“THANKS” IS WHAT I’LL SAY
Seasons come and seasons go etching trails across our face
Trying in every way we know to stop the motion, slow life’s pace
Not wanting to grow old and yet the pleasure that age brings
Of finally knowing who you are puts wind beneath my wings
And I’d like to think you’ll be there for all that comes my way
Have nothing in your life that hurts have peace surround each day
But there’s no way to know for sure so I’ll give you my today
And if we’re given more than now “thanks” is what I’ll say
That’s the first verse and the chorus of a song called “Thanks” Is What I’ll Say. Connie wrote those words and gave them to you long before either of you knew you were going to become a couple. Around the time of your wedding, I took the words she’d written and turned them into a song.
Yours and Connie’s wedding day, August 20, 1994, was a time of joy, filled with music and merriment, prayers, poems, promise, and promises. To help celebrate you asked everyone instead of gifts to bring food for a feast. What wasn’t there that day was the sense of looming reckoning that would arrive the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 27, 1995.
Some days I wonder why it takes so long for such moments to appear. Other days it feels like a miracle when they come at all. In Bill Clinton we elect a President who succeeds, until he doesn’t, in living his compartmentalized life. In Donald Trump a President who bends truth to his liking though to the detriment of truth and to ourselves. We remain a country founded by slave owners whose words proclaiming that all are created equal ring down through the centuries waiting to be realized.
You and me? We were All-American boys who grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s with TV shows like Father Knows Best and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as some sort of two-dimensional, small screen mirrors or role models. You might say it was a post-war life trying to imitate situation comedy. We learned a few rules early on. Like Big boys don’t cry. The problem was that to better follow that rule we learned to not share or expose other important feelings. Then on top of that rule was the “don’t let ‘em see you sweat” rule which is a tough one to master when you grow up thinking life is more about competition than about cooperation. It certainly wasn’t about learning to nurture or be nurtured.
There were also the unspoken cultural norms. We grew up in a patriarchal society divided by race, class, gender and sexual orientation. “Boys will be boys” a badge of mischievous manliness with no seeming parallel for girls. Growing up in Spokane I somehow learned there were “good” girls and “nice” girls. One or the other. If someone could be labeled white, male, heterosexual, and an athlete they were somehow entitled. We could be, so we were, whether we knew it or not. What we didn’t know was what to do with all the doubts. All the dark thoughts and sometimes deeds. What to do with the parts of us that felt or feel broken, unloved or un-loveable. Where to put the fear those feelings awakened. No sweat? Hardly.
Another TV show my brothers and I watched was called I Led Three Lives. A lesson in compartmentalizing, about a guy with a normal job who was also a spy as well as a counter spy. Maybe we all live at least three lives, the life we dream we are living, the life we are unconsciously living, and the one we are in fact living. I believe the more those lives can be aligned and based on love instead of fear, the more we become aware of who we are and what we are doing here.
It was clear what we were doing that August day in 1994, celebrating your marriage to Connie, Connie’s marriage to you. Your wedding announcement said in part: For our shadows as well as our sunlight we have grown to love each other. We have made it safe for the child in us to dance our dance and sing our song to our own unique rhythm and rhyme. It was not a day to see what the “shadows” might foreshadow, but a day to embrace your love. You asked me to speak. I did.
Words are inadequate on this special day. (I began) And yet words are what we have to try to express thoughts about, feelings for, and faith in you and your commitment to each other.
First of all, thank you. Thank you for sharing your love with me and so many others and making your love a part of our lives and our lives a part of your love. For making our lives better because of that love.
Congratulations to you. Marriage is an exciting step and a frightening leap. Congratulations on what you each bring to this marriage. A hard fought, hard won authenticity. An essence that you have to share. A sense that you have shared with yourselves and each other. You also bring promise and purpose that comes with patience and perseverance. You each bring, on sober reflection, the sure polished mirror of deep love. You bring a feeling of wholeness that comes by picking up, piece by piece, a scattered life and putting it together day by day. Congratulations. This whole day belongs to you.
All the best, dear friends. As you discover all that you will be together and all that will be awakened inside each of you with the new found freedom and security of your marriage.
It is a day to sing and dance and laugh. It is a time to look forward and backward, but most of all to celebrate this moment. It is a time to say thank you, to congratulate you, to wish you well. It is also a day to tell you how much we love you. How much I love you.
Today and always.
And so we celebrated the moment, blissfully unaware of what it would take, what each would have to give and forgive, to align love and truth on the road to true love.
On April 8, 1995 Pat and I got married. We borrowed your idea of asking everyone to bring their favorite food dish to help celebrate. Pat’s daughters stood up for her, my cousin, Joanne, and you for me. New songs were sung by singing partners and friends. Joanne spoke. Jodie read a poem she wrote for the day. Lindsey shared from the heart. Pat Sands’ mentor and our friend, Milt Jones, officiated. Before Pat and I shared our vows Milt referenced a fairy tale in which a couple was given three magic pearls that together offered strength, wisdom, and protection from danger. He compared the pearls to faith, hope, and love, before going on to say, “I have not magic pearls to give you. But there is wonder and magic among us. We share this wonder today with you. I wish for you especially the wonder of love. I pray that you can look into each other’s eyes and say to each other:
I love you not only for what you are but for who I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out; I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart and passing over all the foolish, weak things that you can’t help dimly seeing there, and for drawing out into the light all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked quite far enough to find. I love you because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a simple dwelling but a temple; out of the works of my every day not a reproach but a song.
After Pat and I shared our vows you sang a song I wrote for Pat and me, As Long As We Both Shall Live.
I promise to love you with faith, trust, and hope
Be with you always, heart, body, and soul
To share life’s adventure as it turns and twists
As long as we both shall live
Challenge and comfort you, be a good friend
Be someone on whom you can always depend
Be tender and loving, and quick to forgive
As long as we both shall live
Together we’ll find what’s authentic and true
Be the place that we leave from and come home, too
Sharing that place between heaven and earth
Living and loving for all we are worth
Sharing life’s grand adventure is my sacred vow
While finding ourselves and each other somehow
I will hold you and love you give all I can give
As long as we both shall live
After Milt’s prayer, Let Love Go Forward was sung for the first time, then just before the circle gave way to the feast, you and I sang The Missing Peace. As I was picking up the guitar you said, “I can think of no people I would rather call friends. And as your two hearts today have joined, may the flame be eternal and may the music be everlasting.