memories abounded. Deep breaths were taken. And though Mom could not be there, she was present in every moment.
The wash of grief served to bring out the truth of life; when you love deeply, you also grieve deeply. But when you grieve deeply, the light of love is present in the midst. The party went on. The video of the wedding was stunning. Take-your-breath-away kind of gorgeous. The family and friends celebrated. There was prayer. There was dancing. There was laughter. There was joy. It was proof that love wins…no matter what.