Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Can See the Fruit

Big events like weddings give one the opportunity to mark not simply the celebration of a sacrament, but the passage of time and the lines of love and relationship that extend backwards and forwards and laterally.  Each of the threads in and of itself cannot portray the whole but taken together, they reveal the tapestry of a family, what is important, what is not. 

This past week, I was able to see Aunts and Uncles and cousins and friends.  My heart aches because I could have easily spent the whole week with any one of them and felt as sated by that visit as I felt saturated by the whole of it, of wanting to have whole years of time with all of them.  It was glorious and yet not enough.  I liken it to swimming in the gulf of Mexico. You plunge in and wish somehow you didn't have to come up for air, for the whole feel of that ocean is like Heaven, and earth and air seem substandard by comparison in that moment of immersion, unfortunate necessities of life that require one stop and go and reapply sun screen, eat and even rest.   I wanted to sit with everyone.  I wanted to "go and make our visit" as my brother is apt to say, with each of them.  As my cousin remarked in her toast, "This is what Heaven is like," the endless wedding feast with the perfect bridegroom and we are all both surprised and delighted guests and bride. 

At the rehearsal dinner, there were strands of the past with my father reminding me of my grandmother as he sat at the table and said to me, "I don't know what the hell is going on." several times. The evening had been long and he was tired.  But he got the jokes made in some of the toasts, and his buddy from Notre Dame sat by his side the entire evening, soaking in the moments when Dad was present and the sacred silence when he was not.  The Kellys won my heart 1000 times over for that simple being.

My own grandmother spent the rehearsal dinner at my wedding 22 years ago punctuating every toast made by everyone else with, "Well I'm speechless."  She also pestered me to introduce myself to that nice young man I was sitting next to, as he looked handsome.   I told her she had good taste and I planned to marry him the next day.  You can guess what she said next.

My dad's Alzheimer's didn't stop him from really bonding with my five year old daughter Regina.  She served him tea and told me when I tried to interfere (I forget how), "MOMMMM....we're playing a game." which meant leave.  My uncle gave the same toast to my brother he gave at our rehearsal and there was microbrewery beer and fine wine and barbecue and tiramisu and the fullness of it all  made one long for the celebration to simply go on and on and on.  My other brother gave a toast that brought tears to both my sister's eyes and mine, and Danny as always, made us laugh.  He and his new bride were brimming with joy. This has been a feast they have long waited for, so it was perfect that they chose Tobit and the wedding feast at Cana, the best wine was served last.  They had waited 41/36 years for the best wine.  

My other brother reminded me that my uncle was the one singing Donna Nobis Pachem.  I remember being filled with the sound of that song as he sang. These were great sacred moments.  So was the moment when I was surprised to be asked to dance by both of my brothers.  My heart was caught up, just as it had been 22 years ago when I was so overwhelmed by the wedding that I felt as if I danced in a daze when it was time to dance with my dad.   And there are so many memories, most of them about laughing at jokes, about hearing stories rather than telling them.  Blowing out the red candles on a three layer snowy white coconut cake, I could only answer in response to my daughter's "Did you make a wish," "My wish has already been granted." I'd feasted with my mom and dad on my birthday and had all of my family together, singing happy birthday.  What more could one ask? 

Then as now, it was a experience of being earthen vessels, being filled with water that through the mass, through the all of this, praying and feasting, laughing and remembering and forgetting why we forgot that this family, this allness is so very wonderful.  And in the end, through all of this drinkable joy, we became wine.  Now I firmly believe that in all of life, we are to be like the Eucharist, fundamentally transformed internally into love, into more than we could ever aspire if we remained mere hosts and fermented grapes, though still seeming the same to the visible eye.  I also know, being fallen, we often chose to remain mere bread and wine and fail to recognize how much more we could be if we let love define us in all things.

These fat times are important as we return to the ordinariness and fasting involved in bills and diets and laundry and chores, book reports and billable hours, job searches, daily medications, normal schedules and bedtimes.  The leaner times of life are bearable because we know they are not the all of it, even if in the midst of those lean times, we forget about the moreness of heaven and ordinary time, the moreness of the silent sitting with my dad, and the moreness of sheer insanely silly joy as 100 wedding guests participated in a surprise flash mob orchestrated by Danny to toast Anna.  This was a fierce feast of love which, if it did not have the substance of love, the mass, the genuine community and love that these two people both engender in others (It is a known gift of my brother's, to create deeper relationships than people expect that they would want), would be as if a diet of tiramisu, sweet and fattening and caffinated but without substance. 

But the realness of the struggles that were both known and unknown in the pews, of all the crosses thus far endured, and all those yet to be carried, the long wait, the long loneliness that I know my brother ached from, praying and hoping for the vocation of husband and someday, he hopes, father, of the mass, of the true nature of the sacrament, anchored the feast and made it more.  Staying at my aunt's house and seeing her grown up children, loving every snatched conversation, seeing that one day, my home would be as hers, filled with pictures of family that now were starting their own, I could see the fruit yet to come.  Being at the mass and seeing all the family and friends past and thinking of those not there because they were now enjoying the real wedding feast, I could see the fruit of the table at which we all hope to dine, the gifts of everyone that came in their faces that mirrored the joy of the bride and groom.  

To Danny and Anna, God bless you and keep  you.   Prayers.  See you at the next feast.

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