It's been an amazing 3 days, not to mention the last 30 years - and if you wanna talk the last 60, I don't even know where to begin!
So let's remember everything, but we'll do it in sound bites . . . Finishing up (down below, at the end of this post) with the sounds of Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You," which does tend to sum up the beauty of it all, as well as the thrill of it all. There's just something about music that captures a moment, an hour, a year, a decade, or three or six.
My husband and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary today. One of the uncountable (really!) blessings Tony has brought me has been the music of his parents. They were married 30 years before we were, and so, praise God, just celebrated their 60th.
Aren't weddings just the best?
This weekend we remembered ours by celebrating another - that of my oldest brother's oldest son John, who married a stunningly terrific woman named Amy, clearly (as many who knew them best declared in the toasts) his soul mate and true love.
They said their vows in St. James Cathedral in downtown Seattle this past Saturday, and my husband and I did our best to contain our tears when the first reading in their ceremony turned out to be from the book of Tobit. John and Amy had chosen the same first reading we had in our wedding 30 years ago, a reading that no one ever seems to choose, but which brought tears to our eyes as we heard it again. What joy to think we will forever have this in common with our dear nephew and new niece!
The photo above shows John and Amy as an engaged couple not too long ago, but before they'd tasted their first moments of forever together. What a witness their vows were! I tend to feel, over and over again, like each wedding I attend is The Best Wedding Ever, but it's hard to imagine the next could outdo John and Amy's in beauty. There's something incredibly powerful about seeing the bride and groom look into each other's eyes as they say their vows, and something quite adorable about the groom jumping the gun with "I do!" before the priest has finished much more than, "Do you John take Amy." He did, and then she did, and one of the themes of the wedding was that they hope to keep doing so for not merely the next 30 or 60, but even the next 100 years, God willing.
I know just how they feel! The other day my husband said, "We're so lucky!"
We are so lucky, but I can't ever get to the end of the list of why - it just goes on and on - so after agreeing with him, I asked, "Why do you say so?"
"Because we're still newlyweds," he replied without missing a beat.
It's true. We've never been happier than now, 30 years after our own "I do's," even though most days of these past 30 years we've felt like it just couldn't get better. God is so good, and one of His favorite miracles (I'm guessing it's a favorite because He keeps repeating it) is to make each day better than the last, which is like a progression of joy that reaches up to infinite bliss. Well that sounds good - let's just love each other all the way to Heaven!
So here we were at John and Amy's wedding, in the nicest hotel we've ever stayed in (thanks, Dad!), surrounded not only by our sons (2), my parents (2), my siblings (3), my sisters-in-law (2), nieces and nephews (11), long-unseen cousins (one of whom does a great imitation of looking exactly like my oldest brother, thus inspiring our second son to throw his arms around "Uncle John!" only to find out it was Uncle Mark!), the wonderful family of the bride (our new niece), and some more seemingly long lost friends and relatives we hadn't seen almost since our own wedding . . .
But to top it off with better-than-butter-cream-icing-on-the-wedding-cake, there were my brother John's best friend Skid with his gorgeous wife and 3 (grown? what?) kids, and two of his second-best friends, Joey and Danny, with their darling wives, Kathleen (Danny's sister, married to Joey, thus making the two brothers-in-law as well as friends since childhood) and Sue (Danny's wife and - dare I say it? - my other brother's first big crush in 6th grade, though clearly God had the best plan of all, my bro marrying his own wonderful wife, and Danny marrying wonderful Sue).
I've been noticing lately that Jesus has this uncanny ability to answer prayers I haven't even remembered to pray. He just looks into my heart, notices an unmet desire, and viola! There it is - miracle # 8,472. Million,
So here I was, never having dared to dream that John and Amy's wedding would be not only Christ's kiss sealing their union, but a re-union with so many I grew up with . . .and next thing I know, I'm meeting up again with cousins Mark and Scott and their beautiful wives, and then Greg (Skid!), Joey and Danny, and their long-suffering spouses (ha! Just kidding guys!) . . . Well it just cracked open my joy, which flowed like champagne - bubbly, sparkly, and the perfect accompaniment to a glorious wedding. And because Jesus never does things by halves, my cup overflowed when Joey told me that my husband and I weren't the only ones celebrating 3 decades of marital bliss this year - he & Kathleen, and Danny & Sue, as well as the Pa & Ma of the groom (that would be my oldest brother and his ever-young wife) were also married in 1988! How awesome!
And now it's time for my confession.
In the midst of all these blessings, I've been a complete brat all summer about our 30th.
There is a reason my husband blurted out in an unguarded moment ten years ago, "I'd rather go to the dentist than have our 20th anniversary!"
It was the same reason he actually did (and yes, dear, I believe you that it wasn't on purpose!) schedule a dentist appointment on our 25th.
Can I be honest with you?
