Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wedding promises

A week ago today my youngest brother, David, married Monica, whom he'd been dating four years or so. About 40 close friends and family gathered at a friend's home on a Saturday afternoon for a ceremony that was intimate, loving, and intensely meaningful.

Their vows, and the officiant's charge to the bride and groom, were clearly based on mutually frank discussion. The officiant counseled patience, helpfulness, taking time for oneself, and other virtues. And to David she said, "Ask Monica for the help you need."

I'm sure every guest was listening from the perspective of their own partnership. For example, if David finds it hard to clarify his needs, he is clearly not alone among my siblings. When the subject comes up, our spouses and significant others have been known to roll their eyes, exchange knowing glances, and mutter about not being mind readers. It occurred to me that 26 years ago I had included in my own vows a line about asking for help, and it's still something I have to work on. Not that I don't seek help. Rather, I might assume that what I need is obvious, so when I finally ask for it I issue what sounds like a scolding, not a request. When I invite advice, I may reject it in a way that isn't very gracious. Sometimes I comment about something when I'm not even asking for help, but Peter thinks I am. Oh, the opportunities for misunderstanding are plentiful.

For Dave and Monica, questions of seeking and giving help have a special significance right now. In early November, he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. For this 55-year-old lifelong non-smoking distance runner, the news was both shocking and puzzling. He wasn't aware of any symptoms until late September, when he had some shortness of breath, which led to the discovery of a blood clot, which led to the discovery of the tumor in his lung.

Dave immediately went into action. He and Monica, who had been talking about marriage, decided to do it immediately so they can take this journey together. They are choosing to focus on all things positive, to take hope from stories of people who have beaten the predictions and the odds, to draw strength from positive thoughts and actions. He has begun chemotherapy in the hope of shrinking tumors in his lung and bones. If all goes well he'll have radiation later targeting the ones in his brain. Dave and Monica are exploring healthy diets and ways to sustain energy and handle stress, they are supporting one another, and they know they have a strong support system of friends and family.

The wedding was a happy occasion. As guests ate brie and wedding cake after the ceremony last Saturday, snow began to fall, gently at first and then more insistently, in huge wet flakes. A couple of dozen folks joined the wedding couple to continue the celebration at a neighborhood restaurant, the front windows of which framed a glowing, magical wintery scene.

David and Monica, may you give and receive all the help you need, and may the love and joy and magic of your wedding day sustain you forever.


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