The reason that makes these faux pas totally understandable is that he's married to me, and while I know he's enjoyed nearly every minute of our spectacular marriage, I know too that he's been challenged by those minutes (and weeks and sometimes months) preceding our anniversaries because my already elevated expectations then reach their zenith - somewhere in the neighborhood of Venus (the planet, not de Milo, noted for her charms, though strictly between us, I'm cuter than Venus, and what's more I've got arms. I know all this because my husband has sung it to me a thousand times) . . .
Can you guess what I wanted for our 30th?
It was hard to settle on one thing . . . trip to Lisieux, France? Trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy? Trip to Hawaii? Trip to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal? Visit to meet Jack Keogan and his Beatrice in England? (Yes, Jack, you made the short list of my dreams!)
I was even willing to settle for 30 "smaller" events (this really did come up as a viable option in my mind, aided and abetted by Miss Marcel East. We thought it was brilliant!) - a plan sure to wear thin even my husband's great willingness to please me . . .
We knew that God's plan was, in fact, for us to visit Tony's parents in South Florida (anniversary trip number one, where we pre-celebrated our 30th and their 60th together), to visit son Joseph in Denver (anniversary trip number two, where we could be with both our sons, as well as spending time with the dearest of friends who'd brought Tony out to teach at the incomparable Augustine Institute for a week), and then finally see my parents and siblings and their families, and - fittingly and wonderfully - celebrate the first wedding of the next generation.
The calendar was full, and I didn't see (and Tony really didn't see) how God was going to get us to France, Italy, Hawaii, Canada, or even Santa Barbara for a getaway weekend, a suggestion my sweet husband threw into the mix of unlikely anniversary trips - our schedule didn't even allow for that local 2nd honeymoon.
As usual, in all my worrying, I forgot something.
(Joey, are you there? We can stop worrying now! God's got this, just like everything else. As you told me you and your cousin say, in hopes of lightening "the curse of the Raspos" or at least to lighten your own hearts, "Thy will be done!")
I forgot something, and it was something important.
I forgot that God is really, really, really big.
And really smart.
And really kind.
Kinder than we can imagine, even if our imaginations are as super-fertile and creative as mine.
You know, I've realized just lately that when He made me, God had fun making my memory the size of a grain of sand, while He made my imagination the size of the universe.
Case in point:
There we were Saturday night at the exquisitely chosen reception venue. Ocean view? check. Sunset over Seattle? check. Skyline lit up like something I've only seen in movies? check. Then, only a day after I'd had the pleasure of inviting you to "look for sunflowers, they're Jon's sign" (and you can read that post "The Veil is Thin" by scrolling down or clicking HERE), to my delight, there were sunflower centerpieces on the reception tables. (Of course I wished I could take one away with me when I left, and lo and behold, I was given one the day after the wedding by Mandy, the mother of the bride and the woman who'd baked 47 loaves of banana bread so we would all have a special something home-made with the bottle of champagne waiting for us in our hotel rooms!) And then to my further delight, quite decoratively stuck into the sunflower centerpieces were pretty gold stakes topped with our table numbers . . .
If you have not yet read my novel The Paradise Project, (if you click on the title, you can see what you've missed), then although I hate to deprive you of its hilarious sarcasm and a lot of laughing out loud, I must say I'm relieved. Because if you haven't read it, you don't know what the heroine, Elizabeth Benning, was planning to do with the stakes in the centerpieces at Emily's wedding to Mr. Collins. Take my word for it - It wasn't pretty! But it did put a huge smile on my face as I found myself beholding just such a centerpiece and stake at Amy's wedding. And my smile broke into laughter when I mentioned this to Joey at the Sunday drop-in breakfast the next day, and when I said a little something about there being a stake in the novel as well as in real life, and he knew immediately what Elizabeth had in mind for that fictional would-be weapon . . .
All of which is to say that my imagination loves to run amok, and as truth is stranger than fiction, I have been imagining that God forgot to plan just one special trip for me to celebrate this happy occasion of 30 years with my earthly bridegroom.
Why I continue to think He'll forget things, just because I do, is a mystery.
Because if God has done anything in His long career (and you know as well as I do that He's had quite a run so far), He's certainly taken care of me in every possible way (and even in many impossible ones) throughout the last 30 years and then some!
But for some of us, seeing is believing.
And so He let me see.
That veil that is so thin, well He began lifting it (with Jon's help) in Tacoma last week . . . and when we got to Seattle proper (and the wedding of the century), He just kept lifting, this time with the Archangel Raphael's help.
And so, though I continue to forget everything (like my dear Marcel! and if you're just joining us at this blog, you can learn more about him and why I think he's the top by clicking HERE), God continues to remind me - just like He reminded Marcel!
As Jesus said to our little brother back in the day and continues to say to me just about every new day, "The more you forget, the more you see your weakness and your ignorance, and the more you are dear to Me and receive My kisses."
I love kisses!
And this was a weekend of kisses for sure - the groom kissed his bride after she became his very own wife, to have and to hold until death does them part, which we pray won't be till they're doddering old fools instead of darling young ones . . . and Jesus kissed me, through a hundred special reunion kisses with those I love, and through the thousand surprises He had planned for me from all eternity as little gifts that He bestowed on me this weekend through the generosity, love, and consideration of so many (not least of whom were the bride and groom, and their parents) . . .
So even though I'm like Marcel in this too, that I often don't understand what Jesus is saying, you will be glad to know - in fact, please do rejoice with me to know - that this time I get it.
As our own special day dawns, I see what God has done and how this unexpectedly miraculous third-of-the-summer vacation is, as it turns out (and as He planned it), the best anniversary getaway week ever!
We're now with our flower girl. You know, the one from the wedding 30 years ago. We're staying with her family for a couple of days because they live in Seattle, and there's nothing like seeing your 3 year old niece as a 33 year old mom with five munchkins and a handsome husband. We hope to go to Mass today in thanksgiving for these past 30, and to ask for at least 30 more. Then we'll go with our boys to revisit some of last week's fun and beloved friends in Tacoma and Lakewood, and then on to Bremerton where my hipster husband has located two typewriter shops. Yes, you heard right: not just one but TWO typewriter shops! God is like that - He answers our prayers way beyond even our wildest dreams! (And no, the typewriter dream is not mine. I just share in it as a helpmate, and how happy I am that we can do something Tony-centric for once. It wears a girl down to be the center of the universe 24/7, though I'm not complaining . . . )
To round out the day, we're going to a fancy schmancy restaurant/lodge overlooking a waterfall. That will be like our honeymoon, when we went to Kauai and saw the most famous waterfall of the 1980's ("The plane! The plane!") and ate amazing food and thanked God for getting us to "I Do" and then to Hawaii.
I started this post proposing to bring you sound bites. There's the Marcel podcast I linked to above (which you can find by clicking HERE), but that's not nearly all. What would love be without music? It would be like the sky without stars, a skyline without lights, Vegas without bling! So let's do it - let's add one more link, to go with the song that's haunting me today with its loveliness and its presence throughout my married life - from this version I'll give you by the Four Freshmen (some of the music I married into, thanks be to God) to the incomparable rendition we heard by Nat King Cole when we watched Jim Carrey in The Majestic last week (though you'll have to find Nat on your own, since the Four Freshmen are what we grew up on).
First our prayer. Nothing like getting the prayer over with so you can sing! Don't worry, a holy and wise priest once told me, in the words of St. Augustine, that singing is praying twice, so it's all even better than good. I'll give you the lyrics so you can sing along, and then the link, so you can end with my life story in song. So first, our favorite prayer:
Draw me, we will run!
and in honor of Joey and his cousin, hoping this will help lift away all our worries:
Thy will be done!
And now, Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You," first in words, then in harmony:
Long, long ago,
Say an hour or so
I recall that I saw your smile.
I remember you,
You're the one who made
My dreams come true
A few kisses ago.
I remember you,
You're the one who said
"I love you, too, " I do.
Didn't you know?
I remember, too,
A distant bell,
And stars that fell like rain
Out of the blue.
When my life is through,
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of it all,
Then I shall tell them
I remember you.
+ + +
That last verse always gets me! Truth, by whomever spoken, is always from the Holy Spirit!
And when it's sung? Well, I think the angels contribute too, but you be the judge. And if you think of it, raise a glass today (no matter what it contains!) in honor of love and this great mystery: marriage, and Christ and His Church which it symbolizes.
God is so good, and I thank Him with all my heart, on behalf of my in-laws celebrating 60, all of us celebrating 30, and the many happily marrieds of varying years but unwavering love with whom I've been lucky enough to spend these past days. Oh, and to that iconic couple in the field of sunflowers, Amy and John, I just want you to know that though Amy didn't get her wedding-in-a-field-with-soup, we loved it all, and we love you too! Here's to 100 years!
And now, it's with great joy that we at Miss Marcel's Musings present the song-of-our-life:
I Remember You
And can I just say for the record - I wasn't the one to put Yes, Close to the Edge and Mozart together with the Four Freshmen, but I think I know who did. And Jesus, may I add, You're hilarious! I love You a lot! Thanks for all this fun, and I can't wait to answer the angels' questions when my (earthly) life is through . . . When they ask me to recall the thrill of it all, you know what I'll say. I may be forgetful as the day is long, but I remember Tony and I remember You!
P.S. As if the day weren't already special enough, this just in from the alumni page at our alma mater, Thomas Aquinas College:
Alumna Author's Tribute to a Late Classmate
God is so good!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below.